Monday, February 27, 2017

What War Is

One of ComNavOps’ recurring themes is that we’ve forgotten what war is.  The corollaries to this are that we’ve forgotten how to wage a true war and we’ve forgotten the cost, in lives and utter destruction, of war.  SNAFU blog brings the issue to the forefront with a simple sentence in a new post about Hezbollah acquiring the Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile (P-800 export version).  Here’s the quote,

“A mission to destroy/recover those missiles (assuming you aren't willing to risk massive civilian casualties by simply bombing the grid square they're located in) is gonna be rough.” [emphasis added]

This sums up and focuses the entire “what war is” issue in one sentence.

We’ve fought low end conflicts for so long and gotten so used to being able to pick and choose exquisitely precise attacks that we’ve forgotten what an indiscriminate affair true war is.  We’ve come to believe that we can conduct a war with no civilian casualties or collateral damage.  Arguably, avoidance of civilian casualties and collateral damage has been our main objective in many instances, as opposed to achievement of any actual military objective.

What is war?  For the purpose of this discussion, war is combat to eliminate a threat to national security.  If one’s national security is threatened then one should take any and all action necessary to eliminate the threat.  You don’t address national security threats on a limited, collateral damage avoiding basis.  You decisively, thoroughly, and permanently eliminate it.  If you can do so while avoiding civilian casualties and collateral damage, all the better but avoidance of casualties and damage cannot be the military objective.  If it is, then your national security isn’t really being threatened.

If a missile such as this (or any military asset, for that matter) constitutes a threat to national security then it must be eliminated.  The only question is how best to go about it.  Even here, the question is fairly easy to answer.  The “how” is the method that achieves the asset’s destruction with the least loss of American lives.  Avoidance of civilian casualties and collateral damage are secondary objectives that may serve to moderate the method but not dictate it.  For example, avoidance might suggest conventional bombs as opposed to nuclear weapons if conventional bombs would be equally effective and not unduly risk American lives.

To return to the specific example of a missile located amongst the general population, the option to eliminate it via bombing a grid square is likely the option that would provide the most effective accomplishment of the task while providing the least risk to US lives.  When faced with a national security threat, avoidance of civilian casualties and collateral damage must take a back seat to mission accomplishment.  We’ve forgotten that.

In WWII, when faced with snipers hiding in civilian buildings, we called in artillery, mortars, or bazookas, leveled the building, and moved on.  That was war.

The only “good” in war is ending it quickly, decisively, and victoriously.  Any other approach just prolongs the fighting and results in more casualties on both sides, both civilian and military.  Consider the US’ reluctance to engage ISIS when co-located with civilians.  By passing on engagement opportunities, the US repeatedly allows ISIS fighters to continue to slaughter more civilians.  On the one hand, tens of civilians may die in the engagement.  On the other hand, hundreds or thousands may die, and many more suffer deprivations, over the succeeding months and years at the hands of the ISIS terrorists that are allowed to live out of a desire to avoid civilian deaths or collateral damage.  Which is worse?  The answer is clear, if ugly, but that’s what war is and we’ve forgotten that and forgotten how to make the hard decisions.



This post runs the risk of putting words in the mouth of the SNAFU author that the author did not intend.  Thus, note that SNAFU did not suggest that the Yakhont missile constituted a national security threat requiring immediate action nor did SNAFU state how, exactly, the threat should be dealt with.  ComNavOps has simply taken one of SNAFU’s typically informative and thought provoking posts and extrapolated on one aspect of it.  If you have problems with the conclusions in this post, blame ComNavOps not SNAFU.



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(1)SNAFU website, “Hezbollah Terror Group now has P-800 Oniks Anti-Ship Missiles (Brahmos)????”, 23-Feb-2017,


99 comments:

  1. Agreed.

    ISIS is prime example. but following on from a debate I had this weekend, I very much like your thought.

    "... casualties and damage cannot be the military objective. If it is, then your national security isn’t really being threatened."

    One has to wonder if we are truly "ALL IN" on this one.

    I have to wonder are we dragging this out on purpose ?

    Russian seems to be making better inroads within, what we might express as western "acceptable collaterol losses"

    Is this more than simple PC squeemishness ?

    Undoubtedly our delays have allowed untold horrors to continue. For what ? so the more "hippy" portion of our societies can sleep more peacefully in their beds ?

    If so there is something whackly out about that equation ?

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    1. Syria activities were pretty telling. We poked around, hitting things here and there, mainly trying to support whoever seemed most likely to cause Assad problems, but not actually hitting many targets of value.

      Russia showed up and immediately started wiping out tank batteries, truck farms, pipeline terminals and other oil production facilities. Good old-fashioned infrastructure strikes that actually hurt the enemy in the big picture.

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  2. Given a WWII division from any of the major combatants with WWII arms and ROE, ISIS wouldn't last a month and would not magically be able to find refuge by crossing an imaginary line on a map.

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  3. Wikipedia states that it is estimated that the bombings in Normandy before and after D-Day caused over 50,000 French civilian deaths.

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  4. Before we bomb anything, we have to know for certain what area to bomb. And, if we know the area, it might be possible to narrow down the area(s) so as to conduct a raid(s) to locate the missiles and destroy them in place?

    We wouldn't and shouldn't bomb a civilian population to defeat a threat like this. We'll carpet bomb military installations, bases, facilities, as required. But, the days of carpet bombing cities or civilian populations is long gone. We don't kill indiscriminately any more.

    Hezbollah is a dangerous group, but even they understand that any attack on an Israeli oil rig would be met with an intense and severe response by the Isreali military.

    How Hezbollah obtained these missiles, if the reports are true, is an even bigger question. These are not something easily misplaced or transported. Is Iran behind this?

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    1. "might be possible to narrow down the area(s) so as to conduct a raid(s) to locate the missiles and destroy them in place?"

      Do you study history at all? Do you actually believe it would be possible to stage a successful raid into Hezbollah controlled territory? Do you recall the "simple" raid in Mogadishu, Somalia to capture a warlord and what a disaster that turned into? Do you recall the various Israeli entries into Gaza and how bad those were? Do you recall the numerous American patrols in Iraq and Afg that have been ambushed? Do you recall the recent Yemen raid that resulted in the death of one SEAL and caused a national outcry?

      You can't seriously think a raid is a viable option without massive US and civilian casualties! Reconsider your comment in the light of reality.

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    2. The outcry from the recent raid in Yemen is mostly political being the first raid under Trump. But, that raid was successful having taken out a few prominent ISIS figures and a dozen or so fighters, including some women.

      But, what happens when you bomb a general area and kill hundreds, maybe thousands, of civilians and you're still not sure you got those missiles? Worst yet, we find out the missiles were moved just before the bombing and we bombed the wrong area. What happens then?

      And, if you're so risk averse to losing our troops in a raid, what about fighting a large scale naval battle where were are bound to loses ships and hundreds of sailors?

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    3. Walter, this is an extremely poor quality comment. To use your "logic", what happens if we had fought WWII but found out at the end that we missed all the targets we aimed at? Good grief. What if's are a part of any mission and are unavoidable. You know that. The mere possibility, however remote, that we might miss a target is not a reason to not undertake the mission. You plan the best you can and go for it.

      Did you read the post? I never said that I believed we should never do anything that risked US personnel. I said that we should use the method that best accomplishes the mission while exposing US personnel to the least risk.

      Come on. Read the posts carefully and up your game if you're going to comment! This was disappointing. I want better from readers.

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    4. The Constitution prevents the president from launching a military attack unless it was to prevent an actual or imminent threat. Does the scenario that Hezbollah has Yakhont missiles rise to the level of an actual or imminent threat to our national security? I think not.

      It would be different if Hezbollah fired missiles at our ships and we responded in kind.

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    5. "The Constitution prevents the president from launching a military attack unless it was to prevent an actual or imminent threat. Does the scenario that Hezbollah has Yakhont missiles rise to the level of an actual or imminent threat to our national security? I think not. "

      Good grief! Did you read the post? Where did I state that the specific example was an actual threat to US national security? I used the example as a springboard to discussion of war and how to conduct it.

      Come on, up your game.

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    6. CNO wrote, "What is war? For the purpose of this discussion, war is combat to eliminate a threat to national security. If one’s national security is threatened then one should take any and all action necessary to eliminate the threat."

      CNO continues, "If a missile such as this (or any military asset, for that matter) constitutes a threat to national security then it must be eliminated."

      Your example considered these missiles a threat to national security, whose national security were you writing about? Israeli's?

