I think there is something thing that many people living in this country have a hard time understanding. I finally figured it out when I was talking to a friend that couldn’t understand why, with all of our weapons, and all of the firepower we can bring to bear against opponents, why we’re in Iraq for the last six years and getting our collective asses handed to us on a silver platter. I asked why was he asking me and he replied because I was in the military for 21 years, I should know something. I thought about it for a moment.
He was right. I do know something. I know exactly why we haven’t been able to secure Iraq and I know exactly why we never will. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a PhD. When people think of war, some think of the few really big wars that the United States has won. The First World War, the Second, The Korean War (which ended in a draw) and the Civil War which I left for last because it holds the answer to Iraq. You might say “What would our own Civil War tell us about Iraq?” Please stay with me here.
Look at the two world wars and Korea. Then look at Vietnam and Iraq. There are two words that separate the one group of wars from the other. People in the Military and most historians will tell you what those two words are; Total War. This is the only time that having a military with massive firepower and air superiority matters. Limited wars can be fought very successfully with limited weaponry and manpower, with virtually no air power. Witness Vietnam and Iraq. We can stay in Iraq from now until forever, but unless the people want us there, we will never win this war.
That is of course, unless you want to wage total war.
This is why our own Civil War dragged on for four years. The South, with far less money and manpower, fought the North to a virtual standstill until Grant and Sherman used the doctrine of “Total War”.
What is total war?
Total war is when collateral damage is just the cost of doing business. Grant was afraid to let Sherman march to Atlanta because he couldn’t resupply him by rail or overland. Sherman told Grant that he would eat off the land and had his army just take what they needed from whomever they could get it from. If there was a town crawling with rebels, he would just take out the town, and then burn the town down so that it wouldn’t be able to contribute anything to the Southern War effort. When Sherman conquered and burned down the city of Charleston… that was Total War. When Sherman burned down Atlanta after he conquered…that too was Total War. If we were to burn down Fallujah or parts of Bagdad, that would also be total war and it is recognized as such. The military has a doctrine of total war it’s not a new concept.
Will we fight a total war in Iraq? Of course not. That was why we should never have gone into Iraq in the first place. If you are going to fight a limited war, you must have certain objectives, once those objectives are met, than you pull out. You can’t expect to pacify a nation or occupy a nation by fighting a limited war. Bush should have known that going into Iraq. His generals should have told him that, if they didn’t they were remiss. How Bush now expects to win a war with no clear objective to tell us whether we have met our goals or not is ridiculous. We can muddle through Iraqi streets and lose a GI here and a few more there, for decades and this situation still won’t change. This is the reason most of Bush’s good generals have retired. They are sick of fighting a limited war with no objectives.
If Bush thinks he is going to put a US Friendly government into Iraq, and have them model their “democracy” after ours, he’s kidding himself. The Iraqi people will put whatever government has the most power in office. (I should say that the strongest power will make themselves the government), and the United States won’t be able to do anything about it. That’s just the way it is. When Sherman marched to the sea and burnt down Charleston and Atlanta, the war horrified the South. The point here is that if Sherman hadn’t made that march to the sea, the war would have dragged on and on. The spirit of the South had to be broken. Some say it was wrong, some say it shortened the war, both sides are right. War in and of itself is a terrible thing. Total War is even more of a terrible thing. It is easy to start a war, but they don’t end when you want them too. They end when one side or the other is sick of fighting. Unless the population is behind the war, they won’t sacrifice anything to win, especially if nothing is at stake for them to lose. It’s as simple as that.