How to Win

I write from the point of view of an ex-soldier. The lessons of history teach that one wins a war by having the last infantrymen standing with loaded weapons and the enemies’ will to resist throughly shattered. That was the outcome at Mexico City, Appomattox, Berlin, and Tokyo. Since then, Mexico, the Confederacy, Germany, and Japan have never troubled us. That was not the case in 1918, 1953, or 2011. WWII was required to settle the open issues of 1918. North Korea still festers. And now, ISIL/ISIS/IS.

Air power is a wonderful asset. However, it can’t hold ground. It can’t root out an enemy surrounded by civilians. (After days of air strikes, the Israelis had to use soldiers in Gaza.) The alternative is to use carpet bombing (Dresden and Tokyo) or nukes (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to make a desert that can be called peace.

At some point, men with rifles are going to have to personally confront ISIS. Obama seems to hope that these men will be Kurds or Syrians or Iraqis—anyone except Americans, with the possible exception of a few SEALs or Delta operators. We shall see, but I’m betting that the matter won’t be settled in any way favorable to our interests until American soldiers and/or Marines get involved.

UPDATE—Meanwhile, it seems that some Brits understand the problem. From the BBC:

Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said it was vital that Britain took some “serious action” against IS.

“The key issue here is that we cannot rule out the use of large-scale ground forces. I don’t mean the kind of thing that’s happening now. I mean large-scale intervention forces,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Failure to do so would mean Britain would “just accept the fact that the Islamic State will continue to expand, continue to decapitate our citizens, continue to pose a threat to our country and countries in the region”.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Cameron doesn’t.

This is not about British combat troops on the ground. It is about working with others to extinguish this terrorist threat.

13 thoughts on “How to Win


  1. The world is watching. North Korea, Russia, Iran. They’re all testing the mettle of Mr. Obama and his followers. Our allies including Australia, Britain, France and South Korea are watching too. It’s hard to imagine that the good guys feel safer and the bad guys are scared.


  2. FYI: The Australian and UK Prime Ministers were on the radio this morning. Both sounded confident and resolute. We need some of that in the White House. (Resolute: It’s not just a place to put your feet.)


  3. Ugh, I really wish you wouldn’t use the Confederacy as an example of whatever it is you are trying to prove. When you say it has never troubled us since Appomattox, you seem to assume that “us” represents the entirety of America. It represents only the Northern part. Not all of “us” endorses the Northern view. My family fought for the South.


  4. You can’t win a war from the air. You can’t win a war with only POGs. You really do need boots on the ground. It’s the only way to take and hold ground.


  5. Strategically speaking, the very notion of listening to people who demand an “exit strategy,” or who say “you can’t go to war without a plan to win the peace” is an exercise in madness. For a chief executive to build a strategy around What We Are Prepared To Do And Not To Do is an admission that that C-in-C is wholly inadequate to job for which he or she has been chosen.

    If you want to win a war, the first thing you must decide and commit to is that “we are going to win this war. The end is decided, the necessary means will be determined by the situation.”

    I find the folks who demand that we, as signatories to the Geneva Conventions, should be obligated to exercise restraint against enemies who are not signatories, and who display no guilt or compunction over their cowardly and inhumane behavior, to be fools. Quaint and entertaining, but fools nonetheless.

    The first rule of winning a war should be Win The War.

    Not: Win The War But Don’t Hurt Civilians.

    Not: Win The War But Don’t Offend Anyone.

    Not: Win The War But Don’t Risk Any American Lives.

    There are very good reasons why civilians DECIDE to wage war but do not wage it. Likewise, there are very good reasons why the military runs the war machinery but does not start it’s engines.

    Win the war. Make the decision. Then delegate the task to the people who know how, and let them go do it.


    • Not: Win The War But Don’t Offend Anyone.

      THIS!! I wish I could like this comment more than once.

      The enemy and their supporters will always be offended. So what. Destroy their will to resist, as our host said, and you won’t have to keep coming back to fight them again and again. That’s ugly and very messy. Innocent people do get killed. But it decisively ends the war and tends to deter the next genius who is thinking about starting another one.


    • “Let’s you and him fight!” is not how war is conducted.

      Once upon a time we were the mightiest nation in the history of the planet.


  6. ISIL is not our concern, let the all knowing Europeans defend the mess they made during their colonial days…. Airpower is the way to go so is a naval blockade of the straits, of Hormuz and the red sea no ships go in or out until ISIL is defeated – in 30 days they will all be hunted down like dogs by a hundred countries


    • I differ with your opinions. I think it is unwise for the USA to regard anyone who says “We are at war with you” as if they are beneath notice or as if they lack the capability to impact us. Al Qaeda showed enormous patience in waiting for their opportunity to strike in 2001.

      As you may assume from my previous comment, I favor an aggressive approach. I agree that air power and naval superiority have important roles to play, but I’ve seen no indications since 9/11 that a reliance on coalition partners or non-allies to meet our goals for us is a workable strategy.

      I think the aphorism holds even more true in the context of warfare in the Middle East, and I think the state of Israel provides a good example of it: if you want something done, do it yourself.


      • Not our business, people kill Americans overseas every week in horrible fashions – rappelling seals and rangers from helo’s every time is beyond beyond – but hey I’m all in favor of blockading until every other nation that sucks on Chinese merchandise and needs middle east oil quits criticizing us and goes out and takes care of their business – I’ve lived there – been all over the region for the better part of a decade – no one has ANY allegiance to the notion of a country except Egypt and Israel. Syrians think they are Jordanians, Jordanians think they are a subset of Palestine, there are 4 lebanons (all would be the size of a trailer park) Iraq thinks they are three countries, Iran even more etc.

        There is going to be fighting, there is going to be killing and there is never going to be peace because that’s not the way they roll.

        They invented math, chemistry, had a 5,000 year head start on the rest of the world, and oh BTW they sit on the worlds shipping lanes and 1/2 the worlds wealth, yet there they are – sitting in stinky concrete huts……

        Teams of navy seals are not going to fix it – 3 million Americans occupying it – eh maybe but they have other things to do…


  7. I find it mildly interesting that everyone assumes that our objective is to “win” anything. It seems obvious that the strategy being employed is simply to mark time until the next president is in office.

    Ar which point the left will feel free to howl all over again at the cruel warmongering Republicans.


  8. Technologies eventually become obsolete, but a soldier holding a stout club and occupying two square feet of ground has never become obsolete and likely never will.

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