The Siren Song of Airstrikes

2 thoughts on “The Siren Song of Airstrikes”

  1. I agree with your assessment, Tyler. If the United States and its allies fail to address the underlying political grievances and economic fragility which fuel the cycle of violence in Syria and Iraq, then the insurgencies will only resurrect themselves at a later time. Small wars are unique in that the primary tools by which victory is attained lie at the intersection of military force and diplomacy, with the latter superseding the former in strategic importance. In many respects, the military is just a stopgap measure to create an atmosphere of security wherein a peaceful resolution to political disputes can arise and be maintained.

    In contrast, World War Two was a conflict where military force was the principle method used to achieve our political ends. Diplomacy was an integral aspect of that effort, but was still merely a component of military force. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the positions in that relationship seemed to have been swapped. Military force is a component of diplomacy. The surge was intended to stop bloodletting and then facilitate reconciliation. Yet I’m afraid that our lessons since 9/11 have already been forgotten. The electoral lineup on the GOP side of the aisle seems content to measure success by the number of casualties our enemy sustains, just as we misguidedly did in Vietnam and the first half of Iraq. This may be the symptom of the oversimplification of small wars in Western media. How many Americans are aware, or informed, of the intricacies of how identity politics fomented bloodshed in Iraq? Not very many, going on purely anecdotal evidence.

    I’m interested in your thoughts. Good article.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Thomas. I completely agree with your assessment of the GOP and the understanding of voters these days with regards to the wars we are engaged with in the Middle East. I also draw from anecdotal experience that there is very little understanding of the identity politics in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq among the average voter (possibly the media’s fault, maybe just ‘rational ignorance’). I think GOP candidates are playing on this ignorance to float foreign policy ideas for the Middle East that are just not going to work (and Secretary Gates pointed out as such).

      And I not only think we have forgotten the wisdom of the first Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts (2001-2010), but I think we have forgotten the basic wisdom of war from Clausewitz — that military force should always be used with a political end-goal in mind. Since WWII, American policymakers have a mixed record of internalizing and executing that lesson. There are some successes, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also many failures, such as one you mentioned (Vietnam).

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