Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Becoming Irrelevant is the Whole Idea

We remain the most powerful country in the world. That doesn't mean we don't face limits to our power either in achieving military objectives or in trying to achieve non-military objectives with military power. But military power is often necessary for us to achieve the latter category of objectives.

I find value in reading Stratfor's analysis ,but this is kind of funny:

The United States may have committed one blunder after another in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, yet through all of these misbegotten wars the United States remains by a yawning margin the greatest military power on earth[.] ...

But one thing American power cannot accomplish, as a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan showed, is to rebuild complex Islamic societies from within. And rebuilding societies from within will be the fundamental challenge faced by the Arab world for at least the next half-decade. Thus, America, in spite of its latest military intervention, becomes less relevant to the region even as the region itself no longer represents quite the primary interest to America that it used to. We should keep this in mind now that the war against the Islamic State threatens to distract us from other theaters. [emphasis added]

Well, yeah, ultimate victory requires Islamic societies to reform themselves. That's why it is the Long War.

But the notion that our military power hasn't had a role in setting the stage to allow Islamic societies to reform themselves by destroying or fighting the Islamist pro-jihadi elements within those societies that resist reform is nonsense.

So yeah, because of--not despite--our military interventions over the last decade, we and our military power are less relevant to the region. That was the bloody point of fighting. We don't want our military--or our increasingly intrusive homeland security--to be the only thing standing between ourselves and jihadi murderers.

The notion that our military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were pointless--misbegotten, even--in the arrival at the stage where we can say the Middle East has to reform itself is to ignore the role of our military interventions to allow those internal forces to have any hope at all of reforming Islamic societies:

Yes, ultimately it will be up to Arabs themselves to build free societies. We can't do it for them. But in the face of ruthless jihadi killers who will bomb and behead any who oppose the Islamo-fascist dream of a caliphate of the submissive, the protection of the homeless tempest-tost by our armed forces and our allies while they build the strength to fight the terrorists and despots is critical to success.

Military force is a blunt force and could never reform the Islamic world, but just as in counter-insurgency, while military force isn't the entire solution compared to non-military means of defeating insurgents, whatever percent of the solution that military force's provision of physical security is, it has to be the first part of the solution.

The Vietnam War itself should be seen as part of this notion. Despite losing the Vietnam War in 1975 (despite winning it militarily by the time we left in 1973), losing the war in 1965 would have had far greater repercussions throughout Asia.

Communism in Asia was far stronger in 1965, and a refusal to intervene in South Vietnam could have encouraged communists from India to Japan. The Vietnam War was a firewall limiting the spread of communism.

Indeed, the historian John Keegan argued that Western Europe--where "Eurocommunism" thrived--itself was strengthened by Russia seeing us willing to lose tens of thousands of troops in a Third World war. If we'd sacrifice there, what more would we sacrifice in a Third World War to defend Western Europe from the Soviet Union?

And if you put aside the misery of South Vietnam's conquest by North Vietnam, in time Vietnam has moved toward us to resist China. So even that Vietnam War loss may be reversed in time, hopefully to the benefit of those we abandoned in the south.

The struggle for Islamic societies continues. But you can't just look at the Islamic world in 2001 and 2014 and ignore the time between as having nothing to do with the changes.

The terms of struggle have moved beyond autocracy or Islamist rule by mullahs. If this Long War is won, we can surely be called a father of what is born because of our military efforts at the beginning of the process mad our military power irrelevant to the struggle that moved to internal reforms that defeat the forces of jihad.