Saturday, December 09, 2006
Thursday on CPR The co-host Mark Vance asked on Pearl Harbor remembrance day whether this country had the morale clarity to ever fight a an all out war like World War II? He correctly pegged the right problem, “it is a matter of morale clarity”. His concern is whether this country has the morale fortitude to endure heavy casualties for 5 years and see a conflict through to victory. His concern is well stated by Doug Giles. A good question on the day that Baker released his cut and run study report, followed by a whole hour of Meet the Press 10 December; half devoted to Baker and Hamiton explain why their report was bipartisan mush and foreign policy experts giving us the real story. Read the whole transcript. But a complex question for anyone to answer in advance, because no one can get into the minds of 300M people real time. So what is moral clarity? It is the collective mindset of the people, both civilian and military. Where does that come from? It comes from a nations culture, the righteousness of the cause and the victory conditions defined by the leader. You should not accept that on faith. So where is the proof? Before I answer that, we first need to understand how culture reacts to war. Culture affects the 3 psychological factors of war, winning and losing, casualties and enemy civilian casualties. These values can be measured and can be manipulated by the press and psychological warfare.
Lets begin with the topic of the day, World War II. American moral clarity was never tested. America supplied the economic might and the British Empire and especially the Russians supplied the bodies. Because our population was small compared to its awesome economic power this made good sense. America tried to use high tech to defeat Germany and Japan. It worked on Japan but not Germany. Germany was high tech too. We lost only 500,000 dead compared to many millions lost by the other combatants. Of course when the fighting got tough France and Italy surrendered. But it was a fight to the death for Japan and Germany. We tried to bomb Germany into oblivion, but the accuracy of bombing was miserable until 1945. The best we could do was hit a city. In 1940-1941 the British could not even do that. Yes, they missed entire cities. How did it end? Germany literally ran out of manpower. They could not replace their casualties as early as 1944. Britain was also decommissioning divisions to fill the vacancies in remaining units. American manpower was only tested, but not even close to exhausted. However, we did not have the population to win a war of attrition against Germany or Japan. The Russians did. All we need to do was supply the war material, America’s strength.
Germany did not lose the will to fight until Hitler killed himself. But from 44 on the German Army and people new the war was lost. Japan was defeated by high tech. It was the Navy and Army Air Force that defeated Japan. Most people believe Japan surrendered because we annihilated their military forces. Not even close. We barely scratched their ground forces. Except for American stupidity, no American or Japanese ground forces would have been lost after 1942. In early 1942 two diverse Pacific war plans were submitted to FDR. One by Dug out Doug, the loser of the Philippines, which detailed slugging it out island by island all the way to Japan. The navy plan was to wait to build a massive fleet, then by pass the defended Islands and destroy the Japanese navy and in particular it’s merchant fleet. Japan was extremely vulnerable without a massive navy. To make matters worse they chose a navy of capital ships when their lives literally depended on merchant ships and escorts. Japan had to take 100’s of Islands all over the Pacific for raw materials and move massive amounts of raw materials from Korea and China across water to replace their war losses. Worse they did not have the food to feed their population. Japan is a nation of Islands. Not all those Islands were self sufficient in food production. They required massive inter-island food transfers to keep from starving. FDR for political reasons chose Dug out Doug’s plan. So we slugged it out island-by-island including the Philippines all the way to Okinawa where our Japanese home Island invasion force was being assembled. But while the navy supported Doug’s plan it also pursued its own plan. The Japanese navy was sunk and in particular all of their merchant fleet. The navy even sunk the fishing boats and all of the inter-island junks. Wooden ships. Without fish and rice Japan was facing starvation. Still Japan kept its will to fight. Their basically intact Army was moved to the home Islands where it would have inflicted an estimated million American casualties had we invaded.
Fortunately, FDR and his unconditional surrender policy died. Truman was left with the decision to use the atomic bomb. Politically he had no choice. People think he agonized over the decision. It was a no-brainer. He correctly reasoned that the American people would have lynched him after the war when they found out we had the bomb that could end the war and did not use it but sent 1M Americans to their death. Bombs away. Japan surrenders. Nope. Even fewer people know that the 2 atomic bombs did not end the war. Diplomacy won it. A back channel message that was dropped from the Potsdam Declaration Article 12, from Truman to the Emperor ended the war. Well that, and the fact that the Russians declared war. We offered that the Emperor could remain the symbolic head of Japan if he surrendered. Given that his people faced starvation and he knew had a way to save his hide and save face for Japan, he ordered Japan’s surrender. Bottom line, the contrast in cultures in WW II and their consequences on conducting war could not be starker.
What were lessons to be learned from WW II? The first lesson is that culture is a very significant factor in how a people fight, how they perceive casualties, both their own and the enemies and what their reaction is to winning and losing. How these factors affect morale clarity or the will to fight is critical. The contrast between Germany and Japan vs. France and Italy could not be starker. France and Italy surrendered as soon as things started going bad. Japan murdered civilians and tortured prisoners and committed untold atrocities. But every man was willing to die for the Emperor a deity, and those who had the chance, did. For the first time ever we faced people willing to strap on bombs and fly them into our ships. Even though they were losing, they were prepared to fight to the last man.
