Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

van Creveld on war.

A short, interesting, controversial article by Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is making the rounds on the web. van Creveld is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers.

In the article, van Creveld says the following things:

1> It's no longer a question of if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost.
2> Abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is not an option.
3> A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties.
4> Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war.
5> A complete American withdrawal is not an option. A presence is needed to check the Iranians, and to reduce the chances of a lawless Iraq exporting terrorism to neighboring countries, especially Jordan.

This was written by a man who was positively prescient in his predictions of what was going to happen in Israel.

"If you are strong, and you are fighting the weak for any period of time, you are going to become weak yourself. . . it’s only a question of time. (The Israeli troops) are very brave people. They are idealists. They want to serve their country and they want to prove themselves. The problem is that you cannot prove yourself against someone who is much weaker than yourself. They are in a lose/lose situation. If you are strong and fighting the weak, then if you kill your opponent then you are a scoundrel... if you let him kill you, then you are an idiot. So here is a dilemma which others have suffered before us, and for which as far as I can see there is simply no escape.

It’s not a question of personalities, it’s a question of the balance of forces. I’ll use a metaphor that I’ll take from Lao-tzu – the Chinese sage who lived about 2,400 years ago – ‘a sword put into salt water will rust’ – it is only a question of time. And this is happening to the Israeli army and to the Israeli society, almost regardless of who is leading it. . .
There is one thing that can be done – and that is to put and end to the situation whereby we are the strong fighting the weak, because that is the most stupid situation in which anybody can be. . . You do that by A, waiting for a suitable opportunity... B, doing whatever it takes to restore the balance of power between us and the Palestinians... C, removing 90% of the causes of the conflict, by pulling out... and D, building a wall between us and the other side, so tall that even the birds cannot fly over it.... so as to avoid any kind of friction for a long long time in the future. . .

We could formally finish the problem at least in Gaza, in 48 hours, by getting out and building a proper wall. And then of course, if anybody tries to climb over the wall we kill him. . . If it were up to me, I would tell (the Israeli settlers in Gaza) . . . look, ladies and gentlemen, you have been magnificent, you have served us well, you have protected us all those years, but this is coming to an end. If you choose to stay, it’s your problem – you are on your own. My guess is that 95% of them will come home."

I think that van Creveld expresses well one of the fundamental issues I felt from the start about why the war in Iraq was flawed. It basically comes down to this -- in modern, anti-insurgent actions, the more force you use against a weaker enemy, the faster you become weak yourself. The darker truths of the conflict ultimately cut the legs out from under you, and serve to demoralize both civilians and soldiers alike. Eventually, political support evaporates for a continued conflict. And, yes, it is an inevitable process.

This implies that a more covert, low-key war against terror would've been more sustainable with the public, specifically because it be less divisive. If truth and openness leads to the eventual end of war, then sadly, it can be said that in war truth and openness becomes the enemy.

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