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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Praise of Ruthlessness

Daniel Greenfield writes about why the United States is no longer capable of winning a war. It boils down to a lack of ruthlessness in war--to finish what we started and to destroy the will of the enemy to fight. He writes:
In the summer of '45, the United States concluded a war that had come to be seen by some as unwinnable after the carnage at Iwo Jima with a bang. 
On August 6th, the bomb fell on Hiroshima. And then on the 9th, it was Nagasaki's turn. Six days later, Japan, which had been preparing to fight to the last man, surrendered.
For generations of liberals those two names would come to represent the horror of America's war machine when they actually saved countless American and Japanese lives. 
 
The two bombs stand in stark contrast to our endless nation-building exercises in which nothing is ever finished until we give up. Instead Truman cut the Gordian Knot and avoided a long campaign that would have depopulated Japan and destroyed the lives of a generation of American soldiers. 
That we can talk about Japan as a victory, that the famous couple was caught kissing in Times Square rather than sighing in relief, is attributable to that decision to use the bomb. Without it, Japan would have been another Iraq or Vietnam, we might have eventually won at a terrible cost while destroying our willingness to fight any future wars and that would have given the USSR an early victory in Asia.  
Professional soldiers understand the humanitarian virtue of ruthlessness. The pacifist civilian may gasp in horror at the sight of a mushroom cloud, but the professional soldier knows that the longer way around would have left every Japanese city looking far worse than Hiroshima.  
More people died in the Battle of Okinawa on both sides than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 9 out of 10 buildings were destroyed. As much as a third of the island's population committed suicide, fled into caves that were bombed, were used as human shields or were killed when American soldiers found themselves unable to distinguish between Japanese soldiers posing as civilians and actual civilians. 
And all that was in a part of Japan that was not fully aligned with its national identity. It does not take much to imagine what trying to capture Honshu would have looked like. Take the worst horrors of Vietnam and keep multiplying until you run out of imagination. If you run low, remember that at Okinawa the [Japanese] military was handing out grenades to civilians and its home defense plans involved encouraging the civilian population to commit suicide attacks. 
The United States military did not understand the fanatical mindset of its enemies, but it did understand that they had to be fought with equal ruthlessness.
... The failure by the stronger side to conclude a war when it has the upper hand is not kindness; it's cruelty. It perpetuates the conflict endlessly, dragging it out and opening the door for a prolonged civilian resistance with all the horrors that terrorism and guerrilla warfare can inflict on both sides.  
In Vietnam, Iraq, Korea and Afghanistan, in the countries and wars where we pulled our punches, the civilian population was left worse off. The tactics that we thought were merciful were actually cruel, and their end result led to victories by monstrous forces like the Kim family or the Taliban who did far worse things to the civilian population than we ever dreamed of.
Read the whole thing.

Updated: Related thoughts from Blur Brain

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