      Not every threat to national security needs to be eliminated by use of force. But, what criteria would you use to qualify a threat to national security that requires the use of military force to eliminate it?

      While discussing how to go to war, it's also worth discussing why we go to war.

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    7. If you want to play this idiocy out to the end, very well. Here is the quote, AS YOU YOURSELF CORRECTLY QUOTED, with the relevant portion highlighted in caps (hint: it's the first word):

      "IF a missile such as this (or any military asset, for that matter) constitutes a threat to national security then it must be eliminated."

      Since you undoubtedly missed it, yet again, here is the relevant portion of the quote in isolation:

      "IF"

      NOWHERE DID I STATE THAT THE MISSILE ACTUALLY CONSTITUTED A NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT. I SAID "IF". THE PURPOSE OF "IF" IS TO SET UP A POSSIBLE SCENARIO FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION.

      IF YOU CAN'T COMPREHEND THIS, FIND ANOTHER BLOG.

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    8. This is one of my pet peaves.

      A military, almost any military, is designed to bring destruction on an enemy.

      *if* its worth sending troops with high tech things and high explosive weapons, then you have accepted the risk of hurting civilians.

      I don't like this. It sucks. So does war.

      But it also gives you a bright line rule: If you don't want to risk harming civilians then DON'T SEND TROOPS. Figure out another way or leave it alone.

      Lets take the Hezbollah comparison. Hezbollah doesn't really give a rats behind about the civilians around it. If they did, they wouldn't be putting missiles close to civilian population centers. If we aren't willing to fight them where they are, then we should just call it quits.

      What I despise about this idea of 'targeted strikes' and what not is that its really just a chimera. I don't care how accurate your missile is if you're popping 1000 lbs warhead on a Hezbollah held building with a tomahawk, or even a 20lbs Hellfire you are putting civilians at risk, and you're kidding yourselves if you think you aren't.

      If you send in SEAL's or whomever, you're still risking a firefight in a city center if things go sideways.

      I'm not saying that we should indiscriminately target civilians. But if we decide to go to war, then that decision should already have been made. War isn't police actions, 'Operation (nifty phrase here)', or anything else.

      Modern war is high explosive fast paced fury by all accounts. Smart weapons weren't made to save civilians so much as to save weapons expenditures. And trying to make our military act like a scalpel instead of a hammer is to set them up to fail and set us up to fail. And we *STILL* won't get any credit even if things go right. Hezbollah is still going to find some building they claim is an orphanage that we blew up.

      In the end, treating war like war I believe will make things better in the long run. Why? A) We'll probably commit troops less often. And B) when we do it will likely end quicker and be far more effective. And C) Local people are less likely to want to support the group that draws our ire. 'Remember what happened to that other country? They went in, wiped out armed resistance, and ended up razing the city they lived in... we don't want that to happen here...'

      As to B2's comment, I'm 100% in favor of avoiding nation building. I like his idea of going in, winning, and leaving with conventional troops.

      I'd add that some people say we 'nation built' Japan and Germany. And that's true to a large extent. But prior to that we utterly brought their nations to their knees.

      What was it Sherman said? War is hell, its glory is all moonshine.

      You can't wage half war any more than you can be half pregnant.

      IMHO.

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    9. 'Remember what happened to that other country? They went in, wiped out armed resistance, and ended up razing the city they lived in... we don't want that to happen here..

      I really think that's false logic. it's logic that has been postulated throughout history - it rarely plays out that way.

      It didn't work for Germany in either world war.
      It didn't work out for Japan in China this century.
      It didn't work for Russia in Afghanistan.

      There are examples of brutality being effective in crushing opposition. The Mongols perhaps. Maybe the Assyrians.

      But those examples are few and far between in history.

      The most common response to unfettered aggression is an increase in the virulence of opposition to that aggression.

      The other factor is the global public condemnation and domestic political opposition in the American electorate that would likely follow.

      Even in WW2, there was widespread opposition to area bombing cities initially. It was only after the Germans blitzed Polish, French and British cities that it became publicly supported and politically palatable.

      If the US had taken the approach of leveling entire towns and cities in their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we would have paid a steep political price. How long do you think America's allies would have participated in that?
      How much domestic political opposition would Bush have faced in the Congress, Senate and electorate?
      There would likely be opposition even within sections of the military. There are plenty of Generals and Admirals who would oppose such an approach.

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    10. 'Remember what happened to that other country? They went in, wiped out armed resistance, and ended up razing the city they lived in... we don't want that to happen here..

      I really think that's false logic. it's logic that has been postulated throughout history - it rarely plays out that way.

      It didn't work for Germany in either world war.
      It didn't work out for Japan in China this century.
      It didn't work for Russia in Afghanistan.

      There are examples of brutality being effective in crushing opposition. The Mongols perhaps. Maybe the Assyrians.

      But those examples are few and far between in history.

      The most common response to unfettered aggression is an increase in the virulence of opposition to that aggression.

      The other factor is the global public condemnation and domestic political opposition in the American electorate that would likely follow.

      Even in WW2, there was widespread opposition to area bombing cities initially. It was only after the Germans blitzed Polish, French and British cities that it became publicly supported and politically palatable.

      If the US had taken the approach of leveling entire towns and cities in their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we would have paid a steep political price. How long do you think America's allies would have participated in that?
      How much domestic political opposition would Bush have faced in the Congress, Senate and electorate?
      There would likely be opposition even within sections of the military. There are plenty of Generals and Admirals who would oppose such an approach.

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    11. "There are examples of brutality being effective in crushing opposition."

      Be very careful that you don't twist the message in the post. The post did not advocate wanton brutality as was practiced by some of the countries you mention. Instead, the post opined that the possibility of civilian casualties could not be the driving factor in military operations aimed at countering a THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY. There's a huge difference between brutality and a hard/ugly recognition that national security threats and all out war may require civilian deaths. You'll also note that the post recognizes the use of collateral damage avoidance as a SECONDARY consideration that can moderate the military operations. Again, a far, far cry from wanton brutality towards civilians.

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    12. I only took exception to that one part of the whole post, which was the idea that future aggression against American interests might be deterred by displays of overwhelming force - in the example it was the destruction of an entire city.

      As we've agreed, I accept that civilian casualties are not only an unavoidable aspect of war, but also that there are scenarios where they can be accepted on a scale that is horrifying (for example the destruction of Hiroshima).

      All I'm saying is that the assumption that leveling a city while discourage opposition in future potential conflicts is dubious logic. The inverse is likely to be true, in my view.

      It's a factor to be considered is all - if the president decides that a threat to US National Security is so grave that he must level a city to stop the threat (as no lesser lights than Truman, FDR and Lincoln did), don't make the assumption that this will have the ancillary benefit of deterring future aggression against you.

      It might. History teaches us that in many cases, the opposite is likely to be true.

      In terms of my use of the term "brutality", maybe I was being hyperbolic. Let's agree that the use of the term was unfair then.

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  5. Related post over on Strauss dealing with the ultimate War. Good read and thought provoking.

    http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/nuclear-security/2017/sleepwalking-into-a-nuclear.html

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    1. I dislike this kind of simple link with no value added by the commenter. I have no problem with the link but I'd like you to add your opinion or highlight something of value about it. In other words, add some value. If not, I'm going to remove it for failing to add value to the discussion.

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    2. Aright, when we talk about the cost of War we should think very highly on the use of Nuclear weapons. This article points out that several of the modernization plans provide capabilities that can be used to support a Limited Nuclear Option.

      In my opinion that is the ultimate in forgetting what War Costs, and although it provid3es for a quick end, it is the end of Humanity and not just the war.

      Also very interesting because it highlights recent actions (since 1990) from a Russian perspective. That thinking exercise is often missing, how will the other guy perceive our action? And THAT is how we get into wars.

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    3. Okay, I can work with that.

      Honestly, though, I'm not quite sure what your point is regarding nuclear weapons. Are you saying that nuclear weapons can't be used, no matter what? I think I've missed your point. Try again?

      As far as the Russian thinking, I found that aspect of the article fascinating. It was the strength of the article and also the reason the article was of limited value. The article was also typical of the Chicken Little mode of thought that has become all too prevalent in the West. It's good to consider the enemy's perspective but to do so without considering the reverse is to limit oneself to the point of helplessness.

      We're so concerned with how Russia (or any enemy) might perceive what we do that we're almost paralyzed by fear.

      We can't develop or use ballistic missiles because China might think we were attacking with nuclear weapons. Yet, we ignore the reverse where China gives absolutely no consideration to what we might think when they start launching ballistic (nuclear?) weapons at us. The onus, according to the Chicken Little thinkers, is all on us to be careful but China can do anything they want, free from criticism or responsibility. We're handcuffing ourselves.

