A Few of the Basics of War

The world's media are once again filtering warfare through their idiosyncratic perspectives. Most of them are shocked to discover that civilians are injured when terrorists locate military facilities in apartment houses, mosques, and other civilian locales. And they are doubly outraged when a missile or a shell goes off course injuring or killing innocents. But this is just one of the reasons that Sherman said that 'war is hell.'  That is why sensible people seek to avoid it.  However, that does not relieve the observer of making judgments. 

Herewith a primer to help with those judgments:

1. When you attack a country that is at peace, you are the aggressor.  Aggression is a disruption of the civil order.  It is not measured solely in the quantitative terms of the specific engagement.  For instance, the significance of Pearl Harbor did not reside in the specific number of bombs the Japanese dropped on our ships.  It also resided in the alteration of the relations between the two countries by force.  It called forth a response on the part of the U.S. that was not, and was not intended to be, proportional to that attack.  The response it called forth was to establish under whose power the citizens of each country were going to live.

2. In the Israel/Hizbullah War, Hizbullah is the aggressor.  Israel was at peace with its neighboring country Lebanon.  Out of the territory of Lebanon, Hizbullah undertook acts of war.  Like the Japanese, they did not declare war, they undertook war.

3. Once war is initiated, then the question is not proportionality, but victory.  The question to be decided is under whose power are the citizens of each country going to live?

4. The policy of the U.S. toward countries that attempt to bring our citizens under their power is 'unconditional surrender.'  This means that the U.S. expects to deliver to our enemy as much devastation in as compressed a timeframe as possible until the leadership of the country surrenders unconditionally to our power.  That determines under whose power the citizens of each country are going to live: ours. 

5. In the case of the Israel/Hizbullah War, the question is whether Israel will live under the power of Hizbullah or whether Hizbullah is going to live under the power of Israel.  In that sense, whatever the vocabulary, Israel is now fighting for the unconditional surrender of Hizbullah, or what amounts to the same thing, its complete destruction.  We can expect that Israel will deliver the maximum amount of damage against Hizbullah of which it is capable in as compressed a timeframe as possible.

6. However, as Pyrrhus showed two millennia ago, and Europe demonstrated again in World War I, it is possible to conduct a war so that victory is as devastating as defeat.  Therefore, we can expect that Israel will also exercise economy of force so that the casualties that it experiences are not beyond the capability of its society to absorb.  We can expect Israel to substitute technology for personnel to the extent possible while bending every effort to find out the weak points of Hizbullah. 

7. Once a country is attacked by an enemy, there is no substitute for victory or the attack will continue.  No society accepts that condition.  There are only two outcomes — victory or defeat.  We can assume that Israel is planning on victory and we can expect to see it expend the necessary force to achieve that.

8. During this period there is going to be violence.  That is what war means.  You can photograph it from every conceivable angle, and document every casualty.  That does not change the fact that there is an aggressor — Hizbullah — and a defender — Israel.  The end game of war is when the defender goes on the offensive to destroy the aggressor.  The final stage of a war is when the defender appears to be the aggressor as it moves into the territory of the aggressor and burns out its black heart.  That will be the final stage of the war.  Then there will be peace.

9. All recent history shows that there is no role for a 'peacekeeping' force in a situation of military antagonism.  The oldest of illusions is that the 'presence' of a third force will in some way provide a deterrent factor — wrong.  Wrong when there was a UN force in Sinai before the 1967 War.  Wrong when we put Marines in Lebanon in 1983.  Wrong when we put unsupported troops in Mogadishu.  Wrong when whatever grotesquely ineffective force was put in southern Lebanon by the UN defaulted on its duty.  Why?  Because the peacekeeping force is not playing for keeps while the aggressor is.  So it cannot work.  The only solution is the destruction of the aggressor.  Otherwise the logic of the aggressor is to keep up the aggression.  The aggressor doesn't want peace, he wants victory.  The only way to block that is to inflict defeat on him.  There is no third way.

Greg Richards is a frequent contributor.

