Comparisons of wars

Josh Manchester:


The result of these two national experiences is that warfare exists along a one-dimensional axis for most Americans. World War II exists as the positive terminal of this circuit, and Vietnam as the negative; the tendency then is to reinforce the one, while eschewing the other.

The truth is something more complicated: World War II was a total war, fought by societies in their entirety, and won therefore by the side that could materially and technologically outperform the other side. Vietnam was a counterinsurgency, and won by the side that managed to win the civilian population over to its beliefs. These are merely two types of warfare, not two opposing poles; our own experience seems to show us that if only we try to fight every war as World War II, then we'll win; and therefore counterinsurgency campaigns are to be avoided at all costs. And once you find yourself in the middle of one . . . then all is lost!

But deciding that only one kind of warfare is ever worth fighting is to leave the United States vulnerable to any other kind of warfare that its enemies might want to throw at it. And they always get a vote.


The anti war left has taken the position that all wars can become a quagmire. they use this belief as a general reason to oppose all uses of force. While Josh describes World War II as a total war, another way of describing it would be combat persisting, where both sides stay in contact with each other until one wins.

The insurgencies, on the other hand, are what I call semi-kinetic wars, where the weaker side attempts to avoid contact with the others combat forces, attacking instead using raids against less hardened target. The semi-kinetic wars combine a raiding strategy with political and public relations components.

In Iraq, for example, the enemy has been concentrating his attacks against non combatants. To defeat the semi-kinetic strategy, opposing forces need a high force to space ratio that cuts off the enemy's ability to move to an attack and retreat from an attack. On of the problems we have had in Iraq is that there were not sufficient troops to accompish this objective in some parts of Iraq, leaving troops in the position of have to persue and pay for the same ground more than once.

The enemy in Iraq has a pretty weak political component, but a pretty effective public relations component. He has the latter because the media has been surprising compliant in presenting his message and has failed to report the war crimes aspects of his attacks. While the media has been insistent that the US follow the Geveva Conventions, even when they do not apply, it rarely discusses the violations of those same conventions by the enemy, whose entire strategy is a violation. This greatlyaids a weak enemy that has alienated the population in Iraq, while the media has been alienating the US population from support for defeat of the enemy.


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