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We Fight And Lose Wars In Which We Cannot, Dare Not, Use Our Major Advantages.

Message Lawrence Velvel


Summary For Op Ed News  

            Ignorant and uncaring of the warning about war’s unpredictability contained in Lincoln’s brilliant Second Inaugural Address, our stupid leaders keep getting us into wars which we lose because we cannot, for one reason and another, use our major advantages, or cannot use them to sufficient effect.



April 18, 2007

 Re:  We Fight And Lose Wars In Which We Cannot,Dare Not, Use Our Major Advantages. From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel 

For several years I have taken the position

That fundamentally America wins wars in only one situation.

It wins only when the war is all-out, full scale, full bore:

When, in the 20th Century, it was World War.

Those are the only wars that give full scope, you see,

To our advantages of population size, advanced, and always advancing technology.

Oh, yes, there is often the small Latin American adventure military

Where we (boasting of our power -- can you believe it?) invade and take

over a Grenada or Panama or Haiti.

There was even a quick and dirty war in 1990 against Iraq,

Then claimed to be a significant power -- what a crock! --

Which we won by size, speed and advanced technology

That caused the inept Iraq army to flee

While we continued destroying it on its road back,

As we had destroyed Germans at the Falaise Gap

(Though not enough of them),

Or as Israel had destroyed Egyptians in the desert in the Six Day War

When the Arabs had yet again wanted to create a Palestine safe only for the Moor.

So there have been what some could claim a crucial exception

To an idea that might otherwise find greater reception:

The idea that fundamentally,

And at least after the first ten years of the 20th Century,

America has found military success

Only when able to make full use of our abundance, our national largesse,

In population size and technology --

A phenomenon that in reality began in 1861

And enabled us to succeed by 1865 and then in World War I,

Not to mention World War II.

The converse, which the pols, media and

            vox populi have never fully grasped in every dimension

Relates to non use of the full power in our possession: 

We are courting defeat or at best a draw when we choose

To fight a war in which, for whatever reason, we cannot use

The full plentitude of our ability

To take actions leading to victory.

That, dear reader, is the precise block

Which led to unsatisfactory results in Korea, Viet Nam and now Iraq.


One has little doubt that the jingoes likely are right

Who said, and now again say, we could have won had we chosen to fight

With all the men and weapons at our command.

But to do so would for one reason or another have been crazy, would have been insanity

Because the stakes were too low, or the risks too high, despite the inanity

Given false voice by the likes of Johnson, Nixon or Bush,

Evil men who were in a rush to get us into wars we could not win,

And the same was true -- although he had more important reasons -- of the estimable



Has it occurred to you that it is very strange

That now we are desperately short of men when success (if possible)

            would require enough troops to range

Across the length and breadth of Iraq,

In Baghdad and other cities to be on every block;

Strange that a nation that now has three hundred million people is exceedingly pressed,

That a nation which spends over $400 billion a year on the military is greatly stressed,

To put even 150,000 troops in-country?

And that to do even this we must accede to the horrid Bush-driven urge

To keep the same men and women there even longer or

            for more tours of duty to accommodate Bush’s surge?

Is it not odd that a nation of 300 million cannot find the 750,000 probably needed even to

hope to achieve

American success in a war claimed so vital that Iraq we dare not leave?

In World War II our forces were at least ten million

In a country that then had only 14 percent, not 30 percent, of a billion.

Does it not strike you as having been equally strange

That in the Viet Nam War -- one of whose progenitor’s middle name was

            Strange (Robert Strange McNamara, believe it or not) --

We could put in only about 550,000 men

Though our people were already 180 or 200 million or more even then,

And victory was claimed essential or we would again and again

Have to fight the Reds lest they in triumph go

From Viet Nam to Laos to the Philippines

            to Japan to Hawaii to the streets of San Francisco?

(This argument, combined with departure’s falsely claimed death of credibility, led

To another five or six years of war and another fifty thousand American dead

(Not to mention millions more Viet Namese).)

And while I don’t know how many troops we put into the Korean War,

One thing’s for sure:  it wasn’t enough to defeat the enemy’s horde,

But at best only enough to obtain a draw, a standoff,

Though we by then had more citizens than in World War II and

            were told it was crucial to fight off

The Reds?  Is this not all passing strange, surprisingly odd --

That victory is claimed vital, yet we do not flood

The zone (so to speak) with the much larger numbers needed for success,

But instead use just enough to insure a many-years-long, morale destroying mess

That, as in Nam and Iraq, last longer than World War Two?

Far longer than World War II?


These wars could be called our “savage wars of peace,”

To use Kipling’s classic phrase resonating across the years.

But unlike Victoria’s British we do not face natives armed with spears.

For us there can be no cavalry charge at Omdurman,

No slaughtering Dervishes who lack a gun,

No cynical recognition that we are better soldiers simply because we have

            what “uncivilized” opponents haven’t,

The idea then expressed as we have Maxims and Fuzzy Wuzzy hasn’t --

Which is not possible in an era when every home can, and in our opponents’

            lands do, have a Kalashnikov,

With which our troops’ heads, arms and legs to blow off;

Not to mention the ever present shell and roadside bomb

With which our opponents imitate, and mock, fool Bush’s “Bring it on.”

One gathers that since1990 our military, and certainly Dum Rumsfeld, thought

That now our wars would successfully be fought

By new means and weapons, all high tech in highest degree,

That would make a joke of opponents’ weaponry.

