Monday, July 11, 2005

That which does not completely erradicate terrorists...

makes them more nimble, apparently. At least, that's the view of the New York times in this article. (HT: Instapundit.)

Investigators examining Thursday's attacks, which left at least 49 dead and 700 injured, are pursuing a theory that the bombers were part of a homegrown sleeper cell, which may or may not have had foreign support for the bomb-making phase of the operation.

If that theory proves true, it would reflect the transformation of the terror threat around Europe. With much of Al Qaeda's hierarchy either captured or killed, a new, more nimble terrorist force has emerged on the continent, comprising mostly semiautonomous, Qaeda-inspired local groups that are believed to be operating in France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and other countries.
(Emphasis added.)

Got that? Almost four years of killing and capturing top Al Qaeda operatives and all we've done is made the organization "more nimble." This is where you're supposed to throw up your hands and surrender, because there is nothing we can do to succeed in the war on terrorists. That's the message the NYT wants to make sure you're getting: we can't win.

They might have observed that forcing the terrorists to be more nimble or die reduces their resources and makes it more difficult for them to do the sort of long range planning that toppled the WTC. They might have observed, as others have, that the London bombings, though executed successfully, were on a smaller scale than the bombings in Spain, suggesting a diminishing material capability.

To borrow an analogy from the reading I've been doing recently, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, lacking in supplies, rations and guns, was far more nimble than the Army of the Potomac. They traveled light, and were capable of lightning moves that kept the North off balance during the early part of the war, and slowed down their advance in the last year. If anyone had asked Lee at the time, though, I'm sure he would have traded some of his nimbleness for a steady supply of men, munitions and food. It's a commonplace observation that the South was out-produced, rather than out-fought. In order to win, the North simply had to keep up a steady war of attrition, and not lose its will to fight.

The latter was not an easy thing, because, just as we do now, the North had a class of men who were opposed to the war, and eager to make political hay of any bad news. Of course, bad news in that war meant 2,000 casualties per day for a solid month. Yet, the North stayed in the fight until it achieved victory, because it believed that victory had to be achieved.

It's true that with a bit more nimbleness the AoP could have ended the war a lot sooner, and saved a lot of lives in the long run. There are things that we could have done to end this war sooner also. For one thing, we could have wiped Fallujah off the map the first time it became a problem. We have tried too hard to minimize civilian casualties at the price of our soldiers' lives. Once again, we are falling into the trap of trying to fight a limited war.

Although the Army of the Potomac outnumbered the Army of Virginia by 20-50%, it was most often outnumbered on the battlefield, because excessive caution, confused logistics and miscarried orders prevented it from putting its full force into play. The excessive caution came from the political need to keep the people in Washington feeling safe. Even with 40,000 men manning the trenches around the city, McClellan felt compelled to move slowly and hold men in reserve, lest the Confederates break through and smash Washington.

This was because, early on, Lee and the Confederate army achieved a moral superiority in the minds of the generals and politicians of the North. When Grant came to fight in the east, he commented derisively to one panicky general, "Some of you always seem to think [General Lee] is going to turn a double somersault and land in our rear and on both flanks at the same time." This atmosphere of superstitious awe is what contributed to the caution of the Union generals. It was a combination of both fear and over-glorification of the enemy. It was carried in the papers, and it enflamed the minds of the politicians, and was forced by them upon the generals. Whatever you do, don't let Lee break through.

Our media is attempting to foist this same sense of caution upon us. They want us to fight a purely defensive war. They both magnify and minimize the threat posed by the terrorists: the threat becomes dire if we go on the offensive, and drops to minimal if we stay on the defensive. That is why they can write in all seriousness that chopping off the head of Al Qaeda has made it a more nimble organization. A chicken with its head cut off appears more nimble too, but that is not usually considered a net benefit to the chicken.

Al Qaeda will be destroyed, so long as we stay on the offensive. There is more that we could do to end the war sooner, but our victory is assured, so long as we maintain the will to fight. If we pull back and go on the defensive, we lose.


TmjUtah said...

I am currently reading "Landscape Turned Red", a pretty good recounting of the battle of Antietam.

Antietam was the battle that crystallized the suspicions of the men in the Federal ranks into absolute certainty: they weren't bad soldiers, but they were without a doubt badly led. It has always been a mystery to me that the Army of the Potomac held together until the ascension of Grant to command.

I agree with you - yes, the NYT sees defeat as the only desirable outcome, since it is becoming clear that their team has nothing to offer that the electorate is interested in. I also agree that we should have leveled Fallujah, as in evacuate it (like we did), then bomb/shell it to dust, stir it with an infantry sweep to shoot the survivors, then plow it beneath the sands.

We could have done it in a week. Offer no comment, apology, or commemoration. Just make it clear that our policy is to win, and that we aren't leaving until we do.

I believe that democratization as a tactic is failed; not for want of vision, and surely not for want of treasure or the dedication of our troops. Rather, as a society, and in a larger sense as western culture, we haven't been scared badly enough for our Leftist contingent to get on board for freedom.

Like I said, it didn't have to be this way. But that's the way it is.

Ardsgaine said...

The book looks interesting. It got very good reviews at Amazon. I'll have to put it on my list.

I think the reason democratization is failing is because democracy is not what we need to export. We need to export freedom. The word "democracy" has become hopelessly muddled. Our Founders understood it to mean the unlimited tyranny of the mob. They set out specifically to avoid it as something detrimental to freedom. In the 20th century, it became popular to refer to our system as a democracy, but it is actually a constitutionally limited republic designed to protect individual rights.

That's what we needed to export to Iraq, but it's not happening. Given that our own politicians do not understand the nature of freedom, it's a bit much to think the Iraqis would.