Perhaps Neville Chamberlain was simply ahead of his time

It seems that the backers of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, have praised the brutal terrorists freedom fighters for their great victory over the “corrupt powers of the criminal U.S. and Britain and the Zionists.”

    Iran, Syrian leaders laud Hezbollah ‘victory’
    Bush administration dismisses claims as selfish bluster

    TEHRAN, Iran – A day after Hezbollah and Israel agreed and so far maintained a fragile cease-fire, leaders around the world found reasons to celebrate the outcome.

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Hezbollah has “hoisted the banner of victory” over Israel and toppled U.S.-led plans for the Middle East.

    Hezbollah’s main backers — Iran and Syria — struck nearly identical notes: heaping praise on the guerrillas as perceived victors for the Islamic world and claiming that Western influence in the region was dealt a serious blow.

    “God’s promises have come true,” Ahmadinejad told a huge crowd in Arbadil in northwestern Iran. “On one side, it’s corrupt powers of the criminal U.S. and Britain and the Zionists … with modern bombs and planes. And on the other side is a group of pious youth relying on God.”

    The Bush administration, however, dismissed Iranian and Syrian claims of victory in Lebanon Tuesday as shameful blustering.

    “It is terrible that the president of Iran is trying to take advantage of this tragedy,” David Welch, a senior State Department official, said.

    Both Iran and Syria are “trying to pile on popular emotion and anger at a time of tragedy for their own selfish advantage,” the assistant secretary of state said at a news conference.

    “I think it is a sad situation when leaders of other countries can stand on this rubble” that is the aftermath of the war in Lebanon and proclaim their vision, Welch said.

    Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, warned Syria not to intervene in Lebanese affairs or use the Hezbollah militia to influence the Beirut government.

    Livni, speaking in northern Israel shortly after the Syrian president’s remarks, said Syria must “understand that Lebanon is taking off, or is at least meant to take off, in a different direction without them.”

    She said Syria would no longer be able “to influence (Lebanon) through such groups like Hezbollah.

The real truth is that there were no winners: neither side was beaten into submission, which is the purpose of war. Neither side destroyed the ability of the other to make war, destroyed the military infrastructure of the other, or killed the bulk of their enemy’s fighting age men. As in the several other wars between the Arabs and the Israelis, neither side won, but both sides agreed to a cease fire — which means that either side is capable of resuming hostilities whenever it so chooses.

Our liberal friends are fond of telling us that violence never solved anything, something which shows an ignorance of history. Violence certainly did solve something in World War II. It solved it at a frightful cost, in millions of lives snuffed out, in whole countries having their infrastructure demolished, but it solved the problem of Nazi totalitarianism. Germany and Japan were beaten, thoroughly, completely, and occupied and compelled to become different countries, structured somewhat upon the will of the victorious Allies.

That was victory.

Has Hezbollah driven the Jews into the sea? Has Hezbollah ended the existence of the State of Israel? has Israel destroyed Hezbollah? Has Israel compelled its enemies to accept its existence and guarantee its security?

None of those things was accomplished, not a single one of them.

It may be that civilized Western nations are no longer capable, under the values and morés of their own people and the people of the Western democracies as a whole, to win wars, because winning a war involves killing people on a very large scale. (See Can we win wars today? and Can we win wars today? Part 2.) In the 1940s, Americans and Britons and Frenchmen saw little wrong with the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo or Kobe, nor with the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — because we were in an all-out war, and those terrible aerial attacks were part of it, a part that hastened the defeat of our enemies. Today, every single death, by car bomb, by sniper attack, by whatever means, in the war zone in Iraq is reported by The New York Times; every individual death is suffered by the American public, and events that would have been seen as a normal part of warfare in the 1940s are now taken as the argument against a war, regardless of the reasons for going to war. We have taken the conduct of war as the issue just as much as the reasons and goals for war — and in such a situation, it becomes difficult to see how countries in which that is the case can ever wage war with popular support.

An old college professor of mine, Ernest Yanarella at the University of Kentucky once said, concerning the Vietnam War and our Communist enemies:

They were more willing to die for their country than we were to keep killing them.

I don’t know if Dr Yanarella came up with that one on his own, or took it from someone else (a Googleâ„¢ search turned up nothing), but it was, in the end, essentially true. The Communists lost thousands of men in the Tet Offensive, and by every normal military measure it was a huge defeat for them — but it was a political victory. We lost about 58,000 men in Vietnam, a small fraction of the Communists killed, but we still lost that war, in that the Communists achieved their objective (taking over all of Viet Nam, and kicking us out) and we failed to achieve ours. And if the people in liberal Western democracies are unwilling to kill people, even to win a war, then war becomes an impossible endeavor for them, regardless of the provocation, irrespective of the reasons, no matter the causes.

Perhaps Neville Chamberlain was simply ahead of his time; with the standards of the Western democracies today, is not the surrender of the Sudetenland to a dictatorship without war a better choice than going to war and killing perhaps millions?

The Arabs certainly lost more people than did the Israelis in the recent fighting, and the Arabs achieved absolutely no military objectives: they captured no territory from Israel nor damaged Israel in any significant way. But they were also not defeated: the Israelis were unwilling to keep killing them until the bulk of the Hezbollah fighting age men were killed and they were unable to continue to fight, and Hezbollah lives on, probably to fight yet another day. Hezbollah and the Arabs accepted the cease-fire, because they were losing militarily; Israel accepted the cease-fire because it was unwilling to win militarily.

Nobody won.

Cross Posted on Red State.

4 Comments

  1. The Tet Offensive was a defeat for the true winners only because Walter Cronkhite said it was.

    Will alone cannot win a war. Hitler demonstrated the effectiveness of will as a weapon to defeat disunited and dispirited enemies. A deries of risky moves gave him rather bloodless victories in the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Will was certainly a factor in Poland and France.

    Yet when faced with the will of Churchill and the collective will of an enraged United States, tide began to turn. Will also failed to assure ultimate victory on the Eastern Front.

    A lack of will on the part of the targets of Nazi aggression negated their ability to resist. With a new menace in for form of shady and amorphous alliances based more on superstition and an affinity for violence than any rational geopolitical aspirations, the lack of will in the West can undermine the value of more tangible strengths.

    The New Appeasers are a fifth column that should not be ignored.

  2. This settlement by the 2006 version of the League of Nations leave everything in place for a more bloodier war in the near future. 1701 solved nothing except for more hatred. It appears to be unraveling already.

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  4. Pingback: Common Sense Political Thought » Archives » Can we win wars today? Part 3

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