We have, after all, Predators, and many Drone

And Satellite cameras allowing persons on the ground to be shown,

And guided missiles with cameras that let us see

The missile as it goes right down an Arab chimney.

And even as far back as Nam we had sensors,

To detect enemy movement on jungle floors,

Which would let us call in the B52

Which at 30,000 feet -- out of range -- flew

And for a carpet bombed mile blew

Everything into smithereens,

Creating the most ghastly scenes.

But even with all our high and ever higher tech,

Our military plans were rendered a wreck

By enemies who used not a high tech reply,

But far more basic weapons to make Americans die.

Weapons not the same as, yet comparatively not so far from, Einstein’s statement of

nuclear supercession of even huge conventional bombs and large shells that level homes.

“I cannot tell you what weapons the next war will be fought with,” Einstein said,

“But the one after that will be fought with sticks and stones.”

The technologically primitive: the Kalashnikov, the roadside shell and the suicide bomber

Have caused all our fancy high tech plans to come acropper.


Yet it is nonetheless hard for our American-bred minds to wrap themselves around

The idea that victory would not have been, could not now be, found

If we were to use unlimited men plus technology --

That is, to do whatever it takes to obtain victory.

But doing whatever it takes is exactly the rub you see,

Because the risks are too high, the benefits too low, and

            the determination of the enemy

Far too great.  He fights for his country, or his religion or his revolution

Call him the North Vietnamese, the Muslim fundamentalist, or the North Korean --

With two of them helped by the Chinese and the Russians.

While to us the war is just one event among the many that are always going on,

Not important enough to create a nation in arms as we were in World War I,

And were again in World War II,

Or as the North Vietnamese later were too.

We, and our pols, are thinking about the economy or schooling or jobs or taxes

            or cars or houses or generally how we shall continue trying

To fulfill the fool Bush’s injunction (for purposes of not upsetting us) that we continue

our normal buying.

To our opponents the war is everything,

To us it is a far smaller thing.

As well, the American people -- even the stupid reactionaries and hard liners --

Usually realize that the Johnsonian, Ruskian, Nixonian, Kissingerian, Bushian,

            Rumsfeldian, Wolfowitzian, McCainesque baloney is lies:

That it is false for them to claim their war is the most vital event since Nazisim was put to

            an end,

Most have recognized that the stakes are infinitely lower than those militaristic

fools contend:

Have realized that Communism would not take over the world

if we didn’t succeed in Korea or Viet Nam;

Have recognized that the fear eyed, wild eyed claims to the contrary are

just a militarized scam;

And realize today that fundamentalist Islam will not prevail north, south, east and west

If insurgents in Iraq we do not best;

Which is to say that we common people always realized,

And continue today to recognize,

That the stakes have never been as high as our leaders have

said, except for FDR’s anti-Nazi cry

Or Lincoln’s refusal to peacefully kiss the South goodbye.

And then too there has often been the risk that, as occurred to Europe in

the summer of ’14, 

All-out action by us to win could create a situation beggaring the obscene.

In Korea the Chinese came in by the hundreds of thousands and,

            though most Americans don’t know it, Russian pilots were piloting the Mig.

There was no telling just how big

The war could have become

Had we insisted on putting in more men until we won,

If we indeed did win.  There was a fear that we might easily

Have triggered World War III.

And in Viet Nam had we put in a million or a million and a half men,

We would have risked World War III again. 

Most Americans, being ignorant of history, have no idea

That the Chinese had 350,000 men or more doing things in North Viet Nam (although

they mainly did not have to fight as they did in Korea),

And that our air force was fighting Russian pilots (and also Chinese ones) again,

Not just the Russians built planes and SAMs.

Much more risk and danger -- which we caused -- arose than would otherwise

have been the case

When, and because, we brought what the Viets  call The American War

to that distant place. 


When you put it all together, this is what you see:

We get into wars in which we cannot fully use our great advantage of population size,

Or make truly telling use of technology like remote eyes;

Wars in which the low tech on which the enemy is reliant

Turns us into the evil Nixon’s dreaded “pitiful, helpless giant.”

Wars in which the risks are too great and/or the benefits too low.

You would think the pols would take it slow

Before committing us to such potential disaster --

But forget it, for any sensible person would say if you asked her

That the pols -- and their brainless mass media abettors --

Are just a bunch of stupid militarized fools

Who are, however, smart enough to use the rest of us as tools

To serially conduct the military adventure, the military operation,

On behalf of the oil companies, the Halliburtons and now the Blackwaters of this nation.

These fools are ignorant of and do not heed Lincoln’s Second Inaugural words

across decades resounding,

That at the beginning of war nobody expects results “so fundamental and astounding”

As those which occur in so many wars that we’re in,

Potential results which should but do not

make us hesitant those wars to begin.* 


* This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel.  If you wish to comment on the post, on the general topic of the post, or on the comments of others, you can, if you wish, post your comment on my website, VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com.  All comments, of course, represent the views of their writers, not the views of Lawrence R. Velvel or of the Massachusetts School of Law.  If you wish your comment to remain private, you can email me at Velvel@mslaw.edu.   

VelvelOnNationalAffairs is now available as a podcast.  To subscribe please visit VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com, and click on the link on the top left corner of the page.   The podcasts can also be found on iTunes or at www.lrvelvel.libsyn.com 

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Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.
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