That’s what hippies used to say back in the 60’s and 70’s when there was a lot of anti-Vietnam War sentiment. The idea seemed to be that if people or countries just refused to fight, there couldn’t be a war. We weren’t hippies back then and while we didn’t dodge the draft, we weren’t exactly disappointed when the Selective Service System never got around to selecting us. The idea of a country simply opting out of a war seems, in retrospect, like an almost sensible idea with Vietnam, which is on the other side of the globe. But it didn’t take hold among the political class then and the war raged on through 1975 when we did pretty much opt out. Today, people are making the case that there is a war underway right now, it’s not on the other side of the world but right here, and that one side, ours, has decided not to show up for it. We obviously have absolutely no military expertise, but we hope you’ll permit us a few general observations:
We appear to be facing what students of warfare call an “asymmetrical” war because the two sides use entirely different tactics. Our idea of war, the conventional kind, is that governments who cannot settle their differences with diplomacy simply attack or declare war on each other and send armed forces into the field, the sea and the skies to fight it out with guns, bombs and rockets until one side wins or the other surrenders. This idea of the conduct of war goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks who would fight it out in a open field using a combat formation known as the “phalanx.” Each side would send it’s phalanx running at the other’s – sort of a punt return with swords and spears – and whoever was left standing was the winner. Julius Caesar did the same with formations known as legions. It worked pretty well over the centuries in the sense that wars were more or less manageable, had a beginning, a middle and an end.
Asymmetrical warfare is different. The enemy has no armies in formation. He hides in plain sight. The jihadists infiltrate the enemy’s – our – civilian populations and then launch bloody sneak attacks, like 911 and the Paris massacre, on those populations. The goal is to kill innocent non-combatants in large numbers in order to frighten or terrorize the enemy, us, into submission. They know that if they conducted conventional warfare by landing masses of troops on continental Europe or North America, or by launching air or naval assaults they would be defeated almost instantly.
The conduct of conventional warfare is governed by a number of rules known as the Geneva Conventions. They mostly have to do with the protection of civilians and the treatment of prisoners and of soldiers who are wounded or otherwise unable to fight. The people who are at war with us have no concept of humanitarian treatment of civilians. They have made a spectacle of executing innocent captives in the cruellest possible ways. Again, this is intended to strike terror into the hearts of their enemy. Us.
In World War II the Allies, having destroyed the German Wehrmacht and driven Japanese forces back to their home islands, would settle for nothing less than unconditional surrender. Representatives of the German Reich and the Japanese Empire had to sign a surrender document or face complete destruction. There were 280 allied warships in Tokyo Bay when the “Instrument of Surrender” was signed on the U.S.S. Missouri.
The Germans surrendered at Reims, France. The German officer who signed the surrender, General Alfred Jodl, was later tried for war crimes at Nuremberg, including shooting hostages, and hanged. One of the reasons the Allies made unconditional surrender their policy was because the enemy had committed flagrant acts of barbarism during the course of the hostilities and routinely violated the Geneva conventions. Looking back seventy years since the end of World War II, unconditional surrender seems to have been an excellent strategy.
Some are calling this the beginnings of World War III. No sane person wants war, but it certainly seems as though we’re at war whether we want to be or not. And if we are we should fight this unconventional war under the same principles as we fought World War II. We should unleash the military with no conditions except to wage it honorably and return with the enemy’s unconditional surrender. Then we should hang a couple of their “generals.”
Comments – DickVerbo@hotmail.com Also, Like “The Idler” on Facebook