From Bill Quick:
This reminds me of Josh Marshall’s 2003 worries that we hadn’t killed enough Iraqis to ensure a stable outcome there, which in retrospect seem better-founded than I thought at the time.
I don’t recall this particular episode, but my view of the proper way to wage war in terms of victory is to kill your enemies in large enough numbers that they no longer have the will, appetite, ability, or desire to make war on you any further.
That seems to be the lesson of every war we’ve fought since WWII (the last war we indisputably won by doing just that), through Korea, Vietnam, and the entire body of the Muslim Wars.
A war is not won until the enemy, the loser, knows that he’s been beaten, that he has absolutely no chance in Hell of prevailing and that any further resistance will not only not lead to any sort of future possible, fantasy land victory, it will also lead to further horrors, humiliations and pointless suffering. If you leave as much as a shred of a hope that there is a future possibility of turning the table around, then you haven’t won. You’ve just gained a truce.
It’s as simple as that.
WWII as the last war this country actually fought like we meant it is a great example. Germany knew they’d been beaten. Not because they’d lost a bunch of battles and the allied troops were marching at will through Germany itself, but because Germany had thrown everything, EVERYTHING they had at the allies for 6 long years and it hadn’t changed the outcome. Nothing Germany could produce had been able to stop that, and Germany was way ahead in everything technologically, they’d thrown every available German into the grinder down to pre-teens and septuagenarians, they were united as very few, if any, countries had ever been before, and they still couldn’t stop it.
Japan had watched two major cities get obliterated in as many days and, for all that they knew, we could keep on obliterating all of their cities in the same way until there was nothing left.
THOSE are the factors that ended those wars decisively, not any number of won battles, no matter how decisively any of them were won.
What won those wars was the simple message that “we have destroyed/killed x% of you. We can keep on doing so until that x reaches 100, and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it. And unless you surrender, UNCONDITIONALLY, we WILL do so.”
That is the only message that wins wars and makes them stay won.
You have to show your enemy that you’re willing to go to any length to defeat them, even to the point of obliterating them entirely without a moment’s hesitation, and you have to show them that you’re capable of achieving that goal.
Capability and willingness.
If you can’t do that, you’ll never ever truly win a war.
And if you don’t have the stomach for it, something that we can well understand, then you shouldn’t ever pretend play fighting one, because you’ll only end up killing a lot of people needlessly on both sides. You’re not doing anybody any favors. You’re just establishing an uncertain ceasefire, at the end of which you’ll have to fight the same bloody war all over again. See: Versailles, Treaty of.
We’re sure somebody much smarter than us has already said this but, in case they haven’t, you can quote us on it:
The winner doesn’t get to dictate when a war is over, the loser does.