      We need to be so careful and considerate of Russian feelings and perceptions that we can't do anything that could be remotely construed as offensive but they can buzz our ships, annex countries, deploy armed forces to the MidEast, invade countries, send spy ships to our coast, etc. without any concerns. That's a bit one sided, don't you think?

      Why didn't the article address Russia's responsibilities and Russia's concerns about our perceptions? It was a flawed article of limited value, written by a US apologist.

      Perhaps you viewed the article differently?

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    4. To address Russia's responsibilities and concerns -
      Russia has paid a steep economic and political price as the result of their annexation of the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
      The Russian economy is in a parlous state. It is shrinking. This is causing serious problems for Putin and the ruling elite, and for Russia generally.

      It's an example of the political and economic cost of applying military force. Russia seems to have wagered that their strategic goal of retaining access to their only all-year port is more important than their standing in the global political community or the health of their export market - but having made that calculation and used military force to exercise control, they have had to pay a heavy price.
      Putin's ratcheting up of military posturing and Geo-political interference in foreign countries is not being made from a position of strength, but rather from weakness and desperation at the economic isolation Russia is facing.

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    5. So, perhaps someone should have written an article describing America's perceptions of Russian actions, for the Russians to read and contemplate?

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    6. Such articles are of course worthwhile. They do exist. Thing is, they're mostly written in Russian.

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    7. Apparently, Putin is not reading them. Perhaps he doesn't read Russian? :)

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    8. Maybe he just doesn't care!

      To be honest i think Putin went in knowing he was gonna pay the price for Crimea, but just couldn't be the first Russian leader in modern history to surrender control of their only major year-round port.
      There's very few Russian leaders who would be able to stomach such a strategic blow to Russian national security.

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  6. Its this nation building after the shock and awe that's led to this dilemma...
    Egged on by the UN and the opposition party after We drove the Taliban from Afghanistan and watched Saddam's statue topple we should have declared victory and left while continuing the anti terror war with spec ops..Vacums would have been filled and coalitions not hostile to the west would have arisen.
    No instead we attempted to nation build democracies were 11th century cave men exist. Impossible but exactly what certain people wanted to happen, just like post Vietnam. A weakened America as a result... same old same old since 1950.. With more sheeple born every day...

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    1. Why not do one better- skip the warring part, just nation-build in the first place, like what China is doing with OBOR: digging subway tunnel in Tel Aviv, at the same time oil well in Iran, and copper in Afghanistan (or one of innumerable projects with Saudis). Picture this (almost Biblical, lions and lambs) reality: working with Israeli, Shiite, and Sunni at the same time; not to mention its treatment of red carpet simultaneously in Moscow, Berlin, and Washington D.C; all done without contradiction, without PLA killing or Chinese dying in the last 25 years or so; and all the while we are witnessing the advent of Pax-Sinica.

      Why can't we retain viable Pax-Americana without killing and dying?





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    2. Tim, do you have any idea of the sheer number of "first place" "nation building" activities we engage in? We're constantly partnering with every country we can to build infrastructure, establish hospitals, improve agriculture, build schools, and provide education. We offer visas to umpteen thousands of young people to come to the US to attend universities. We run public and private charities, companies, and organizations that benefit other countries: Center for Disease Control, Peace Corps, Army Corps of Engineers, university sponsored medical exchanges, hospital ships, etc. We provide billions of dollars in government and private charities. USAID provides staggering amounts of government money and assistance for developing countries. We provide the bulk of UN funding. I could go on all night listing the various things we do.

      Why don't you reconsider your comment and rewrite it.

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    3. We are not talking about E.Asia/Europe/Africa/Latin America, where the US interests are everyday affairs (i.e. all the normal nation-to-nation interactions you stated).

      We are talking about a broken ME, where the US is no longer the center of problem/solution, even though we let the genie (intra-religious/secular conflicts) out of bottle (Saddam and strongman). We inadvertently started this round of major ME conflict, but we don't own the war anymore (thus I don't see how we can end it). Now we are just a firebreak hoping to contain its reach.

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    4. Have we screwed up the MidEast? Horribly so! But that doesn't negate the incredible amount of efforts we make trying to build friendships with other countries.

      Your attempted point was that the US should try to partner with countries rather than go to war and then trying to partner/nation build. I demonstrated to you that we make more of an effort to peacefully partner than any other country in the world by a huge margin. That doesn't mean we're immune from stupid politics but it does mean that we try peaceful partnering more than anyone else. Go look up our various foreign aid budgets. Staggering!

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    5. I see.

      You see nation-build from the angle of 'friend-foe, right/wrong'. Remind me of an American phrase: no better friend, no worse enemy. Germany & Japan experienced both during/after WW2. Currently China sees that too, and it understands that China (due to its size+aspiration) will not be accepted as US friend, and it must work hard to not slipping into the 'foe' category. The how-to? Don't start a war(combat) against the US, and don't start a war(combat) against the US' friends. And that's it.

      The extension of that is: Don't (start) war. In addition, Do trade, and Don't have friend/alliance (because they can get you in trouble.)

      The 2 Don'ts and 1 Do have served China well, so far.

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  7. There is always a political aspect to any war. Slaughter of civilians (even in pursuit of legitimate military objectives) has major political ramifications.
    It was only towards the middle and end of World War 2 that rampant destruction of cities and indiscriminate slaughter of civilians was accepted as the price of war. Even then, it was often masked behind propaganda and tempered by genuine military efforts to reduce those casualties.
    War is not, and never will be, a simple pursuit of military objectives.
    From the perspective of a soldier, airmen or sailor, that may seem ridiculous.
    But soldiers, airmen and sailors are only one aspect of the decision making process in war.
    Ultimately it's politicians who declare war and set the rules of engagement. This is because war is simply an extension of a country's foreign policy.
    And politicians are tasked with taking into account more than just military destruction of their enemies - they must also balance economic, diplomatic, domestic and foreign political considerations.

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  8. Having grown up during the 80s and Cold War, I think we all expected war to be highly destructive, lots of mass causalities,etc..even the Vietnam war wasn't that far away in time and Hollywood Vietnam movies reinforced the idea that war was messy, dirty and deadly. The big shift change was Gulf War 1, suddenly, LGB, precision strike, surgical bombing ,low casualties,etc was surprising and in subsequent years, became the norm. Now, we lose 1 Navy SEAL on a raid (with a V-22) and I think many would see it as a FAILURE, yes, maybe something went wrong or maybe it was just a military operation and it just happens that people and soldiers usually DIE in those...we seem to have clearly forgotten that part!

    Not quite sure how to put it in words, maybe we are becoming the victims of our technological success, we view death and destruction as failures and PC has taken a lot of the blame for the "emasucaltion?" of our military response and/or we have become too "timid" or "civilized" to do a massive bomb strike on a supposed Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile site, the example used by COMNAVOPS. IMO, I think with proper explanation from a POTUS and good PR preparation to face the world backlash, I think it would be possible to "level" a grid to destroy the Yakhonts or something similar, you just need good preparation, not just military but political.

    The far bigger question,though, is not just where is PC leading us but in general,if we continue this trend of "timidity" and being so "self conscious", where is this taking us?!? I personally feel it is too easy and lazy just to put all the blame on PC about our timid response to Russian flybys of US Navy ships, our difficulty dealing and just plain finding a strategy with ISIS, dealing with China South Sea island building and our lack of response,etc....I think it's a bunch of factors, our fast moving and ever growing technology, our super reliance on technology!, few people serving, leaders that have never served, military leaders that don't value risk takers and ESPECIALLY our military and civilians seem to have lost a lot of institution knowledge of what it takes to prepare FOR ALL FACETS of warfare,etc... my poor 2 cents at the topic.

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    1. "Gulf War 1, ... became the norm."

      What most fail to realize was that Sadaam's Iraq was a third rate adversary that offered no real resistance. The Gulf War was more of a live fire exercise than a real war - with all due respect to the occasional firefights that occurred. We came to believe that third rate opponents were the norm.

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    2. "trend of "timidity" ... where is this taking us?!?"

      You've almost got it. Our society has become feminized due to the efforts of the liberal faction. We've lost the male traits of strength, courage, determination, responsibility, accountability, and risk. We've also lost our moral compasses. All of this has lead to our current timidity and sensitivity which, in turn, leads to our unwillingness to accept casualties, either ours or the enemy civilians.

