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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Can't Win

When does defeat actually happen? It's not the signing of a document aboard a battleship or in a train car. It's not even even the actual bloody rout. It's when you come to believe that you can't win.

Before submission comes defeat and before defeat comes hopelessness. The three words that are the X mark for defeat are, "We can't win." They're little words but every leader of virtually every country fighting against terrorism today has said them, from Bush to Olmert to Brown to Arroyo. They've said it in different ways, whether it's "We can't fight 1.5 billion Muslims" to "We are tired of fighting", but they all project the same message. "We can't win."

The most basic psychology of warfare is to make your enemy believe that he can't win. They did it with horns and costumes. We do it with Shock and Awe. And it's done to us with suicide bombings and demographic expansion and economic warfare. The end goal is the same, to get the other side to think, "We can't win."

For nearly two centuries America believed it could win any war around. Americans hurled themselves into battle against empires and kingdoms and expanded Westward, then fought and finished two world wars. Then in Vietnam, America hit the "We can't win" point, through the usual combination of a muddled and out of touch military command and domestic lefitst insurrection and protest.

Liberals and Democrats had of course been preaching "We can't win" back to the days of the Civil War, when the Democratic party ran on a peace platform and staged anti-black and anti-Republican riots and lynchings in the streets of New York. They had been bellowing it outright after WW2 and during Korea. But in Vietnam they found their ideal leverage, two weak morbidly depressed and unpopular Presidents, and a public that just wanted all the craziness to stop. And that was where "We can't win" set in.

Bush Sr. broke the "We can't win" spell with the Gulf War. Afghanistan seemed to have cured it for good, but liberals rediscovered Iraq and began preaching, "We can't win", all over again. Except this time the administration and the military rethought and tackled the problem head on and began winning. There's no telling whether Iraq will become another "We can't win" landmark for the American left, or a "We can win" in favor of American military intervention. A likely deciding factor will be the 2008 election itself, because it's leaders who swallow the mantra of "We can't win", more than anyone else.

For decades Israel took on impossible battles and won. In 1948, Israel fought off multiple Arab armies, some trained by the British Empire, with used Czech weapons and an army that had started life as watchmen for orchards to keep Arab vandals and robbers out. In 1967 Israel destroyed the entire Egyptian air force on the ground and liberated Jerusalem. In 1973, despite a betrayal by allies and enemies alike, Israeli soldiers managed nearly impossible last stands that turned into victories, particularly on the Golan Heights. But the bloom was off the rose though as Israel's Arab enemies figured out what the Soviets already understood about America, that peaceloving Democracies will give up more at the negotiating table than on the battlefield.

Israel grew used to signing pieces of paper and giving up land in exchange for peace. The West which eagerly sought to appease the Sheiks and Tyrants of the Middle East began to squeeze Israel to negotiate more and give up more. Israel began with "We don't have to win, we can just negotiate for peace" and wound up with just plain, "We can't win, so we have to negotiate for peace." That's the problem with putting the cart before the horse, sooner or later the horse falls down and you're just left with a broken cart. Negotiations for peace are all well and good, but when you proclaim an era of peace because your enemies have generously agreed to accept all your concessions, while offering none of their own, what you're actually signing is your own surrender document.

An army isn't only as good as its technology. Technology is a tool but it's the morale of its wielders that really matters. America and Israel didn't win all those wars simply through superior technology. They won wars against impossible odds long before the technological advantage on their side. They won because they fought wars with free men who believed in the cause, because the cause was interlinked with the welfare and future of their families and nations.

Today the American and Israel political establishments frown on all patriotism but the hollow candy striped sort. You can have American and Israeli flags on cakes, t-shirts and in parades, so long as you don't actually loudly celebrate any warmongering victories. Theirs is a patriotism that lives in denial of the simple fact that it was war, often defensive war but war nonetheless, that built their nations. And in forgetting that the military ceases to really matter. Without the bottom line understanding that it is the soldier's gun that protects a nation, the gun becomes vestigial and falls away.

