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September 04, 2004

On the limits of "Soft Power"

For the Matthew Yglesias' of the world:

Not Good... [NB: all emphasis mine, not Matthew's] ... busy as I've been with the convention, I haven't been following the story of the Russian kids held hostage that's now reached its awful conclusion. Worse, even, than the reality of the crime is the knowledge that things will get worse. The situation, clearly, can only be resolved by Russian concessions on the underlying political issue in Chechnya. At the same time, in the wake of this sort of outrage there will not only be no mood for concessions, but an amply justified fear that such concessions would only encourage further attacks and a further escalation of demands. I don't see any way out for Russian policymakers nor any particularly good options for US policymakers. Partisanship and complaints about Bush's handling of counterterrorism aside, this business is a reminder not only of the horrors out there, but also that terrorism is a genuinely difficult problem -- I think we've been doing many of the wrong things lately, but no one should claim it's obvious what the right way to proceed is.

Matthew followed up later with this:

See the intelligence discussion in the comments at which tends to confirm my despair. It's easy to say "no compromise with terror -- we must kill the killers." At the same time, Russia already has taken a very tough line against Chechen separatists in the past, deploying significantly more brutality than the US or Israel does in its own counterterrorist operations. As we've seen this week, it hasn't been brutal enough to stop the onslaught. Russia certainly does have it in its capacity to simply kill all Chechens, but I think the ethical problem is clear enough.

But the other side of this issue is also right. If you respond to the slaughter of hundreds of children by trying to give Chechen separatists what they want, then you're opening a pandora's box of terrorism.

Matthew is crushed between the rock of his compassion and intellect driving his commendable desire to find a different way to resolve of these seemingly intractable problems and the hard place of history as a brutal teacher when it comes to religious fanatacism. Any fanatacism, really. Thus far, history shows the best solution is to kill enough of 'em that the rest of them lose heart - for the true believers see concession as weakness and something to be taken advantage of - and heartened by - and to then demand more. Just because my way is the old way, the hard way, and yes, the brutal way, doesn't make it wrong.

The following essay lays it out - saying what I've been saying for a while now.

Wahabism Delenda Est.

Crush or be crushed

The writer is professor emeritus of political science at Temple University in Philadelphia and author of Peaceful Conflict and Soldiers, Scholars, and Society.

Events in both Israel and Iraq prove that the winning-hearts-and-minds approach to ending wars and insurrections has the same success rate as getting rain by praying for it. If it were indeed the key to victory, armies would have exchanged their weapons for public relations kits ages ago.

The ancient Persians conquered the Babylonians, and the Greeks the Persians, and the Romans the Greeks, and the Turks the Byzantines, and the British the Turks not by capturing their hearts and minds, but by overwhelming them with so much might that they lost their will to fight and surrendered.

Swords, not sermons, swept Islam quickly from the Middle East to Africa and the Far East. Swords, not sermons, enabled King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to rid Spain of 700 years of Moorish rule. And it was swords, not sermons, that stopped the Muslims at the gates of Vienna.

During the Revolutionary War, Great Britain's King George III did not relinquish his American colonies because General George Washington had somehow won his mind and heart. Similarly, England's Duke of Wellington didn't prevail at the Battle of Waterloo because he won the heart and mind of France's Napoleon Bonaparte.

And the South didn't surrender and end the American Civil War because Union General Ulysses S. Grant won the hearts and minds of General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate troops.

Nor did the Allied powers vanquish the Axis powers in 1945 because their brilliant propaganda and psychological warfare tactics captured the latter's hearts and minds. Germany and Italy surrendered because they knew in their brains and their bowels that they had been beaten by slow, sustained, and superior force, applied over a number of very bloody years.

And the Empire of Japan surrendered not because US navy captain (later admiral) Ellis Zacharias, a specialist in intelligence and psychological operations, was able to broadcast our surrender terms in fluent Japanese, but because Japan had already taken the measure of America's atom bomb.

IN 1970, Canada presented an excellent, if forgotten, example of force prevailing over hearts and minds.

French Canadian terrorist separatists had kidnapped James Cross, the British trade commissioner, and Pierre Laporte, Quebec's minister of labor. They later murdered Laporte. Instead of trying to win their hearts and minds, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, himself a French Canadian, got parliament to proclaim a War Measures Act and suspend Canadian civil liberties.

Then he ordered Canadian troops and mounties to search the streets of Quebec house by house. They arrested 500 people and crushed the terrorists.

The Cold War did not end in the 1980s because Voice of America broadcasts or State Department exchange programs eventually got to the hearts and minds of the Soviet people. It ended because the Kremlin leadership finally realized that president Ronald Reagan, with the backing of most of the American people, was ready to use all means, including economic strangulation and military prowess, to end communist domination of Eastern and Central Europe.

On the other hand, since the Korean War was at best a draw, and the United States did not win in Vietnam, many Americans no longer accept war as part of the human condition. So they seek to appease with nonmilitary approaches enemies who cannot be appeased.

Neither can these Americans fathom that when a nation does go to war, it is entirely proper, as US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill knew so well, for it to sacrifice one in order to save 10, ten to save hundreds, hundreds to save thousands, and thousands to save millions.

Islam does not look kindly upon infidels who lose. So the issue confronting Israel and the United States is not whether one is pro-Bush or anti-Bush, pro-Sharon or anti-Sharon, for or against the invasion of Iraq, or for or against Israel's leaving the Gaza Strip unilaterally. The issue is how can the United States and Israel defeat their foes?

The Ba'athists and the jihadists will not stop fighting the Great Satan because they have been made to like, respect, or fear the United States. They will stop fighting only when they are convinced that America's Vietnam trauma is over and that America is once again willing and able to use crushing force.

And Israel, the Little Satan, will prevail over its existential enemies only when it realizes that in order to survive it must fight by the rules of the neighborhood in which it lives.

In short, America's and Israel's struggles will end favorably only if they follow Churchill's dictum: "Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."
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"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

~ JFKennedy (Inaugural Address - 1961)

John | Permalink | Comments (5) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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