      Our heroes used to be John Wayne types. Who are our heroes now? They're victims. We glorify victimhood. The Navy gave a medal to the female crewman who was captured by the Iranians and attempted and failed to send a radio message. The Army gave a medal to Jessica Lynch for getting captured in a convoy ambush. And so on.

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    3. Well is Hezbollah more of a threat than Sadaam's Iraq?
      Surely Hezbollah poses no existential threat to the United States.
      That's the example you cited in your opening paragraph.

      To extrapolate further, if the United States were to begin area bombing in densely packed civilian areas of the Middle East in an effort to eliminate the threat posed by missile emplacements manned by Hezbollah, they may achieve their military goals, but at what cost politically?

      How long would Middle Eastern allies tolerate such an approach?
      What domestic political opposition would a President who authorized that step face at home?
      How would America's allies in Europe and Asia feel about such a move? Would it temper their support for the US globally?
      How would America's enemies exploit such a campaign for their own anti-American propaganda?

      These are the questions, which go beyond achievement of military objectives, that any US President would have to answer before he authorized area bombing of cities.

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    4. "Well is Hezbollah more of a threat than Sadaam's Iraq?
      Surely Hezbollah poses no existential threat to the United States.
      That's the example you cited in your opening paragraph."

      Did you read the post carefully? Nowhere did I state that Hezbollah or the missile in the example pose a national security threat.

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    5. "at what cost politically?"

      Of course there is a political aspect to war. My post addresses the military issue AFTER THE POLITICAL DECISION HAS BEEN MADE THAT WAR IS NECESSARY. I thought that was self-evident. Apparently I was wrong.

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    6. I respect that. I suppose my point is that even after war has begun, the political aspect remains. The US and her allies have been at war for more than 15 years in the Middle East and if anything, the politics of the conflict is more Byzantium and relevant than ever. This was as true in WW2 as it is now. For example, Ike and FDR both restrained US ground forces from advancing deeper into Germany in the closing stages of the war, despite their generals advice that such an advance would be eminently possible because of the politics of their agreements with Stalin. The politics never goes away, before, during ur after a conflict has begun.

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  9. I'm going to take your discussion to the extreme. The nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Those two bombs saved American lives (invasion), and saved Japanese lives (invasion). The other benefit was it keep Russia from getting a toe hold on Japan and dividing the Japanese nation (like Germany).

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    1. Former half was correct. However, the defeat of Japanese Army in Manchuria sow the seed for eventual demise of Chineses Nationalist, as Soviets armed divisions of CCP soldiers with surrendered Japanese arms. Think of an alternative history, one without Red China/NK/VN.

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    2. If you read the transcripts of the Imperial Japanese War Council in the final days of WW2, it was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the rolling up of those Japanese armies that weighted most heavily in their final decision to surrender.
      Of course the atomic bomb attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima also played a role, but initially they were willing to continue the war after these attacks - when they also realised that the Soviets were quickly rolling over all their land forces on mainland Asia, they realised there was no hope.

      Of course Truman could not have known this - but we know now.

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    3. "the defeat of Japanese Army in Manchuria sow the seed for eventual demise of Chineses Nationalist, as Soviets armed divisions of CCP soldiers with surrendered Japanese arms."

      Nothing I've read in any history supports your contention. Read the Communist China Party article in Wiki for a decent summary. The KMT (nationalist party) pretty much self-destructed after WWII. Any arms the Communist Party of China (CPC) may have received were only a minor factor, at most.

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    4. If you wiki 'Chinese civil war', under the section 'Resumed fighting (1946-1950)', the first two paragraphs tells the story of birth(or re-birth) of ChiCom as a conventional fighting force.

      So, how much arms did IJ turned over? Please wiki 'Kwantung Army', bottom of 1st paragraph,

      " In August 1945, the army group, only around 713,000 (from a previous total of 1,320,000) men at the time, was defeated by and surrendered to Soviet troops as a result of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation."

      Enough to equip 700,000 ChiCom soldiers.

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    5. From your own Wiki reference,

      "CPC was able to utilize a large number of weapons abandoned by the Japanese, including some tanks, but it was not until large numbers of well-trained KMT troops began surrendering and joining the Communist forces that the CPC was finally able to master the hardware"

      The arms were a relatively minor benefit. The KMT self-destructed with wholesale defections of units, massive political blunders, widespread corruption which turned away followers, and utter mismanagement of the movement. This is what decided the war, not abandoned Japanese arms.

      There wasn't even all that much armed fighting, as civil wars go.

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    6. ComNavOps is right.
      The KMT never enjoyed the support of the peasants. They were doomed from the start.
      Rightly or wrongly, the communists were seen as the liberators of the people.
      That had infinity more to do with their victory than some salvaged Japanese armaments.

      I just got back from China, and while there I visited some of the KMT internment (read torture) camps. They alienated the population with their brutality and corruption.

      While the communists ended up being just as (perhaps more) brutal in the long run, the people saw them as saviors from Chiang Kai Shek's rule.

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    7. Anonymous, pardon me, but I think you're witnessing 'history is written by victor.' Also, being that CCP had done a decent economic job recently, the people will 'normalize (swept under the rug)' the past-bad to conform with the current-good; human psychology, is all.

      Prior to 45, ChiCom was on survival mode because it was neither supplied from outside, nor was it able to take on the Japanese force frontally. Had it not for the Soviet shelter and infusion of Japanese arms, I don't see how CCP can fight during the initial period of post-WW2 civil war against US-equipped KMT force, some of which had fought well in Burma against the Japanese. Also, had the Civil war being an one-sided affair, the US wouldn't of faced such honed CCP force at the onset of Chinese intervention in Korea.

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    8. KMT would have collapsed with or without CPC being present.

      The "honed" CPC force was made up of former KMT! From your own cited reference, again,

      "not until large numbers of well-trained KMT troops began surrendering and joining the Communist forces that the CPC was finally able to master the hardware"

      Chinese forces in Korea proved to be ill-equipped, ill-trained, and poorly provisioned. Only overwhelming numbers allowed them to achieve the degree of success that they did.

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    9. Tim, to be fair to you, of course the CPC benefited from the support they received from Stalin, in terms of supplies and weapons. They also did salvage abandoned Japanese equipment for use against the KMT.
      You can also argue that Mao's rather cynical refusal to engage in full scale conflict with Japanese forces helped him husband sufficient strength so that he was able to quite quickly overwhelm KMT forces.

      But to think that this was the cause of their victory is, in my view, naive.
      Like all military conflicts, a number of factors led to the eventual outcome, many more important than where the two sides sourced their weaponry.

      One of the primary challenges the KMT faced was that they were never popular with the vast majority of the population (the peasants).
      In addition they squandered the bulk of their regular forces in a series of bloody actions and siege battles in Manchuria, far from their logistical base in the south-west of China.
      They treated their own forces as cannon fodder, and as CNO points out, huge numbers of these soldiers switched sides and accelerated the collapse of Chiang Kai Shek's rule.

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    10. " Chinese forces in Korea proved to be ill-equipped, ill-trained, and poorly provisioned. Only overwhelming numbers allowed them to achieve the degree of success that they did."

      Isn't this what war is? To achieve the degree of success given what's on hand, include 'overwhelming number' if that's the only thing one's got.

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    11. "Isn't this what war is?"

      Sure is! You use whatever advantage you have. However, your original contention was that the abandoned Japanese arms led to the CPC victory and you further "proved" that by citing the "honed" units sent to Korea. As we've demonstrated, the Japanese arms did not directly lead to victory and the Korean units were anything but "honed". You just need to brush up a bit on your history. No big deal.

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    12. The rise of CCP followed a series of events, or it took advantage of them (without any of which, the lack of happenstance would probably throttle it and killed it in its infancy). I believe it was a combination of timing/environment/leadership/strategic farsight/capability/and luck. For example,

      - without the 1937 Japanese invasion to stop KMT's anti-CCP campaign, CCP probably wouldn't survive its Long March. Still, at end of ww2, CCP was a guerrilla force, lacking arms/training/experience of taking on a conventional force.

      - Step in the Soviets and the leftover Japanese arms. Now CCP soldiers have something to work with and take on KMT force in conventional battles- the first Baby step.

      - Strategically and politically corrupt KMT leadership maybe, tactically, KMT forces were experienced (and its elite units well USArmy-trained/equipped and fought in the Burma Campaign. For example: New 1st Army under VMI graduate Sun Li-Jen)

      - These elite unit were sent to NE-China; and the CCP were 'honed': first by losing, then adapting, and finally overcoming. I believe, CCP lost over 1M+ killed between 45-49. The honing process was a bloody one.

