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Defeating This Enemy

The case for ground invasions.

by James Leroy Wilson
September 15, 2001

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Defeating This Enemy_James Leroy Wilson-The case for ground invasions. Long-term economic planning, such as for an infant's college education or retirement, is based on the reasonable assumption of long-term economic growth. And that, like all of life's plans, is based on things going on as normal. Individual lives don't proceed as if they expect to die in an automobile accident, and nations don't expect military attacks on their shores. If catastrophes can be anticipated, they would be planned for and wouldn't become catastrophes. Expecting the unexpected sounds wise if the quarterback has dropped back to pass but may run a draw play, but it doesn't mean anything in the uncontrolled environment of world politics.

Though a massive terrorist attack against America is not surprising, the details were unexpected. We are now beginning to understand in what ways the Defense Department has been underfunded, and now realize that threats to national security are principally by irrational actors. Some of our present enemies, like Saddam Hussein, is a rational actor, but he's a selfish exploiter, not a religious fanatic, and he wouldn't take himself or his country on a suicide course. His support with terrorist groups aid him in his struggle against us, because they will do things he can't or wouldn't do. He is deterred by our nuclear weapons, irrational groups are not.

And they will use them, would have against us on Tuesday, when and if they get them. And that no one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's terrorist attacks establishes, undeniably, that our destruction is the only aim of the enemy. They don't have any other cause, no demands.

We have done a lot of foolish things - underfunding defense while intervening in foreign disputes, that may have helped bring on the hatred behind Tuesday's attacks. That is no longer important. Policy reversals now, though probably wise on their own terms, won't stop this enemy. We are at war, I believe World War III, and the destruction of the enemy must be our purpose.

But how do we destroy this enemy? Air strikes? Of course, but not as importantly as in recent wars, because it is hard to bomb infrastructure where there is none. More and better intelligence-gathering? Yes. More defensive capabilities like missile defenses? Yes. But what will really be required is a massive Allied ground invasion of the countries in which anti-American terrorist groups operate. And after defeating any troops that may resist us, to seek the help of the people by helping them first.

I recently read a biography of Air Force officer and CIA superspy Edward Landsdale, Cecil Curry's The Unquiet American. His legend was established in the Philippines in the early 1950's where, as an advisor, he helped create conditions that defeated that nation's Communist guerillas and set up a genuinely democratic elections. One of his principles was to not take actions that lead the people to side with the enemy. Our war must not be against the people of Afghanistan or whatever countries harbor terrorists, for that would only encourage previously innocent and decent young men to join terrorist groups themselves and the terrorism can only increase.

We must instead rebuild what we may have destroyed, and aid the people in building what hadn't been there in a while: roads, schools, sanitation facilities, hospitals, mosques. Find and develop pro-democracy native leaders. Allied troops should laugh and play soccer with native children. If, as we have been told, the overwhelming majority of Moslems do not subscribe to the fanaticism of our enemy, our efforts should be successful. The people would have incentives to side with us and give us the help and information to weed our the enemy. And as the terrorists move to other safe havens, go after that nation the same way.

It will be a long and deadly process. Our entire economy, the whole focus of our lives, must shift to war, deficits will be high, and the draft may have to be reinstated. We will suffer troop losses and our land and the lands of our allies may suffer more hits like we have just witnessed. And terrorism is a form of warfare and will not be extinguished from the world entirely, no more so than naval warfare or air strikes. For this general strategy I have just described doesn't lead to a clearly-defined victory. But it appears to me, while the most difficult course, this is the only prudent one if we are serious about fighting terrorism. Air strikes against civilians won't discourage our enemies. Body counts won't. Nuclear genocide will create a whole new set of even worse problems.

No society can afford a war, but we have the resources. If we have the resolve we say we do, our efforts may in the long run lead to greater peace, more freedom, and better relations with the Islamic world. Calamities bring out the best and worst in humanity, and in waging war we will inevitably do some dastardly things. But our cause is just - security being perhaps the only just cause for war - and if we wage war not out of hatred, but out of a determined commitment to our objectives, a better world may emerge from this.

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