But what do we know about the WW II American culture? Before the war we were far more isolationist then we are today. But once American blood was spilled, especially in such a cowardly way, Americans accepted thousands of our own military casualties and the death of every German and Japanese including millions of civilian casualties in both Germany and Japan. But given a choice between 1M American GI deaths and the starvation of the Japanese people, the American people would have kissed the Japanese civilization good bye. One other extremely important lesson learned is that America has to be wining. Where as Germany and Japan will fight a losing war to the bitter end, and France and Italy will fold quickly, But America is none of these cultures. The Patton speech was right on the money:
“Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle...Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.”
Patton was talking about the ability of the American military to win battles, not it’s civilian leadership. Has our culture changed today? Yes and no, winning is still everything today. But the keywords in Patton’s speech are not just win but, “play to win” America will fight if we are playing to win. America expects not only to win but must see itself winning. But what about American and enemy civilian casualties? America’s reaction to massive casualties which could occur in a large scale nuclear exchange has never been tested. The American people did not give a damn about enemy civilians during WW II. If enemy civilians died in the fighting, it was unavoidable. No American general resigned in protest or was court marshaled for the firebombing of civilians in Dresden and Tokyo.
And today? Has America changed? The American people are still willing to accept significant American casualties. Huh? Remember the Military predictions before the 1991 Iraq war. 40,000 dead. Did the American people say no? Nope. They perceived that we were there to win, had a righteous cause and clearly defined victory conditions. Moral clarity. In Vietnam The American people suffered 50,000 casualties, but at a very high price. The Army was close to mutiny; the American people were in the streets in the millions. What lessons did the American people learn from this war? Did the American people and our military perceive that we were playing to win? No. Did we have clear obtainable victory conditions? No. And for the first time Americans saw enemy civilians dying in living color, right in their living rooms every night.
So what do we know so far about the American culture? We love/are willing to fight, we must play to win and we are willing to accept American casualties. Enemy civilian casualties are still a complex thing. We have had two contrasting examples.
After Iraq I and Iraq II, America saw high tech quick victory was feasible. We could win and win big. We never needed American casualties like WW II, Korea or Vietnam. What about enemy civilian casualties? Did Vietnam sour the American people? Yes and No. In Iraq I there were 1000s of military and civilian Iraqi casualties. Americas threw a victory parade. In Iraq II more enemy civilians and less American casualties occurred during the first 21 days in Iraq than all of the next 3 years. America cheered up till the final historic moment when Saddam’s statue was pulled down despite 1000s of civilian casualties. Had we pulled out and gone home the next day, Iraq would view us as liberators. Bush would have been a hero. Americans would have thrown another victory parade. Maybe. Enemy civilian casualties like American military casualties are a complex issue. Complex in that they are not independent of the other factors. Based on the last two wars it appears that American will accept enemy civilian casualties in the “shock and Awe” phase, but not in the occupation phase.
So what is souring the American people’s will to fight in the war in Iraq today? Is it American body bags? No. If it is American resolve then what undermines American resolve? Do Americans no longer want to fight? One hundred and forty years ago, British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wrote:
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Fortunately for America our military is still recruiting talented courageous people. In fact our military is the finest and smartest in history. I have a cousin who graduated from college and volunteered to be an officer in the Marine Corps this summer. He was turned down because his grade point average was too low. The same marines that are taking the brunt of the casualties In Iraq can pick and choose among America’s finest young people. He is now going to Paris Island as an enlisted marine. Go to Bethesda and Walter Reed, our guys and gals are strapping on artificial limbs and are pleading to go back. In spite of our failure in Iraq there are more than enough high quality young to fill the ranks of the military. If we have enough fighters where is the problem? It has to be the American people.
Lets check our metrics. Americans feel a war must be just. After 9-11 that box was checked. After 21 days in Iraq our military won or did they? We achieved the victory conditions, “Saddam gone and the WMD gone” that Bush announced before the war but we did not crush the enemy’s will to fight. We thought we did. Had we gone home then we could claim we crushed the enemy’s will to fight. What happened? Bush added a new strategic goal mid course, that being to establish a stable Democracy in all of Iraq. An iffy and long term goal. By trying to achieve this surprise goal he exposed the fact that we had not crushed the enemies will to fight. It has now been three years of our finest going man to man in the streets of Baghdad, while our high tech sits on the sidelines and still no victory in sight.