      - By winter of 1950, though ChiCom have never fought the US Army before, the 'disposition (i.e. movement and deployment)' of US Army would not be unfamiliar to them. Whereas in Chosin, unlike Army's 2ID, the Marines were able to retreat whole..partially due to ChiCom's unfamiliarity with Marines deployment style, I'm guessing.

      Looking back, CCP had many lucky 'breaks' (lacking any one of them would probably re-write the history). And these Japanese arms was one of these breaks.

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  10. This logic is similar to the logic of the German military preceding and throughout World War 1.
    They viewed the achievement of military objectives as the ultimate goal of any conflict, and subordinated their decision making to that logic.

    They used more or less the same ethical argument to justify their position too. They postulated that by being ruthless, crushing all opposition quickly and without mercy (especially any display of insurgency in occupied territories), they would bring about a quicker end to the war, thereby reducing the overall damage and casualties inflicted.

    They essentially took the view that in any question of how much force should be applied, the question should very simply be - does this amount of force achieve the military objective? If it did, they would accept the resulting casualties as the price of war. If more force was not required, they would not apply it.

    This ultimately was to their cost - they never took enough account of the political cost of their application of force. Despite some vacillation around unrestricted U-boat warfare and some initial hesitation about chemical weapons, in both cases the military argument won out.

    In their ruthless attempt to crush what they called franc-tireur (guerrilla warfare) in occupied Belgium, France and Eastern Europe, they destroyed whole towns and villages and slaughtered many thousands of civilians. They did this not for it's own sake (this was not the Wehrmacht of WW2, complicit in genocide), but intended to crush opposition, to shorten the war.

    This all came at great cost to Germany. The application of military force, regardless of casualties inflicted, or opposition overseas, was the primary reason the US entered the war on the side of the Allies. Without the Rape of Belgium, unrestricted u-boat warfare on neutral as well as Allied shipping, and the general view that Germany was operating outside the rules of war, the United States would never have entered the conflict.
    The Allies were able to turn the vast majority of the neutral powers against Germany, by exploiting their indiscriminate use of force against them politically and in terms of the propaganda they produced.

    The allegory only goes so far of course, but there's a lesson their to be learned.

    Another factor worth consideration is that Germany had the advantage (in terms of their ability to apply military force regardless of civilian casualties) of being a military autocracy.

    The United States is a democracy, and no President has a free hand to operate militarily as they wish. They are ultimately beholden to the electorate - and that means that if they face growing domestic political opposition, they will have to pull out of any war or military operation. Because of that, they have to consider very carefully their position on things like area bombings of civilian areas.

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    1. "This ultimately was to their cost - they never took enough account of the political cost of their application of force."

      Two observations:

      1. Had Germany won, the history would be written differently and their actions might be viewed quite favorably. Winners write the history.

      2. You noted in the post that I did not advocate unrestricted civilian destruction. Here's the relevant quote:

      "Avoidance of civilian casualties and collateral damage are secondary objectives that may serve to moderate the method ..."

      This is why you don't use a nuclear bomb to kill a single sniper. You have to make a calculation and use the military method that best achieves the objective while exposing your own forces to the least risk, modified by the secondary concerns of avoidance of collateral damage.

      Is it possible to miscalculate? Certainly! Did Germany, in your example, miscalculate? I confess, I don't know WWI history enough to offer an answer. According to you, they did miscalculate. That someone in history miscalculated doesn't invalidate the post premise.

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    2. "The United States is a democracy, and no President has a free hand to operate militarily as they wish. They are ultimately beholden to the electorate - and that means that if they face growing domestic political opposition, they will have to pull out of any war or military operation. Because of that, they have to consider very carefully their position on things like area bombings of civilian areas."

      As I've stated, war and military operations contain a political calculation. You're quite correct. However, you overlook the flip side of the accountability of the President to the American electorate. While the President will have to answer for civilian deaths, he will also have to answer for US service personnel deaths. The lesser of two evils is saving US lives. A President that prioritizes enemy civilian lives over US will not last long.

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    3. "This logic is similar to the logic of the German military preceding and throughout World War 1."

      You realize that we are also the nation that had the march to the sea and firebombed Tokyo. We were one of the early adopters of total war in the modern era.

      The Germans in Belgium made two, HUGE errors. First, they underestimated Britain's willingness to go to war to honor her treaties to Belgium. That definitely has to be taken into consideration. 'Will taking out that missile battery bring another great power into this war?'

      In most cases it won't. But you have to be thinking of it.

      The second was that Germany practiced collective punishment. 'We got sniper fire from that building' didn't mean 'We're going to shell the building'. It meant that 'WE're going to round up 10X the number of soldiers we lost and execute them....'

      The application is different in some very vital ways.

      Its the principle of double effect. In shelling the building you aren't intending to kill civilians. Just get rid of the sniper as quickly as possible.

      In rounding up civilians and executing them you are deliberately targeting civilians in retribution.

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    4. "Two observations:

      1. Had Germany won, the history would be written differently and their actions might be viewed quite favorably. Winners write the history.

      2. You noted in the post that I did not advocate unrestricted civilian destruction."

      1. Agreed. The winners write the history - if Japan had won the war somehow, the fire bombing of Tokyo would have been prosecuted as a war crime.
      What I'm saying is that one of the primary causes of Germany losing the war was because of their disregard of the political fallout of their decision to elevate military objectives above political considerations in almost every instance. Without unrestricted u-boat warfare, Woodrow Wilson would never have been in a position to bring the US into the war. Without the invasion of Belgium and it's subsequent "Rape", the UK would likely not have entered the war.

      2. I of course acknowledge that. I hope I haven't given the impression that I believe you are advocating for unrestricted civilian destruction. Germany in WW1 also did not advocate for that, which is why I used them as my analogy. They had a very analytical approach to the use of force against civilians. Their view was that you should not ever kill civilians if there was no military utility in doing so. They never did it for it's own sake, or in the pursuit of some twisted ideology (in contrast to the WW2 Wehrmacht). They did it only when they felt it was necessary to achieve some military objective. Their logic was similar (though not exactly the same) as what you've posited - by achieving the military objectives, it guarantees a successful outcome to the war and in doing so it's actually more ethical, because it shortens the war and reduces the total casualty list.

      The problem with their logic was (among other things, such as the potential ethical problems) in my view two-fold :

      1. They made assumptions about the achievement of military objectives being possible due to their use of force that actually proved to be inaccurate - e.g. the unrestricted use of u-boats did not result in the capitulation of the UK because despite immense pressure on supply convoys, the UK were eventually able to create a convoy system with escorts that eventually defeated the U-boat threat. Another example is their use of executions of hostages and destruction of towns in occupied areas as a deterrent to guerilla war tactics against their forces - this logic proved false. No matter how terrible they became, the insurgency simply continued, and in some instances gained ground as opposition increased in the face of their rampant destruction and slaughter of civilians.

      2. In their decision making process they did not give enough consideration to the political fallout of their military policies and application of force - When the invaded Balgium they disregarded the idea that it would bring England into the war against them. The German ambassador famously screamed to his British counterpart that he was a fool for bringing his country into the war over what he described as a "scrap of paper" (meaning the treaty between England and Belgium).
      When they allowed unrestricted u-boat warfare, they were bowing to the military logic that it would knock the British out of the war, while disregarding the explicit warnings from the US that it would make American neutrality impossible.

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    5. continued :
      My overall point is not that the acceptance of civilian casualties in war to achieve military objectives is never the right decision - there are many examples where it turned out to be war winning or at least not war losing.
      My point is simply that the inverse is also true in many cases.
      A President must way these two possible outcomes in his decision making.
      When Truman dropped the bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima or authorized the fire bombing of Tokyo, he calculated correctly that there would be no serious political ramifications or domestic political opposition to his decision.
      In contrast, when the Hindenburg authorized unrestricted u-boat warfare, he incorrectly calculated that it would not bring the US into the war, or would be so successful so quickly that American involvement would be too late.

      I am saying that it's never as simple as subordinating military decision making to only the pursuit of military objectives. In all rules of engagement there are necessary political considerations to be made - any President who doesn't consider these factors is not doing his job.

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    6. "You realize that we are also the nation that had the march to the sea and firebombed Tokyo. We were one of the early adopters of total war in the modern era. "

      I do, yes. I am aware. There are myriad examples, for most countries involved in modern warfare.
      Certainly, any country involved in WW2 came out with a lot of blood on their hands.
      But my point isn't that America should be above such things (though it's not necessarily bad to want to be a moral exemplar - that''s just not the point I'm making).

