The Corner

War and Appeasement

Just to pick up two points from The Corner:

(1) John O’Sullivan: “No sensible people fights a doomed cause indefinitely or permanently supports a policy of aiming at a draw.” Unfortunately, war under modern Western sensibility is inevitably (it seems) pulled that way.

We aimed for a draw in Vietnam, and lost. We aimed for a draw in Korea, and look at the consequences. Gulf War I was a draw, in that it left Saddam’s regime intact, and the result was Gulf War II.

(2) Stanley Kurtz: “My fear is still the nukes. Korea’s got ‘em, and there’s relatively little we can do about it. They can sell them. Iran is making them. This is the great danger. … A nuclear strike would wake up the West alright. But it would also wreak havoc far beyond even the massive loss of life. That, I think, is the real danger. I hope we can defeat the terrorists

– and the terror states — before we get to that point.” I exactly and precisely agree, Stanley, but I do not share the hope, for reason (1) above.

Wars should be fought with the utmost ferocity, to the complete destruction and humiliation of the enemy, and without any regard to casualties among noncombatants in his territories. To fight a war in any other kind of way is to sow dragon’s teeth, as the second half of the 20th century illustrates. Yet such a war is impossible under present Western sensibilities. America has now been fighting the War on Terror for longer than we fought WW2 — yet we have not even captured Osama bin Laden!

I do believe that people know these things instinctively and will not for long whole-heartedly support a half-hearted war — not in Britain, not in America. These kinder’n’gentler wars of the present age will never have strong public support, and so will always be tied, or lost.

Most likely the terrorists will get nukes and destroy a couple of our cities, with casualties in the 6- or 7-digit range. We shall then revert to tribal-warfare mode and do to our enemies what our fathers did to the Japanese, or perhaps even what our great-grandfathers did to the Plains Indians. It would be better to do those things before we lose the cities,

but of course we can’t. “Ripeness is all.”

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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