War and Time

A lot has been made of the fact that the war in Iraq has taken longer than the Allies war on Germany in the 1940’s. Whether you agree with the war in Iraq or not, I hope to convince you that this sort of arm chair reasoning to be extraordinarily naïve as it demonstrates an unbelievable ignorance regarding history and war in general.

Let me explain. World War II was fought by the allies as a Total War operation. They properly recognized it as a fight for their survival. Thus they operated with fewer rules and with maximum force. Consider the Allied bombing of Dresden. It wasn’t really a military target at all. It was simply bombed to crush the will of the German people and give them an idea of what Londoner’s suffered during the Blitz. These actions killed tens of thousands of German civilians. The Allies also applied vast quantities of troops against the German forces as can be easily seen by any reflection of the casualty figures. The Red Army alone suffered millions of dead and wounded soldiers.

When we look at the war in Iraq, we see a vastly different picture. Allied forces are a small fraction of the total force used in WWII, suffering slightly more than 3000 deaths. If you argue that we don’t have more deaths due to improved medical treatment, then just add in all the injury figures and you will still get a surprisingly small figure in comparison to one major engagement of WWII. Allies are also trying to “distinguish” civilians from insurgents, a job by definition fraught with problems for it requires minimal and precise use of force, often resulting in the bad guys getting away to fight again.

For the purposes of discussion, consider this. Let’s assume the war in Iraq needs to be fought and won. (Of course you can argue that we never should have been there and/or that we should now leave. While worthy positions, it avoids the point I am trying to make regarding the comment about the war’s present length). The question to be asked is this. “How should the Allies fight this war?” Should it be fought to be ended at the soonest possible moment, regardless of civilian deaths? In other words, should we adopt a total war attitude? Or should it be fought with due regard for civilian life, in a more limited targeted way? If you choose the former answer, then the Allies are not fighting this war properly. They should be using Assyrian, Babylonian or Roman tactics. If you choose the latter, then you should be prepared for a war that could continue for decades to come. For to win the hearts and minds of a people, can take that long.

I hope these comments, whatever your view of the war, at least eliminates this idea that a war’s successful prosecution can be simply identified by looking at a calendar. War is too complicated for that kind of simplistic thinking. Mat proposed write my essay opportunity. Superb writing service.

© 2007 Stephen Vantassel

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