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    7. "The Germans in Belgium made two, HUGE errors. First, they underestimated Britain's willingness to go to war to honor her treaties to Belgium. That definitely has to be taken into consideration. 'Will taking out that missile battery bring another great power into this war?'

      In most cases it won't. But you have to be thinking of it.

      The second was that Germany practiced collective punishment. 'We got sniper fire from that building' didn't mean 'We're going to shell the building'. It meant that 'WE're going to round up 10X the number of soldiers we lost and execute them....'"

      1. I agree 100% with your first point. This is basically what I'm saying - is taking out this missile battery going to have serious political ramifications that outweigh the benefits we gain by taking out the battery? If Jordan, Saudi and UAE decide they can't support the area bombing of cities to eliminate missile batteries and ask the US to stop using their airfields, have we paid too high a price politically (and consequently militarily) in order to eliminate the threat of missile batteries?
      Perhaps not. Perhaps we can get agreement from our Allies that it's ok - but the question must be answered with confidence before you bomb the city.

      2. I agree. It was this example that inclined me to point out that the analogy only stretches so far. Collective punishment is a step further than taking out a known enemy position regardless of civilian casualties.
      Having said that - that isn't the way the Germans saw it. They saw no distinction between the two. They were wrong of course.

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    8. "is taking out this missile battery going to have serious political ramifications that outweigh the benefits we gain by taking out the battery?"

      Carefully keep in mind that the post discusses civilian casualties in the context of a war resulting from a threat to national security - an existential threat, in essence. In that case, political considerations such as whether we'll upset another country or even whether another country will declare war against us, are irrelevant. If our very existence and/or national security (to the extent those are different) are being threatened, then there is no political calculation. At that point it's a matter of survival. If the decision whether to take action depends on other political factors then your national security is not being threatened. Then you're in the realm of simple cost/benefit calculations - not what the post was focused on.

      The post is not talking about trying to decide whether to kill civilians because we want to eliminate an inconvenient missile. The post is talking about a threat to national security.

      Reread the post and you'll see that the two scenarios are completely different.

      The points you've been making about political calculations apply to the simple case but no really to the case of a true threat to national security.

      To give an example, if we learn that a state or non-state actor has acquired the means and equipment to detonate nuclear weapons in our cities, we would be facing a threat to national security if not an existential threat. What Russia might think of our actions to protect ourselves is utterly irrelevant. We would have to eliminate the threat totally and with no regard for the cost. One cannot take half measures with national security.

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    9. Very well, let's shift the point.
      If we are only talking about either existential threats (the definition of which is clear to me), or national security threats (not as clear), then the calculation of course becomes weighted towards to the application of force in pursuit of military objectives.

      We can both agree that if someone is about to nuke a city, damn the consequences, the military needs to start area bombing if that's the way to stop such an attack.

      In terms of national security threats - that's where our points of difference lie. It becomes more subjective.

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  11. A lot of angst in here over this philosophic argument(s) on the "nature of war".

    As sentient humans on this forum we want to think we have progressed from the narratives of Caesar in Gaul, Ghengis Khan with the tribesmen of Afghanistan, or the total war that was WW2. Have we really? Should war be humane or should so much force be used up front that the winner is quickly realized? People have touched on that above.

    As a historical example, using Afghanistan where we have labored 15 years.... The Mongols have been the only folks in history to have completely dominated (conquered) Afghanistan and got those cavmen "in line", where Alexander, the British Empire,the Soviets and ourselves to date have failed. In a nutshell, the Mongols used pre-planned terrible force, right up front, which led to a faster surrender and Afghan tractability. Barbarism met with extreme barbarism perhaps but that is a 21st century view... It worked. Only today do the Taliban pull down those Buddha's in Stone because they do not fear any potential enemy that will not prosecute war like the Mongols did... War is a business with them. Us being there the way we are simply helps their business.. Trying to understand voting and implement equal rights for women in centuries away for them. Look at their country. The only real progress they have made in 1000 years has been when they were colonized. look it up. truth.

    Ah! That dirty word "Colonialism followed by Imperialism" according to the elites and Generals who fear the moniker. However, it will take more than what the Petraeus's, McMasters and Mattis's approaches to war offer.

    Lastly, have you all noticed that "Victory" is never allowed the US military since WW2, except for perhaps that one event that cleared Saddam out of Kuwait and now is pretty much forgotten?

    "Victory" is never possible because the American people make it so...through elections! Unwittingly maybe, but they do it because they are manipulated into believing that there are different options other than war when we haven't completed the job (horses in midstream...)...EX- the Surge followed by when Obama didn't pursue a Status of Forces agreement...He forgot Fallujah because he never probably noticed...

    Every time "Victory" is close the people seem elect the other side who defangs and stands down the dogs of war... Everytime. I am old enough to have seen this process my entire life. I am lucky to have grown up in a time when all the fathers of our neighborhood had been in WW2 and had experienced Victory. Many of those WW2 vets viewed the Korean War as just an aberration because of the Cold War and then they really started to worry about America after Vietnam...

    Who would have ever thunk we would stoop so low as to attempt to be so stupid to be humane or use proportionality in war against those who behead others, push their idealogy of hate, have created a human suicide weapon system unknown in history, and who drive trucks into crowds? IMO, that's where we are at today while the Sheeple/Snowflakes/Eloi come to dominate the population and they vote sometimes.... How does a nation and culture become less philosophic and more war-like again? Is there a historical precedent? Methinks not... hence my personal angst.

    b2

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    1. Excellent comment.

      "except for perhaps that one event that cleared Saddam out of Kuwait "

      And even that was only a partial victory, if that. By failing to pursue that conflict to its ultimate conclusion, the killing of Sadaam, we were forced to refight the conflict some years later.

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    2. Strategically and globally with the benefit of hindsight you are correct. However, the opord and the UN resolution said to jettison Saddam from Iraq and the mission was completed with overwhelming force (Air supremacy gained), speed (3 day blitzkrieg), and violence (see hiway of death videos...).

      We then exited the area (we even flew B-52's from bases near Mecca...) and had a victory parade down 5th avenue. A "Victory parade" not Veterans day parade, etc. The closest we've come to Victory- grant me that. ;-)

      On flipside, 18 months after that parade "Bush the first", a good president and fine ma,n was deposed by a snake oil charlatan from Arkansas that pissed away the peace dividend, missed and grew Osama Bin Laden and gutted exactly what we are talking about rebuilding... That anecdote also sort of validates my story above that the American people get what they want at elections...

      b2

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  12. B2, makes a good point about victory. Last time we had a clear cut victory and knew what and why we were fighting and won was WW2. Maybe we should start there: was does winning mean and look like TODAY IN 2017, for example versus ISIS? Maybe our problem is both military and civilian leadership don't CLEARLY state what the goals, means and RESULTS should like like ...

    The one thing I will disagree with is the whole let's blame what I called the PC crowd or what B2 calls "Sheeple/Snowflakes/Eloi", not sure it's the same crowd but close enough, the doves, pacifists, philosophers, etc,etc...I think that's just too easy and convenient, reality is you probably couldn't level downtown XYZ city in Middle East like we leveled downtown Tokyo BUT we shouldn't just throw our hands in the air and say: "we have tied the hands of our military, we are going to lose!!"...that's just intellectual lazy. We have plenty of other options today that weren't even dreamed about in WW2 or Vietnam....we need to keep working at developing new options and means AND explaining better what we want to accomplish with those military means to win the hearts and minds, the problem lays in the fact that IMO, today's leaders BOTH military and civilian seem to have completely forgotten the play book on how to operate a foreign policy, IMO.

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    1. "what we want to accomplish with those military means to win the hearts and minds"

      YOU ARE THE VERY PROBLEM YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!! Winning hearts and minds is exactly the kind of "feel good", ill-defined, "don't want to do the ugly work of winning" that has led to our inability to achieve total victory. We didn't win WWII because we won the hearts and minds of the German and Japanese people. We won because we hammered them into total submission and then imposed the system we wanted on their society and then rigidly guided them as they rebuilt.

      Today, we find it too hard or too emotionally upsetting to achieve total victory and demand a subsequent result.

      "Hearts and minds" is symptomatic of emasculation of our society that has led to "feelings" trumping logic and needs.

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    2. Nico,

      Nico,

      I am not blaming civilians for being civilians and I am not discussing PC' ness; To be blunt I am talking basic moral weakness that transcends cultures, a general softness and lack of cojones, conflict avoidance, non-judgmentalism and a mind numbing lack of historical knowledge all contribute to the Sheeple/Snowflake/Eloi group. Not all the folks, who aren't or were warriors, but a significant number of these people are strategically placed in education, the mass media and even government, politics and contribute to the malaise. In a free society like ours it seems to be the tide...

