Friday, August 11, 2006

Failure Should Not Be an Option

“Like Lincoln, William T. Sherman believed in a hard war and a soft peace. “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it,” Sherman had told Atlanta’s mayor after ordering the civilian population expelled from the occupied city. But “when peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then I will share with you the last cracker.” Until then, though, “we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.” Union armies must destroy the capacity of the southern people to sustain the war. Their factories, railroads – indeed their will to resist – must be devastated. “We cannot change the hearts of those people of the South, but we can make war so terrible…(and) make them so sick of war that generations would pass before they would again appeal to it.”

- Jim McPherson – Commenting on William Tecumseh Sherman’s philosophy of war employed in his 1864 “march to the sea”

I just heard on Fox News that Ehud Olmert has accepted the draft U.N. resolution for a cease fire. The report was sketchy, but if it’s true it appears that Israeli forces will begin their withdrawal from Lebanon this Sunday.

I’m not sure what number the resolution will carry, but it will be one more in a long string of United Nations resolutions designed to find a way for Israel to live in peace, securely within its own borders.

At the end of the current draft there are references to U.N. resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). The 1967 resolution that ended the Six Day War called for:

“Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

Six years later, under the umbrella of resolution 338, the United Nations decided that:

“Immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

Now, thirty-three years later, the United Nations is:

“Welcoming the unanimous decision by the government of Lebanon on 7 August 2006 to deploy a Lebanese armed force of 15,000 troops in South Lebanon as the Israeli army withdraws behind the Blue Line and to request the assistance of additional forces from UNIFIL as needed, to facilitate the entry of the Lebanese armed forces into the region and to restate its intention to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces with material as needed to enable it to perform its duties.”

Has any of this brought us closer to real peace in the Middle-East? No!

Who are the real winners in this conflict? Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria.

For the past six or seven weeks I’ve been following the commentary posted by Israeli peace activist Ami Isseroff. Sometime today he posted these words, which I believe bear attention:

“After nearly a month of war, it is becoming increasingly evident that we are witnessing a pointless and horrendous fiasco, a prodigious waste of lives and property comparable in senselessness, if not in absolute scale, to General Ambrose Burnside's debacle at the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg in the US Civil war, and to Churchill's fiasco in Gallipoli in World War I. The unwisdom of Gallipoli, which dragged on for months, should have been painfully evident very soon, but nobody took the required action until it was far too late and hundreds of thousands had died for no reason. The Lebanon war drags on toward disaster in the same way.”

As I noted when the war began, the Hezbollah is a menace that must be removed, and Israel has a right and duty to do so by every means possible. I also noted that it is not always wise to exercise a right. If nothing is achieved, and the Hezbollah remains unharmed at the end of the war, then all the lives and money and property were for lost for no reason.”

It now appears that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

About five hundred and fifty miles northeast of Jerusalem there’s another war going on. It’s getting less and less attention these days, but events taking place there and how they eventually end have monumental consequences for the free world.

This morning Lawrence Kaplan made the following observation about what he termed the U.S.military’s growing sense of being left holding the bag in Iraq while U.S. politicians and military brass scurry for cover:

“The military's estrangement was summarized in an opinion poll in the Military Times earlier this year. Among the armed forces, favorable opinions of the president, Congress, and even the U.S. public all declined sharply. Officers argue that the war's uncomprehending managers have dispatched them to fight with neither a strategy nor adequate means for victory. As for the public at large, not even the thousands of miles that separate them can measure the military's remove from U.S. society. Many officers fear casualties will spur an impatient public to “bring the troops home” without condition and regardless of consequence.”

Perhaps it’s premature, but the apparent end of the conflict in Lebanon and the eroding political resolve in Iraq are looking more and more like Vietnam to me. As in Indo-China, we seem more willing to cave in to political pressure than to secure victory in the Middle-East against Islamic fascism. And, we are now putting enormous pressure on Israel to; in essence, accept surrender terms offered on behalf of Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran by the United Nations.

What possible good can come from all of this? The guns will go silent, for a short season. The troops will come home. But in time it will all explode again, and when it does things will be even deadlier and dangerous than they are now.

The point of warfare is victory. When a nation commits its troops to a conflict it has a solemn obligation to give them whatever tools are necessary to bring the conflict to the swiftest, most satisfactory conclusion possible. That satisfactory conclusion is victory.

Are wars bloody? Absolutely! They are meant to be. Try as we might, we'll never be able to sanitize it. It’s not a glorious business. As William T. Sherman, who cut a devastating swath through Georgia in 1864, said years after the Union was preserved:

“There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror.”

There are only three things that justify a war – failed/futile diplomacy, a just cause, and a victory to justify the human cost of the endeavor. In the concurrent wars going on in the Middle-East today the first two justifications have been met. The third seems to be slowly slipping from our grasp. It isn’t happening because we can’t win; it’s happening because we won’t.

Responding to the first two conditions was necessary. Not achieving the third would be folly.

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