Too Wimpy To Win the War?

John Podhoretz of the New York Post poses a set of questions that we would all do well to ponder:

WHAT if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests? . . .

Could World War II have been won by Britain and the United States if the two countries did not have it in them to firebomb Dresden and nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Didn’t the willingness of their leaders to inflict mass casualties on civilians indicate a cold-eyed singleness of purpose that helped break the will and the back of their enemies? Didn’t that singleness of purpose extend down to the populations in those countries in those days, who would have and did support almost any action at any time that would lead to the deaths of Germans and Japanese?

What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn’t kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn’t the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now? (source)

I don’t agree with the idea that nations should put forth an excessive use of force and inflict massive, unwarranted civilian casualties. As a matter of fact, I think it’s contrary to the ideals of the just war tradition.

Nevertheless, Podhoretz’s article does give some historical perspective to the way the U.S. and its allies wage war in current conflicts. When we compare the actions of the U.S. now to the actions it has taken in previous wars, one has to admit the amazing retraint that the U.S. exhibits. Currently, the U.S. has the power and capability of annihilating any nation on the face of the planet. Moreover, the U.S. could incinerate any of its Middle Eastern antagonists without any real concern that its antogonists could retaliate in kind.

For this reason, the U.S. didn’t have to lose one American soldier to remove Saddam Hussein and subdue Iraq. The U.S. could have used its tactical nuclear weapons in a way that would have achieved all of its objectives and would have sent shockwaves through the Middle East. The same could be said of Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah. If Israel decided to use its nukes, the current crisis would be over, and Israel would be secure.

The fact is that the U.S. and Israel do not use their nukes in this way because to do so would be immoral. But can we say that the Islamo-fascists would show such restraint if they were the ones with the nukes? Does anyone have any doubts about the answer to that question?

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