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    3. I guess I didn't express myself correctly, I wanted to say we need to win the hearts and minds of US public,not the Germans or Japanese, if you lose the US public, you're not going to win....the days when you could level Dresden or Tokyo without batting an eye and not giving an explanation are long gone.

      Anon: I agree but again, does that mean we should just give in? What can we do as a society to combat or at least still have some "cojones"? I'll try to come up with some ideas...

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  13. I agree with the Anon who noted that CNO is advocating the same strategy that Imperial Germany used and perhaps in danger of repeating the same mistakes.

    First we have to split between conventional war and nation building.

    NATION BUILDING:
    In any nation, there will be an insurgency. Why? Simply put, they want to be in control of their own nation. There always will be.

    It won't work in an insurgency. While the US doesn't have to "win hearts and minds", it does have to make sure that at the very least, people don't hate the US so much that they don't want to be insurgents.

    Example:
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/24/-sp-us-drone-strikes-kill-1147

    For every insurgent leader you kill, there are going to be dozens of families who are ticked off. That means a large number will join - and net you are worse off because more insurgents were created than killed. Net you need to be better off.

    Typically unless the government is viewed as legitimate by the locals, it won't last.

    The only way that US can conquer those lands is through tactics the Mongolians used. That has other political ramifications. America's image already is tarnished from the Iraq War and never really recovered.

    It means loss of potential allies, and becoming a pariah nation. The other problem is that the US image has always tried to portray itself as the 'good' guys. If the US changes, that could have pretty big ramifications.

    That's not because of the PC crowd - that's because of the US own missteps. That's moral warfare for you.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/john-boyds-art-of-war/

    The moral trumps the physical.

    We cannot drag the nations of the world through into the modern world - they have totally different values and see the world differently.


    FULL SCALE WAR:

    There is also an element of moral warfare here.


    Let's look back at WW2. When the Japanese occupied China or the Nazis occupied Russia, they did not give a damn about civilian casualties. The end result? They had to invest lots of military resources to fight partisans in their occupied lands.

    Actually in the case of the Nazis, when they first conquered Ukraine, there were celebrations because they thought that they had been liberated from Stalin. In reality, they were even worse and very soon the Nazis had to have partisans. Had their stupid Aryan superiority ideology not got to them, they could have treated the Ukrainians humanely and gotten their support. The Ukrainians had lived through the Holodomor.

    The Nazis treated them even worse. In the case of the Nazis, they tried to starve out the Ukrainian people and aggressively adopted anti-partisan tactics.

    The end result? Both the Nazis and the Japanese had to divert troops which could otherwise have been used to fight conventional enemies.


    So what about France? The French had been living under Nazi rule and a Vichy puppet regime. They wanted their nation back. They knew that the Allies, although imperfect would get them that back, or at least far more independence than before.

    Oh and the bombing of Normandy is not as whitewashed as you think it is:

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/05/31/how-french-saw-day/U7JLZNtaUxTw4s5qaNKueO/story.html

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27703724


    Worse, it may not even have helped military gains at all. Antony Beevor in his book D-Day The Battle of Normandy notes that the wreckage may have even helped the defenders more than the attackers.

    CONCLUSIONS
    Even in a conventional war, you have to strike a balance. While a case can be made that the PC people are wrong about no civilian casualties, being ruthless makes more enemies than allies.

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    1. "CNO is advocating the same strategy that Imperial Germany used and perhaps in danger of repeating the same mistakes."

      Did you read the post? Did you read it carefully? Did you read what was actually written and not what you thought was written? Here's the relevant quotes from the post:

      "If one’s national security is threatened then one should take any and all action necessary to eliminate the threat."

      "Avoidance of civilian casualties and collateral damage are secondary objectives that may serve to moderate the method but not dictate it."

      The key phrases are "If national security is threatened..." and "serve to moderate the method". Thus, I am not advocating unrestricted killing of civilians. I am stating that when faced with a threat to national security (the integrity and security of your state is fundamentally at risk - almost an existential risk) concern over collateral damage and death of civilians cannot be the prime concern. I then note that even in that case, avoidance of civilian deaths and collateral damage can serve, as a secondary concern, to moderate the military methods used. Tell me, does that sound like I'm advocating a policy of wholesale extermination of the civilian population? Does anything I actually wrote sound anything like your comment?

      If you're going to comment, make it about something I've actually said.

      Delete
    2. Yes I did read it and the last paragraph is the one I'm saying might not work the way you think it will.

      Yes, tens of civilians will die, but if they die and their families were neutral to ISIS or outright hostile, they may very well change their minds.

      Indirectly, you may cause the very outcome you wanted to prevent.

      Delete
    3. Could we concoct a scenario where we do more harm than good? Sure. Seriously, though, how much worse can the average person in the Middle East hate us than they already do?

      Are you advocating a policy of absolute, 100% avoidance of civilian casualties no matter what the circumstances? Because that's the only way you can be sure to avoid the scenario you're terrified of. Of course, what if we don't kill any civilians and one of them really was a terrorist who goes on to kill thousands of innocent people? Oh no! We can't kill civilians and we can't not kill them because we just don't know what will happen. What do we do? I'm paralyzed by fear. I can't act but I can't not act. Help me!

      Delete
    4. I did not say that at all.

      I said we should not cause civilian casualties when the benefits are lower than the costs.

      Was bombing France in WW2 necessary? Yes. Did French Civilians die? The figures I have are 70,000.

      Now that does not mean that all bombings were necessary and some were counterproductive. Certain cities should not have been bombed. It did not serve military advantage in many cases. So civilian deaths for no military gains. Worse, it did have impacts on French-Anglo relations after the war.


      As for ISIS, the simple solution may be to withdraw and contain. Will ISIS get a lot of civilians killed? Yes. But they will get the blame and lose their legitimacy. Then they are vulnerable. Their brutality is their own worst enemy. The Sunni people supported them because the US backed Shia government in Iraq was brutal, corrupt, and incompetent.

      That's also why the USSR collapsed. They lost legitimacy with their people. Why? They failed to deliver an acceptable standard of living.

      Washington is in danger of losing legitimacy too. Living standards for Americans is in decline relative to the rest of the world.

      So where does that leave us? France - the bombings in WW2 should have been more selective. Actually, they probably should have built fewer bombers and more dedicated ground attack aircraft like the P47 and built a Allied counterpart to the Stuka, something closer to the A1, but that's another story. Even with a more CAS oriented force, there would have been casualties. Were they necessary? Yes.

      Selective attacks, where the benefits outweigh the risks. I'm saying in the case of ISIS, the costs outweigh the benefits.

      Another example: The War on Terror will cost the American people $7.9 trillion with interest - something that demands the concept of opportunity cost be examined.

      It seems where we disagree is harm vs good. I'm saying that the tactics used in the War on Terror itself is causing more harm than good.

      Delete
    5. "As for ISIS, the simple solution may be to withdraw and contain."

      That is the most cold-blooded and heartless position I've heard anyone espouse in a long time. You want to stand back and watch ISIS slaughter thousands of innocent civilians? What kind of monster are you?

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    6. Very simply one that wants to win the long war against the terrorists.

      ISIS "wants" the US to invade. Their propaganda is always taunting the US to do so.




      That was always Bin Laden's plan too:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/05/bin-ladens-war-of-a-thousand-cuts-will-live-on/238228/

      In other words, he was very heavily influenced by the USSR going bankrupt from the War in Afghanistan that it waged in the 1980s.





      Now here is the 7.9 trillion figure:

      http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2016/Costs%20of%20War%20through%202016%20FINAL%20final%20v2.pdf

      They've set out a trap.

      Even the US doesn't have unlimited funds. It is a wealthier nation than the USSR, but even its funds are not limitless.





      The other consideration is if ISIS does commit atrocities, the consequences are on their heads. Eventually people will grow sick of it and overthrow them.

      That could take years though. There is a much higher tolerance for civilian casualties when it's your own countrymen doing it. An example - if a suicide bomber blows up a lot of civilians, there's more tolerance for it than say, a US airstrike, which would be pretty much on every single media source in the world.

      Every time the US invades, it leads to a nationalist backlash. If ISIS remains, then the backlash will fall on ISIS, which will either collapse or be forced to change.

      Even if you were to destroy ISIS, another would rise in its place, because the anger that caused its rise would remain and if anything would intensify.