The world's media are once again filtering warfare through their idiosyncratic perspectives. Most of them are shocked to discover that civilians are injured when terrorists locate military facilities in apartment houses, mosques, and other civilian locales. And they are doubly outraged when a missile or a shell goes off course injuring or killing innocents. But this is just one of the reasons that Sherman said that 'war is hell.'  That is why sensible people seek to avoid it.  However, that does not relieve the observer of making judgments. 

Herewith a primer to help with those judgments:

1. When you attack a country that is at peace, you are the aggressor.  Aggression is a disruption of the civil order.  It is not measured solely in the quantitative terms of the specific engagement.  For instance, the significance of Pearl Harbor did not reside in the specific number of bombs the Japanese dropped on our ships.  It also resided in the alteration of the relations between the two countries by force.  It called forth a response on the part of the U.S. that was not, and was not intended to be, proportional to that attack.  The response it called forth was to establish under whose power the citizens of each country were going to live.

2. In the Israel/Hizbullah War, Hizbullah is the aggressor.  Israel was at peace with its neighboring country Lebanon.  Out of the territory of Lebanon, Hizbullah undertook acts of war.  Like the Japanese, they did not declare war, they undertook war.

3. Once war is initiated, then the question is not proportionality, but victory.  The question to be decided is under whose power are the citizens of each country going to live?

4. The policy of the U.S. toward countries that attempt to bring our citizens under their power is 'unconditional surrender.'  This means that the U.S. expects to deliver to our enemy as much devastation in as compressed a timeframe as possible until the leadership of the country surrenders unconditionally to our power.  That determines under whose power the citizens of each country are going to live: ours. 

5. In the case of the Israel/Hizbullah War, the question is whether Israel will live under the power of Hizbullah or whether Hizbullah is going to live under the power of Israel.  In that sense, whatever the vocabulary, Israel is now fighting for the unconditional surrender of Hizbullah, or what amounts to the same thing, its complete destruction.  We can expect that Israel will deliver the maximum amount of damage against Hizbullah of which it is capable in as compressed a timeframe as possible.

6. However, as Pyrrhus showed two millennia ago, and Europe demonstrated again in World War I, it is possible to conduct a war so that victory is as devastating as defeat.  Therefore, we can expect that Israel will also exercise economy of force so that the casualties that it experiences are not beyond the capability of its society to absorb.  We can expect Israel to substitute technology for personnel to the extent possible while bending every effort to find out the weak points of Hizbullah. 

7. Once a country is attacked by an enemy, there is no substitute for victory or the attack will continue.  No society accepts that condition.  There are only two outcomes — victory or defeat.  We can assume that Israel is planning on victory and we can expect to see it expend the necessary force to achieve that.

8. During this period there is going to be violence.  That is what war means.  You can photograph it from every conceivable angle, and document every casualty.  That does not change the fact that there is an aggressor — Hizbullah — and a defender — Israel.  The end game of war is when the defender goes on the offensive to destroy the aggressor.  The final stage of a war is when the defender appears to be the aggressor as it moves into the territory of the aggressor and burns out its black heart.  That will be the final stage of the war.  Then there will be peace.

9. All recent history shows that there is no role for a 'peacekeeping' force in a situation of military antagonism.  The oldest of illusions is that the 'presence' of a third force will in some way provide a deterrent factor — wrong.  Wrong when there was a UN force in Sinai before the 1967 War.  Wrong when we put Marines in Lebanon in 1983.  Wrong when we put unsupported troops in Mogadishu.  Wrong when whatever grotesquely ineffective force was put in southern Lebanon by the UN defaulted on its duty.  Why?  Because the peacekeeping force is not playing for keeps while the aggressor is.  So it cannot work.  The only solution is the destruction of the aggressor.  Otherwise the logic of the aggressor is to keep up the aggression.  The aggressor doesn't want peace, he wants victory.  The only way to block that is to inflict defeat on him.  There is no third way.

Greg Richards is a frequent contributor.