Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Problem of Non-State Enemy Combatants

Several comments to my post suggesting we should declared war back in '01 after the September 11th attacks questioned my assertion. I think this sums it up pretty well, "On whom were we going to declare war? How would we know when we've won/lost/tied? Who would sign the peace treaty for the other side?"

I would reply that we committed our troops, our nation's military resources, and our money without a declaration of war or an answer to any of those questions. Instead of putting the question to Congress, and following our written Constitution, Pr. Bush committed us to an undeclared war, with no defined goals, no defined enemy, and no idea of what victory would consist of.

We spent the lives and health of some very fine men and women. We spent money we didn't have. We wore out our military and our equipment. And we accomplished almost nothing. If we could not find answers to those questions, then we should not have gone at all. If we, as a nation, could not decide to defend ourselves through our Constitutional process, we should have buried our dead, marked it up as acceptable losses, and moved on.

That declaration of war would have put the questions you are asking front and center, kept Congress in it's proper role, and allowed the citizens of the States to hold their Congress members to account for the decisions they made, the votes they cast, and the rationale they offered for those votes.

Instead, we got nation building. Mission creep. Thirteen years of undeclared war with no end in sight. We still have troops in battle, we are still taking losses, we are still spending money we don't have, and now we are getting ready to do some more.

And for all of that, I totally agree with your questions. Even today I want to know, "How will we know when we've won/lost/tied? Who is going to sign the peace treaty for the other side?"


Rev. Paul said...

Perhaps we've won when there's nobody left to sign the treaty.

I know, I know. I'm a dreamer.

Anonymous said...

I'm in line with Rev Paul; when dealing with state-level combatants, there is some semblance of structure. At some point, the other side will decide they've had enough and seek to prevent complete obliteration with some sort of peace treaty. That concept, however, is dependent upon the other side recognizing they possess assets, those assets have some value, and retaining that value has advantages.

With non-state combatants, though, the asset portion of the equation is missing, because they don't have any. In that event, one does not work toward a peace treaty, one works toward eliminating the threat, or the potential of it. That requires a somewhat more pragmatic approach to the threat, in which one seeks to eliminate the threat entirely rather than "reducing it to a manageable level," to quote somone or other.

Western civilization, which, over the last millenia or so, has gotten us to where we are - pretty good medicine, fairly cheap food available everywhere, economical travel, and longer (and more pleasant) lifespans, etc. - and will have to, at some point, recognize its own value and worth, and take matters in hand. Reaching that point, I suspect, will take us a while, and not be reached without much wrangling and hand wringing.

Once reached, however, The Other Side will find the result rather unenjoyable, because western democracies happen to be very, very good at implementing military solutions to social and political problems which cause them too much grief.

In short, when our backs are finally placed against the wall, we will eliminate the threat down to the last goat, the last piece of firewood and the last believer. There will be no need for a peace treaty, so there will be no point in leaving anyone, or anything, alive that might be capable of signing one.

"Lamentations of their women" will not be a consideration because since women give birth to the kind of people who caused the problem in the first place, there won't be any. One may hope that The Other Side devotes some thought to what that means and pursue other avenues of grievance expression.

Eagle said...

Without getting into whether we should have gone in the first place, it is a fact that the destruction of the Iraqi regime was accomplished in a matter of a few weeks. The military did the job it was designed and trained for, and did it most efficiently. American casualties were *negligible*.

Then, the mission was altered by the politicians and the ROEs (Rules of Engagement) were modified to *prevent* the military from exercising its primary mission: breaking things and killing people. The mission changed from "seek and destroy" to "stand around, wait until you get shot at, and - ONLY THEN - shoot back".

We don't train our military to be police. They're not equipped to be police. Hence, any such mission assigned to the US military is doomed to failure. And, in Iraq, the new mission - policing - failed. For a while, it failed in *spectacular* fashion. After taking negligible casualties in the actual war, we took thousands of losses in the nation-building police action afterwards.

BP, you're quite correct about those questions. They are at the heart of the job of the President of the United States, who is also the US Military CinC. But they are solely questions of tactics.

I would add one more question to that list of 3 questions you ask in your first paragraph, and it is the question that must be asked *first*: "What is the mission?" Or, to be more precise, "What does the US gain by this war, e.g. for what reason are we going to war, and what is the desired result of this war?"

