2004-10-08 / Columnists

The Progressive

Military Lessons
By John Paul Culotta


Since the Civil War, it has been the policy of the American military to overwhelm our nation’s enemies with superior manpower and machinery.

Throughout most of our history this combination has been beneficial to winning wars.

It is more problematic for our nation to occupy nations after the victory has been won. The Philippines for many years after the Spanish-American War was difficult to subdue.

Guerrilla warfare has always been difficult for major powers. The British learned this during our war for Independence. We learned this in Vietnam. The French learned it in Algeria.

The movie, The Battle for Algiers, which emphasized the use of torture by the French, is now being shown to military personnel as a training tool. The film demonstrates that torture does not ensure victory. If torture were effective, the Nazis would have been able to subdue occupied Europe.

It is the official policy of the Bush/Cheney administration that torture is not a part of our military policy. Despite this, our nation sends prisoners to allies that we are aware do use torture.

Many intelligent operatives including the Israeli’s concede torture is ineffective. Many non-government organizations state the torture we know about is systematic.

Charles DeGaulle noted when speaking about the Great War (First World War) that the Germans killed 3,200,000 of their enemies and lost 750,000 men. They captured 1,9000,000 and lost the war.

The Germans fought well and were more efficient than their enemies. This caused many military historians to ponder if efficient warfare without a clear and popular political basis as to the reason for war can secure a final victory.

Is declaring mission accomplished sufficient to a victory? The Germans after the First World War could not believe their country could have lost that war without traitors stabbing the country in the back.

Many Americans often remark this country lost few, if any, battles in Vietnam. Despite this we were forced to retreat.

Between the two world wars military historians debated how to avoid defeats in future wars. The German General Hans Von Seeckt who was a counselor to Chiang Kai-Shek in 1934 and was the head of the armed forces for the Weimar Republic debated immediately after the First World War the reasons for Germany’s defeat.

He concluded unpatriotic Germans stabbed Germany in the back. In fact, Germany was defeated because of a lack of new type of weaponry that was developed.

Hitler, when he gained power, rearmed the nation and developed the most modern and innovative armed forces that existed up to that time. He developed an army that was of the masses and not just the aristocrats.

The ambitions of Hitler were thwarted because his policies united the democratic nations in the west and the repressive communist Soviet Union in the East. These partners were natural enemies and after the war became such.

Today the policies of the Bush/ Cheny/Rumsfeld administration have united Islamic fundamentalists and Arab nationalists.

During the Second World War, Germany had to contend with the united resistance in occupied nations.

Today, our nation has a new enemy after the recent Iraq conflict, a dangerous coalition of resistance fighters (people who feel their territory has been occupied by foreign forces), guerillas, terrorists both religious and secular, and criminals.

Some feel this is the war of the future. The question is how do we win this type of war. It is self evident the use of overwhelming force, weaponry, and the use of torture will not suffice.

The Iraq conflict was not just the idea of President Bush to settle old scores that his father left undone. It was an opportunity for the neo-conservatives to examine their theories regarding fighting war.

For Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld it was an opportunity to prove that the Pentagon reformed our military services after our tragic experience in Southeast Asia.

Many military experts felt it would take hundreds of thousands of men to defeat Saddam during the first Iraq conflict in 1991.

Rumsfeld felt that all that was needed was 150 thousand military personnel guided by satellite and unpiloted airplanes sent by navy ships in the Persian Gulf.

Transport, medical services, custody of prisoners would be done by private concerns.

We are now privatizing war. This outsourcing is a formula that is problematic when scandals concerning the military become public knowledge.

To Rumsfeld/Bush/Cheney it is not enough to win. They were committed to demonstrate that the quality of the weaponry, methods of communication, the use of media for propaganda purposes (embedding), and technological developments have made this country able to fight wars with minor risks for combatant troops.

The only problem is how to maintain the peace in a nation that is now occupied and only wishes to be free of foreign troops.

This dilemma is one that will be faced by the winner of the November election. Overwhelming force, technological superiority, and torture will not achieve democracy in Iraq.

We can win battles. Can we win the war? Again, we need to win the hearts and minds of our foes and not their territory.

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