And so their militaries have become politicized and their generals are looking for a lateral career move to a contractor or in politics. Little wonder then that the contractors thrive while the soldiers go hungry. When wars are fought, they are fought to "build nations" or "to win the hearts and minds of the enemy." Pretty soon that kind of war becomes a "We can't win" war. And then defeat follows and submission as well.

Islamic terrorism has thrived on "We can't win". Suicide bombing exists to create a sense of "We can't win." After all how do you defeat people who don't care if they live or die? The politically incorrect answer that you respond with such devastation that the ones who care learn to put a stop to the ones who don't is of course unacceptable today.

Human shields get us to the "We can't win" point that much quicker. After all we can't shoot innocent civilians, can we? The politically incorrect answer that not shooting civilians is precisely what makes them such attractive human shields is of course not acceptable either.

Finally Islamic supremacism thrives on simple demographic expansionism. They don't have to beat us on the battlefield, they can just move here, fund their every offspring with our health care tax dollars and teach it well to go blow itself up and blow us up too. Or if they have more of a long range sense of planning, just teach it to run for public office. The former will hurt us, the latter will kill us. Because nothing says, "We can't win" like having your own enemies running your country. Ask the ancient Israelites or the Romans about that one. Or just the Obama campaign.


  1. Yes. Very interesting and insightful.

    If you'll allow a somewhat long comment:

    I found my old copy of threat management expert Gavin deBecker's "The Gift of Fear."

    He writes that there are four elements to consider when trying to determine success, though he writes about the ability of a criminal to succeed, it could, I think be taken in reverse and used as a tool to help the US and Israel suceed; or at the least understand why terrorists are confident and the good guy's are throwing in the towel. My thoughts are in ()

    1. Perceived justification-- "anger is a very seductive emotion because it is profoundly energizing and exhilarating."

    (Are Americans angry or energized as they were immediately after 9/11? Have we lost our righteous outrage?)

    2. Perceived alternatives--"Does the person perceive that he had available alternatives to violence that will move him toward the outcome he wants?...Knowing the desired outcome is the key. If a person's desired outcome is to inflict physical injury, then there are few alternatives to violence."

    (The Palestinians clearly don't want peace or land. The desired outcome is singular--destroy the Jewish nation and Jewish people).

    3. Perceived consequences--"How does the person view the consequences associated with using violence? Consequences might be intolerable, such as for a person whose identity and self-image would be damaged if he used violence..."

    (Perhaps why Americans are plagued with guilt over the use of torture at Gitmo? The reason Israel repeatedly tries to make peace with the Palestinians?)

    4.Perceived ability--"Does the person believe he can successfully deliver the blows, or bullet or bomb?

    "People who have successfully used violence have a high appraisal of their ability to prevail using violence again."

    (The terrorists obviously do. What do we hear on the news about the surge in Iraq? It isn't working, we need to bail out, etc.)

    Debecker cites this last element, perceived ability, to the attitudes of the Palestinians. He writes, "A recent 60 Minues show gave a good example of most people's reluctance (to see things from the perspective of the terrorist).

    "It profiled the mastermind terrorist known as the Engineer, a man who helped Kamikaze marytrs strap explosives to their chests. His agents became walking bombs, carrying death into populated areas.

    "Interviewer Steve Kroft asked one of the Engineer's terrorist followers to describe the man who could do such terrible things.

    "The answer? 'He's a very normal person, just like all of us' Kroft took exception. 'You said that he is just like all the rest of us. I, I, I, would say that, that no one would consider him normal."

    "The terrorist replied, "I believe your statement is incorrect. There are thousands and thousands in our country that believe what we believe--and not only in our country, in the rest of the Arab world and even in your country."

    Debecker continues, "At the end of the day, the American bomber who kills a hundred people in Iraq decides to use violence the same way as the Palestinian bomber who kills a hundred people in Israel.

    "This idea may bother some people, but effective predictions require that we not make value judgments."



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