After Vietnam the American people know a quagmire when they see one. The American people believe the American military can’t win by going toe to toe with the insurgents. We are killing them at a 10 to 1 ratio, but more keep coming. There seems to be an endless supply. There is. Our high tech is sitting on the sidelines because the civilians are no longer part of the enemy but Iraqi citizens Bush promised to protect. Americans can only see endless fighting on the enemy’s home turf and all our high tech neutralized. Americans will never accept that as winning. In fact more than 50% of Americans call it losing. Our New SecDef calls it losing. Ever since we started nation building the American generals seem to be doing everything wrong. We did not have enough troops to pacify Baghdad and secure Iraq’s lengthy borders with hostile nations. The insurgents are still pouring across the borders from all directions. One begins to wonder when Bush informed the generals about nation building? Killing insurgents is much harder than killing Japanese. Both are fanatics who will fight to the death but the insurgents won’t wear uniforms and hide among so called civilians and can only be shot at when they pick up a gun, which is at a time of their choosing. Meanwhile our military ride over IEDs. But what about new goal of a stable democracy in the Middle East? Americans no longer believe that is possible, if they ever did, since they were not consulted before the war. In fact they were deceived. Now we have civil war and an Iraqi government that is talking to Iran. Miliki has not won the hearts and minds of the American people, In fact it is unclear whose side he is own. This war sucks.
Moral clarity of the American people is gone, but it is not that they have given up. They feel betrayed by this president. He has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by adding a surprise goal and forcing our military to go toe to toe with an unlimited supply of Jihadists for an unspecified amount of time. Bush changed morale clarity to dissolution.
But ask yourself; did Bush ever instill America with morale clarity? After the very confusing 9-11 attack the American people were fighting mad. But more than ever they needed our president to provide us with morale clarity. We knew nothing about the Middle East or Islam, what ever that is. Who was the enemy? What is his culture? How and where should we fight him? What are goals of this enemy? How can we crush his will to kill us? What was Bushes answer? “This is a war on terror”. What and who is that? “Islam, the culture of most of the Middle East is a peaceful religion”. Nothing could be further from the truth. “We need to fight the axis of evil”. What did Iran, Korea and Iraq have to do with 9-11 and suicide bombers? The perps were all Saudis and Al Qaeda. Where was the clarity the American people were seeking in our president’s speech? None. But the American people have since gotten smarter on their own, no thanks to Bush. What has been Bush’s contribution to clarity in the last 5 years? He changed the word terror to Islamofacists. Who ever they are? Bush has not even made that clear. He failed miserably on clarity and attacking Iraq was fuzzy on moral.
What should he have said that would have infused Americans with moral clarity? One 30 second film clip would have galvanized our nation like no other time in history. Arab people dancing in the streets of every country in the Middle East as the World Center Towers fell. There was our enemy. He should have said our enemy is Islamic Jihadists and a rogue government that high jacked Iran. He could have show a fifteen second clip of millions of Iranians shouting “death to America”. What is Islam and what are Jihadists? Bush is yet to tell us. Jihadists are warriors commanded by an Islamic cleric to fight Jihad against a people. What does that mean? It means a fight to the death or submission to Islam. Are they serious? They are more serious than Japan. They value death more than life. Death in Jihad for Allah is rewarded by 70 virgins. The Jihadists won’t give up till we are all dead. Men, women and children. Dead. They have as many people willing to be suicide bombers as the Japanese.
Our troops will soon be coming home. We lost another one. Why? Mark is right, lack of moral clarity. But not because the American people are giving up. Bush failed to provide us with moral clarity, deceived the people on the goal of the war in Iraq and put our troops in a position where they cannot win. After we leave, the Shiites will go after the Sunnis. Iran will increase their aid to the Shiites. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are freaked about the Iranians and will enter the war on the Sunni side. Armageddon begins.
We have the best players in the game and the worst coach. So what do we do? Fire the coach. America will back this team with a new coach and a new game plan. 9-11 was a moral imperative. A major attack against Israel is another moral imperative. Another attack on the US like 9-11 or worse will be another moral imperative. But if the new president makes the correct case for clarity the American people will follow without a new moral imperative.
The new coach will have the opportunity to properly define the enemy, not this axis of evil crap. Our enemy is a loose collection of Jihadists sprinkled in a huge Arab population and one rogue state, Iran that also sponsors two well-organized surrogates in Hezbollah and Hamas. But our enemy requires money that begins with oil but filters through human beings down to the Jihadists. Second the president needs to make it absolutely clear that this fight is to the death. Either they die or we die. Moral clarity. He also needs to clearly define our strategic risks. The foremost risk being that it impossible to defend a free society with open borders from attacks by bad guys in rental trucks who won’t wear uniforms. Second our economy can be ruined by the loss of control of 30 miles of water in the Persian Gulf. Given the total lack of defense the American people would understand we have to have a very aggressive offense, but it must be continually winning. Pound the enemy continuously, never let him go on offense. Use our high tech to the max. It is also impossible to protect the Persian Gulf. So we must embark on a crash program to be independent of Persian Gulf oil in 5 years. If Bush asked for that in 2001 we would already be there. Moral Clarity.
Liberty or Death