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
’ reluctance to engage US ISIS when co-located with civilians.
By passing on engagement opportunities, the repeatedly allows US 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.
(1)SNAFU website, “Hezbollah Terror Group now has P-800 Oniks Anti-Ship Missiles (Brahmos)????”,