Before going to war, *define the mission*. Without a clearly defined mission, military leaders cannot properly determine the force required, how that force is constituted, or the tactics necessary to accomplish the mission - or whether the mission can be accomplished by the military *at all*.

"Nation Building" is not a suitable mission for the US military. Neither is revenge ("...we will chase them to the gates of hell...", etc). Nor is "When the [insert country here] forces stand up, we'll stand down."

The child-king Obama speaks of strategy. But he has not yet defined the mission.

What is the mission?

R.K. Brumbelow said...

Genocide is no longer an American option. We simply cannot completely destroy via military strength a culture/ people. Not only does such an action go against our accepted rules of war, unless destruction is truly complete 100.000000000% (Yes, that is 9 0s after the decimal point) there will always be a survivor.

If you think leaving 1 man alive makes no difference go read the story of Ishmael and Isaac, hint, Muhammad claimed to be a descendent.

No unfortunately the answer lies with the surrounding nations or with total occupation. What you have to do is force a cultural change and it must maintain over generations.

So step 1) Destroy the enemies ability to make war
Step 2) Destroy the enemies will to make war
Step 3) Destroy the culture of war
Step 4) Grow a culture of peace
Step 5) Raise up native defenders of that new culture
Step 6) Withdraw from the area, leaving the new culture in place

One way of doing this involves the Roman practice of hostage exchange, bring over their best and brightest, place them with strong, large conservative families with a history of military service then feed them to our military academies forge them into officers and gentlemen, marry them to appropriate women, build them up and send them back to the original location, at the same time we send people there to marry into the culture.

At every step, you treat them with respect due a child later teenager, young adult etc because that is what we would be doing, raising a new family on a national level.

Old NFO said...

Actually it was declared, both in 2002 and I believe 2003... And the problem was we didn't have the WILL to go in hard and win. Even worse now, and I too fear we will lose more good people.

Goober said...

ASM, well said. Answered my question right off.

Can't say I disagree, but the fact is, we wanted blood after 9/11. No one was going to accept "bury the dead and move on."

It was a bad situation, without any clear answers at all.

John Balog said...

Good old internet tough guys, casually advocating the genocide of 1,600,000,000 people. "It's the only way rabble rabble!"

Even if the American people adopted widespread sociopathy and wanted to slaughter 1,600,000,000 men women and children; and the rest of the world wanted to shrug and let us get away with slaughtering 10 times as many people as died in all genocides in the 20th century put together; it's just not physically possible even using nukes.

It's also rather insulting to the servicemen who you think would carry it out. The children my unit had to kill in Iraq still weigh on my soul, and they were legitimate unavoidable casualties in an active warzone. If you think our .mil are the sort of monsters who'd carry out a genocide that'd make Hitler, Stalin, and Mao put together look like pikers then I suggest you adjust your thought process.

Have you internet tough guys ever had to see the burnt up corpses of women and children you helped (even if indirectly) kill? I have. Replicating that a billion times over is not going to happen, and frankly I'd take up arms against any .gov that tried to make it happen.

John Balog said...

Oh, and to answer the question of "How do you eliminate the threat from non-state combatants" the answer was given above. You change the culture that spawned them. Only way to do that is full scale colonization and Westernization. Given that the public lacks the will or desire to do that, there is no effective way.

R.K. Brumbelow said...

@John Balog,

Please do not be on my side of an argument. Insulting people just says "my argument is so weak I must distract people by making them angry."

But, in answer to your challenging questions, Yes, I have had to see the burned up and charred corpses before. I see them regularly, sometimes many times a week, it is called PTSD. There is help for it, and you do not have to be a combat vet to get PTSD.

Many commenters here are angry, and we feel somewhat powerless to deal with the situation, but again, the posturing and name calling has no place here.

You will note however, that I do not suggest the task at hand be completed by our servicemen, much of the task must be done by we as individuals.

I said it on twitter a few days ago, I will say it again here:
Want a change?
1 Find a cause
2 Affect what you can
3 Effect what you can't affect
4 Prove your vision
5 Export it


John Balog said...

R.K.: so, you get offended at "name calling" but calls for genocide are A-Ok in your book? Good for you, here's an internet cookie. We're all real impressed at how badass you are.