      The problem is that each war also adds to the costs that the American people must pay. It's been suggested that a war on ISIS would cost another 3 trillion USD.

      http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/27/opinion/iraq-opinion-united-states-cost-of-war/index.html




      Contain and minimize direct intervention.

      Delete
    7. Seems like the current topic is very a propos:

      ".....Generals don’t much like to talk about “winning” against terrorism. They understand and tell the public and Congress that the U.S. is in a 10-, 30-, 100- year battle against a multi-generational ideological war of ideas far beyond the military battlefield. What is “winning” in that context?"

      http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/02/winning-or-not-trump-doesnt-seem-be-listening-his-generals/135781/?oref=site-defenseone-flyin-sailthru



      Delete
    8. "Very simply one that wants to win the long war against the terrorists."

      And there you have it - you've made the hard choice and opted to kill civilians through inaction in order to achieve your military objective and you don't care how many civilians die while you wait. Sounds a lot like the post I wrote, doesn't it?

      It also sounds a lot like what you criticized me for. By standing by and allowing innocent civilians to die, don't you run the risk of creating even more hatred towards America? The America that could have stopped the slaughter of innocent civilians but chose not to?

      You've really backed yourself into a corner. Guilty of the very thing you accused me of! It's not easy making the hard choice, is it?

      I'm enjoying your comments and your own self-disagreement!

      Delete
    9. "What is “winning” in that context?"

      There is no winning in that context. Winning is making the hard decision to accept some civilian casualties and collateral damage in order to end ISIS quickly and completely.

      We don't want to do that because we're scared of war and its ugliness so we shy away from doing what must be done. We've forgotten what war is - the point of the post.

      Delete
    10. There is no winning in the middle East unless you understand their culture. They value death as martyrdom. To kill them furthers both their and our own goals.

      You can't build a nation out of Muslims because invariably they want a Caliphate. They don't seperate religion and politics like us. To them both are intermingled and from that emerges nothing useful for stability. We have 3000 years of history back that place up as a lost cause.

      Maybe all you can do is kill everyone over there so that they don't migrate and come to our country to run a terrorists operation

      Delete
    11. "You can't build a nation out of Muslims because invariably they want a Caliphate."

      Really? Indonesia? Malaysia?
      You think these are potential caliphates?
      Nonsense. A complete lack of political and historical context and knowledge.

      Delete
    12. This is why this is not a political blog!

      Delete
    13. Haha, point taken CNO. I'll drop it.

      Delete
    14. Seriously, from time to time I've thought about incorporating politics into the blog but, invariably, political discussions degenerate quickly. Data and logic are quickly abandoned in favor of "I'm right, you're wrong".

      People seem somewhat willing to discuss military matters with a [small] degree of rationality but not so with politics. That's why I've stayed away from politics. This is not a criticism of you - it's an observation of people in general. I see this on other blogs and websites, too. It's just not worth the hassle to try to moderate political discussions!

      Carry on!

      Delete
    15. Question is can data and logistics be applied to defeating Isis in a 6-10 front war in Syria

      Delete
    16. I accept those consequences.

      The damage is done by their own countrymen, not us. That's the important thing.

      What happened when the US invaded was different ethnic groups, Shia and Sunni, often unified in opposition to the US. This way, they fight each other.

      Delete
    17. "I accept those consequences."

      You've made your choice and accept the consequences. I can respect that!

      Of course, I don't expect you'll be criticizing me too heavily about my lack of compassion for civilian casualties given your own position!

      Delete
    18. Not trying to reopen the issue but culture and religion has everything on how you either prosecute or conduct war.

      As an example I came across this statistic in the middle East to which my first comment was directed.

      It is no secret that Moslems, despite having a population 85 times larger than Jews, win one Nobel prize for every 33 awarded to Jews.

      Delete
  14. What should we do with ISIS? From what is coming out, "new" Trump plan that DoD is talking about seems to be more of the same, more drones and maybe a few more boots on the ground....Russia has been at it for a year now, they still fighting, Iran has troops on the ground for maybe even longer, still fighting ....Leaving the place alone, yeah, it's horrible BUT then again, what has the West really done that's much better?!? Four and half years of conflict, 250K dead, millions of refugees...maybe fewer people would be dead today if we had just left Assad do whatever it took to regain control of Syria...My problem is we stuck a little bit our nose in the mess but we didn't want to do anything about it that was hard....and that goes back to what I was trying to talk about (poorly, I will admit), where are the new ideas?!? All the WEST seems to know to do is NO FLY ZONEs and SANCTIONS, that's it, that's all we know what to do (because they are EASY and low risk)....ok, we have drone attacks, which in a way just proves ANON(B2) point of emasculation, we are afraid to lose a pilot so we send a drone to do the job!

    Also, where are the leaders taking a stand and explaining that we should do more, that it will be hard and we might even lose a few people?!?

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To think that all the US did was to step in and support an existing rebellion against Assad's rule is naive.
      The US has long been funding and training opposition groups in former pro-Soviet states such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
      They had a hand in instigating the revolt against Assad.

      Delete
  15. War is a simple affair. Armies and navies are to blow things up and kill people.

    To call it anything else is to not realize that after all the wonder weapons have been used up. Guns and knives are all that's left with the simple purpose of killing the enemy as fast and furiously as possible before they kill you

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  16. Amen brother.

    War is not pretty not clean not nice, NOR SHOULD IT. Very simply the only thing making war try to PC clean nice has only given US forever war that is impossible to win while it never ends.

    Fight war as it should be or don't fight. If fought properly you will not just win the fights you have but you will not have to fight as often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ^Agree with C-Low.

      If we fight, we go all the way or just stay completely out. Maybe that's the problem, we just all always stuck in the middle....

      Delete
  17. The main weakness in your argument in my view is simply this you haven't defined your term, "National Security Threat".
    If your definition is too stringent, it applies to very few conflicts the US has actually participated in.
    Too loose, and it becomes meaningless.

    So without that definition it's hard to either agree or disagree with you.
    I think it's porbably safe to say though, that none of the conflicts America is currently involved in would qualify.

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    Replies
    1. I thought the concept of national security threat was fairly clear but, okay, I'll expand on it for you.

      A threat to national security is a threat to the core safety and viability of the nation. It's pretty simple. I'll give you a few examples.

      -nuclear ballistic missiles that can reach the US
      -terrorism aimed at the US
      -significant restriction of worldwide commerce such as the Chinese seem to be attempting via control of the South/East China Seas
      -expansion of unfriendly forms of government (communism, for example) to the point that they would, collectively, threaten US lives and commerce
      -bio and chemical weapons development

      And so on.

      America has been far too quick to jump into regional conflicts that represent no threat to national security.

      Does that clarify things for you?

      Delete
    2. Sorry, just noticed this.
      I have a better understanding of your point of view now.
      However, I have to be honest, I think that's a very broad definition.

      The first definition we can both agree on - but the problem with that one is that if the opponent has enough ballistic missiles the MAD protocol kicks in - it's a cold war scenario where no direct conflict can rationally be advocated for in most cases.
      Terrorism - isn't that a huge part of what the US does right now in the middle east? Isn't that why we're in Afghanistan, why we conduct raids in Yemen and Somalia etc.? I agree that these are threats to national security but they aren't conventionally addressed problems - you can't destroy a terrorist cell by bombing factories. It's much more about intel gathering, spec ops, surgical strikes etc.

      Restriction of commerce - now historically this is definitely a one of the primary causes of conflict. When goods stop crossing borders, armies do. I would simply point out that the last thing China wants to do is actually stop maritime trade -- it's the lifeblood of their nation. What they want is the ability to exert strategic control of their nautical approaches - which in the event of war could mean a restriction of trade, but certainly not before it.

      Unfriendly forms of government - You're straying awfully close to the much discredited 'domino theory here', unless I've done you a disservice. I would agree that there are of course better or worse kinds of governments, but that they don't necessarily lead to a threat to US security. There are plenty of autocracies and dictatorships aligned with and supported by the US. Certainly if a group of nations or non-state actors aligned against US interest an argument could be made that it's a clear threat. That doesn't necessarily mean war is justified or advisable.

      This is fair one to a point - but it depends who's developing them. Many countries have developed or have stockpiled biological or chemical weapons, including countries like North Korea. They've been around for a hundred years. It's not automatically a reason to declare war. If a terrorist group got their hands on them, that would be a different story.


      My point is that very rarely is a threat like the ones you've outlined clear cut. All of the things you've listed are existing potential threats. The US can't declare war on every nation or non-state actor that fits this criteria.
      And if they do, many of the resulting conflicts would not fit perfectly into the box of a conventional war.

      Delete