I have a difficult time getting too exercised over Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.
Especially when I hear that the Taliban denounced this as particularly barbaric. Apparently they are about as self-aware and lack as much a sense of irony as leftist columnist and self styled civility fashionista, Froma Harrop.
Unlike the Taliban spokesman, Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal could not be reached for comment…you see, he was kidnapped and then beheaded on video 10 years ago in Pakistan by Talibanistas. Following that, his body was hacked into 10 pieces and buried in 10 different places in Pakistan. Remarkable civil, wouldn’t you say?
Nor can Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Mike Teague speak out. These are the names of the 4 Blackwater contractors who, in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, were dragged from their cars, beaten, shot and then set ablaze. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hanged over a bridge crossing the Euphrates.
My initial thoughts were that getting pissed on after you’ve been killed is sort of the least of your problems.
The realization that arises is that our “modern” concept of war does not match the reality of the act. In history, war had a definite purpose; it was defense from an advancing enemy, the resolution of a political dispute or in support of an advancing empire. There was a prize to be won, something residual of value to the winner of the conflict, something concrete to be gained…no more. Now, our definitions of war are political system change, no collateral damage, police actions and nation building. These all come with indefinite time tables and lack a clear objective – there is no metric to determine when the war is over.
Only under this perspective can skulking out of Iraq and Afghanistan while getting lectured by the little tin-pot leaders of those countries be classified as “victory”. It also allows presidents to engage in a little “kinetic military action” in opposition to the Constitution and the War Powers Act.
This modern definition will guarantee that conflicts are prolonged, expensive events, costing billions of dollars in treasure and even more in human lives.
Why is this case?
The primary reason is that the people we are fighting never know that they are defeated.
- There is not sufficient damage to a country or society for it to truly suffer the costs of war. The purpose of a military action is to break things and kill people. Our modern sensibilities are geared around preventing damage and reducing the impact to infrastructure to protect the “innocent”. Our precision guided munitions, our precise battle plans and our soldier’s training and pristine execution minimize damage to the point that war has become an inconvenience rather than a traumatic event to the general population. As a result the psychological cues that signify defeat are never recognized. Contrast and compare the death and devastation of Germany in WWII to Iraq. The Nazis knew that they were defeated on a physical, material and emotional level due to the sheer devastation of their country. It seems cruel because we know that not all Germans were Nazis but the society shared the blame and the defeat. There was a clear cut winner and loser and both parties knew who they were – not so today.
- Our adversaries know that we are more focused on restitution and rebuilding and we will start that activity before the overall mission is completed. I’ve heard reports from Iraq that locals almost hope that their homes and businesses are damaged by US action because this is the quickest way to get it rebuilt faster and better than could ever be expected otherwise.
- Our opponents know that a significant segment of our society is weak and can be easily manipulated, eventually resulting in restrictive rules of engagement built on the fear of political fallout at home. This handcuffs our soldiers in the field and puts them at unnecessary risk. We prolong conflicts (we create a “soft” war) because our “evolved” society simply does not have the stomach for the violence, devastation and collateral damage that a decisive victory requires. Political forces at home decry “occupation” and rail against the massive costs yet do not possess the strength and political will to do what is necessary to end the conflict quickly. The longer a conflict goes, the more soldiers die. I would argue that this is more of a sin to subject our soldiers to this than the aggressive prosecution of a conflict.
- We “individualize” war, essentially making it an aggressive crime management activity. We try to investigate and determine responsibility on an individual level. I do realize that we are facing an enemy who does not subscribe to any of the accepted definitions of organization or rules of combat. I realize that we aren’t fighting a state based enemy, rather one who is indistinguishable from the indigenous population, but if we are after the individual and the greater population does not also pay a price, there is no societal pressure on the bad guys to stop. The locals can separate themselves from the conflict going on right outside their door and take a position that it doesn’t impact them, an “I don’t want to get involved” mentality. This makes it a police action, not a war.
- We de-personalize war. Our remote attack capability through stealth aircraft, unmanned drones and satellite intel remove us from the harsh nature of war and disincentivize massive, violent action to render a concrete conclusion. We have turned a shooting war into an X-Box game. War must be felt by both sides. It necessarily must become personal or it can be ignored and will become protracted.
- We don’t keep score in public. I remember the body counts in the Vietnam War; I’ve seen the dispatches from WWII and Korea. Our casualties vs. their casualties. It sounds morbid but it gave the American public an idea of the success of our troops. We release our casualties but because there are no opposing numbers to balance them against, we distort the levels of our soldier’s effectiveness. Again, I know that it sounds bad but the military’s purpose to the break things and kill people. We need to keep score.
It is clear that the rules of war are different today. We know that the Geneva Convention means little to Al Qaeda, their affiliates, Hamas or Hezbollah. They have actually been pretty successful in using our own adherence to these rules against us but this is not the first time that the rules of war have changed in history. The Greeks, Persians, Roman, British and Native Americans all have changed them. We changed them in the Revolutionary War from a formal war of attrition, fought on an open battlefield by a troop of highly trained soldiers with rigid rules of engagement to a guerrilla war fought by militia across the countryside behind fences, trees and hedgerows.
The item to note is that, almost without exception, the entity changing the rules is the one who wins. He who defines the battlefield has a strategic advantage over the party who doesn’t.
I do not like where this leaves us as a society.
I abhor the very savagery that I propose but we simply can’t be stuck in the middle here. War does not favor the moderate. I do not want another soldier to die when we have the power to prevent it so in the event we decide to go to war, we owe our troops the political will to commit enough destruction so that both our enemies and the societies that they live among know that they are defeated. They need to know exactly what price they will pay if they decide to continue. It is distasteful, it is harsh and it is inhuman but to do less creates a prolonged, protracted event that never will be resolved to an endpoint.
I’m sorry but I say piss on them…and those on our “side” who would condemn our Marines.
Semper Fi, Marines…