The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Friday, May 11, 2007
Rules of Engagement
This old newsreel video clip from the Smoking Gun recalls the rules under which the Greatest Generation won World War 2. And the phrase "martyred" at the end of the video clip has an unaccustomed application.
While people may not want to return to the methods of World War 2, it is dishonest to pretend, as it is now fashionable to do, that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill conducted war according to some high moral standard that the Bush administration has somehow betrayed. The current rules of engagement of Bush-Hitler would be unrecognizable compared to that waged by the Greatest Generation, and more to point, compared to warfare conducted by any other country in the world today. World War 2 was the era of unrestricted submarine warfare, unlimited attacks on enemy cities, the development of weapons of mass destruction to counter threats which turned out were nonexistent and the internment of thousands of Japanese-American civilians. One may or may not like the facts, but they are the facts.
One commentator remarked that the greatest public relations mistake the US military ever made was to show video footage of smart bombs used during Desert Storm. Far from understanding it as a breakthrough in reducing the "collateral damage" endemic to previous eras of warfare, the press understood the advent of guided weapons to mean that any subsequent collateral damage was actually intentional. Accidents might happens in their thousands on the highways, but accidents of the battlefield were presumed out of existence by "smart weapons". The term "war crime" came to be applied to any civilian deaths caused by US forces 'because they could have avoided them had they chosen to'. On the other hand the enemy was never adjudged guilty of a war crime because he fought with supposedly makeshift weapons, never mind that they were manufactured with sophisticated electronics and triggering devices. "A suicide bomber is the poor man's F-16". Did they attack a nursery or demolish a mosque. That's all right because they retaliated as only poor men can retaliate, ignoring the fact that VBIEDs or suicide backpack attacks are highly planned operations of war often conducted under covering fire.
But the biggest injury to the public debate was that the real image of war came to be superseded by fantasy. Many policy makers neither understood nor cared to understand the nature of war when they voted upon it. It is now common to hear people say, "I wouldn't have been in favor of the war in Iraq had I known it would be so horrible." They expected something else. Nor are their expectations revisable. The same individuals who oppose the war in Iraq will in a heartbeat propose that US forces be used to prevent the "genocide in Darfur", as if some parade down the desert or spectacular drop of airborne troops would effect the result.
War has been trivialized. Maybe it could not have been otherwise understood by a trivial age.