I thought I would start by getting at the fundamental issue: what is warfare? Or, more accurately, how does warfare end?
The Merriam-Webster definition is: "an activity undertaken by a political unit (as a nation) to weaken or destroy another"
I think in today's warfare, we can safely remove the "as a nation" portion. Al Qaeda, Shining Path, et. al. are operating without country, mobile between countries as alliances come and go.
The fact that their training centers have been destroyed reduces the quality, if not the quantity, of the fighting forces that we deal with.
However, the question still remains: what is the endgame of any war? How do you end a conflict?
Past wars have ended at the armistice table or with the routing of an army. My friend, who has forgotten more about ancient warfare than you and I will ever know, could think of no time in ancient history when any army was ever destroyed to a man. (As a side note, sometime sit down with him and discuss ancient warfare. He brings it alive, and you will be astounded by the amount of info he can recall from the top of his head).
Most wars between nations have been conceded when only 10% or so of the fighting force has been destroyed.
The Japanese in World War II understood that, which is why they expected to fight to the last man, and we expected to take huge casualties (estimates were around 1 million US casualties for Japan alone). It was only through a massive technological leap were we able to bring them to the table.
In other words, an actual victory on the battlefield means nothing if the politicians are willing to concede defeat.
Which brings us to our present conflict. Using the venerable slogan, "If it bleeds, it leads", the media is finding all the worse spots it can to report from, ignoring the successes to sell advertising space. In fact, few of the good things going on are reported from Iraq.
I am trying to get into the Marine Reserve. The recruiters I have been talking to have been telling me that the people who are completing their tours are re-requesting Iraq. That's not something the media is eager to report on.
They want the one homesick midwestern clerical Sergeant with a new baby that will make us so upset that we feel like buying the Toyota from the commercial they show right afterwards.
Now why is that such an issue? Because, as I stated before, the problem is with how wars are won. When a side feels like it is losing, historically, they have lost. The perception, not the actual facts, direct the march of warfare.
So when media, in an attempt to sell advertising, restricts themselves to only the things that are going wrong, they are losing us the war.
In this manner, we are fighting what the military is calling "asymmetric warfare". We are fighting their military troops, but they are really fighting the PERCEPTION of the war back on us back in the homefront.
They want to force us to the armistice table by weakening our resolve.
And the media is helping them by showing as much footage as they can of insurgents killing our troops.
To help Old Spice sell deodorant.
Something to remember from our grandparent's generation: There were naysayers throughout the entire course of World War II. "We'll never recover from Pearl Harbor", "The allies should concede European waters. We'll never sink the Bismarck", "The Germans can't be overrun. We should just allow them to sign another armistice.", "The Japanese will never surrender.", etc.
World War II gave us around 4 years of warfare with 407,300 military casualties at 112 times the casualty rate of our present operation, and yet we are conceding defeat.
We have lost the heart to fight on, not because our armies are not capable, but because our people are willing to give up.
And I say "give up", not "peace". Peace is not the absence of war. Living under the threat of harm or death is not a peaceful existence, even if no actual fighting is breaking out. To quote Edmund Burk: "All that is necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing."
Something else that has gotten people's goat is the treatment of "un-uniformed combatants"
Allow me a detour:
I will admit I am late in starting on Tom Clancy's Ryanverse series (I laughed out loud when Jack Ryan brags about his 2 MB PDA), I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Patriot Games", which is actually the first chronologically in the Ryan series.
In it, he makes an eerily predictive point about the stickiness in dealing with non-country-based terrorists operating within a sovereign country. In the novel, it is the Provisional IRA/ULA, but the problems are very applicable today with our issues at Guantanamo Bay: How do you deal with people who are not citizens, yet operating militarily inside your borders?
Slumping them in with common criminals is treating them too lightly for what they have done, military tribunals aren't applicable, deporting them is not an option...
The book makes an excellent point: We deal with them as pirates. Not to say we make them wear peglegs and a patch (although....), but rather, once they are people sans country, they have no rights to any country's protection, and are dealt with as right-less.
Article 19 of the Geneva Convention deals with Piracy here:
On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons and seize the property on board. The courts of the State which carried out the seizure may decide upon the penalties to be imposed, and may also determine the action to be taken with regard to the ships, aircraft or property, subject to the rights of third parties acting in good faith.
In other words, we get to make it up as we go along!
With today's news that we bagged the #1 Al Qaeda man in Iraq, the troops AND THE MISSION need our support, now more than ever, to finish the job.
One of my friends suggested a bumper sticker campaign that might work: "Pull out of Iraq. Rape rooms aren't that bad."