THE “QUAGMIRE” IS PART OF THAT STRUGGLE WE CALL LIFE

Rasputitsa (Sea of Mud), 1894, Alexei Savrasov.
Rasputitsa (Russian) is a season when travel on unpaved roads becomes difficult, owing to muddy conditions, either from autumnal rains or spring thaw. It also refers to the condition of the roads, during those seasons. (from here)

Stepping into quicksand can be optional. Conflict, if we want to make our lives meaningful, is not. Unfortunately, sometimes, maybe be even quite often, we confuse the two. Why? Well, who wants to engage in lifelong, punishing conflict?

Village street near Moscow, November 1941 (from here)

Since the Vietnam War, “quagmire” is the term of choice use to describe seemingly pointless wars that drag on endlessly. This article, Quagmire theory, credits David Halberstam and Arthur Schlesinger for the term.

According to the quagmire theory as described by Schlesinger, the quagmire metaphor represented the one-step-at-a-time process that the United States inadvertently became entrapped in the military and diplomatic swamp of Vietnam. Schlesinger detailed the process of American involvement in a war that was not really in the American interest and as a result of inadvertent decision making and false hope. (from here)

Patience is not a virtue we associate with instant everything America, but seemingly endless conflicts are nothing new.  History records the Hundred Years’ War and the especially bloody Thirty Years’ War. What is new is expecting an instant fix. Still, I did a double take when I first saw the title of these two posts at Finding Political Sanity. How was Doug going to blame President Donald Trump for getting us into a quagmire?

Fortunately, Doug did not do that. Instead, Doug railed against what he calls nonsense wars. Was Doug right to call them nonsense wars? Consider his observation.

Sun Tsu’s Art of War suggests….

In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. (from here)

Wehrmacht soldiers pulling car from the mud, November 1941 (from here)

Here at this post, A Sensible View On America’s Role In Wars, John Liming summarizes what he finds agreeable in Doug‘s first post. Hopefully, will add a few more words about Doug‘s second post.

So what do I think of Doug‘s posts? Well, I think that Doug misapplied Sun Tsu’s maxim. We got the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan over with fairly quickly. I also think we sometimes forget the limits of government and military power.

Consider Peacekeepers and Peacemakers by insanitybytes22. ‘s post has nothing to do with government, but it does explain the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. What wants us to observe is that whereas the peacekeeper focuses upon maintaining a semblance of order and stability, the peacemaker delves into the underlying conflicts and hatreds that threaten the peace. Thus, peacekeeping, until unresolved conflicts erupt into war, seems relatively easy, and peacemaking, because delving into and trying to cleanse old wounds is hurtful, seems quite difficult.

Sun Tsu’s maxim applies to peacekeeping.  If we want the actual fighting to produce minimal damage, then we need to destroy the enemy’s capacity to fight as quickly as possible. Peacemaking, however, takes time. Because peacemaking depends softening the hardness of our hearts, it takes whatever time it takes.

Oddly, peacemaking requires a much greater investment than making war. If nothing else, we must give peacemaking more thought than we would give to warfare. Before we make the investment, we need to answer at least four questions.

  • Is the investment in the national interest? Just because we want peace does not mean we have a vital national interest in committing national resources to resolve some conflict in some obscure corner of the world.
  • Do we have a viable strategy to achieve peace? When we cannot (or will not because of a bad plan) accomplish anything useful, what is the point of spending our blood and fortune?
  • Are we willing to pay the cost? Consider that we have had to keep military forces in Germany and Japan for decades. Unless, the American public is largely unified on the objective, there is no point in starting a peacemaking effort.
  • Can we sustain the will to pay the cost? What is our track record? The American spirit may be willing, but is the American flesh too weak?
Wehrmacht horse carriage sunk in deep mud in Kursk Oblast, March–April 1942 (from here)

After World War II, The Greatest Generation set about the reconstruction of the nations of Germany and Japan. Because of the war, Germany and Japan were exhausted, and little of value was left standing. Hence, the Allies had a choice. Help their enemies or water the seeds their hatred. The Allies chose to help their enemies rebuild. This effort, immediately following  the total war that was World War II, was their greatest accomplishment.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, we have tried something similar. Unlike Germany and Japan, it seems our enemies are willing to engage in guerrilla warfare, and it seems we have not had the will to pay the cost. We have not even engaged in a serious national debate. Who is the enemy? What is the nature of this enemy? What will be the consequence if we lose this conflict? Instead, our leaders and the news media have cloaked the issues involved with a fog of political correctness. Therefore, we have committed our military forces to conflicts in foreign nations without truly identifying the nature of the enemy. How can we defeat an enemy we are unwilling to identify? How can we achieve peace if we are willing to put up with the practice of an ideology that is overtly hostile to us? What is our definition of peace? If we are unwilling to define peace, how can we be peacemakers?

15 thoughts on “THE “QUAGMIRE” IS PART OF THAT STRUGGLE WE CALL LIFE

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  1. So many good questions and far too many answers…..a quick answer is to make peace more profitable than war….a virtual impossibility and until we have people that think peace is more preferable than war…,none of the questions have an answer. Have a good day….chuq

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    1. Far too many answers? Perhaps.

      I can’t say you are wrong about the virtual impossibility of peace. I can only say we each have an obligation to work for peace.

      The Declaration of Independence states the purpose of government. If we accept as self evident the facts that all men are created equal and have God-given inalienable rights, then we don’t have an excuse for making war on others except to protect our own rights. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way, not even all the folks who call themselves Christians. Yet at one time there were plenty of Americans willing to sign their names to that declaration. I just wonder how controversial it would be today.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree totally…..the DoI would be a helluva fight if it were written today….too much special interests that are always fighting for dominance…Peace should always be the ultimate goal but that dream has passed and it is sad that it has…..chuq

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said,Tom. I’ve never felt right about sending troops on peacekeeping missions,because that’s so incoherent. We send them places where there is no peace and charge them with keeping what is non existent?

    The last time congress formally declared war was during WW2. There was a clear mission, peaceMAKING, an aligned country,an extensive war effort on the civilian side,and politicians who had to sign their name on the doted line,accepting full accountability for what they had agreed to.

    Since WW2, all wars have been policing actions,peacekeeping missions, coming from a deeply divided country, often protesting the actions. Don’t even get me started about all the congresscritters who have waffled,claiming to have not known what they were voting for, or to have abstained from voting at all. IMO,a total lack of personal responsibility. In our Constitution,congress is charged with declaring war,not the president or the voters or anyone else,but congress. For many decades now, they have just slinked around their responsibility,claiming credit if it goes well,denying they ever supported it if it doesn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peacekeeping missions have their place. Sometimes the best we can do is to just stop fighting. Still, there is no point in sending peacekeepers into a war zone without sufficient authority and capacity to kill and destroy any who break the peace..

      Congress could easily have been more specific when it authorized Bush to go to war with Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, many of the people we elect lack much that is to be desired in a good leader. I expect the problem is that much is also lacking in the people who keep voting for such leaders.

      When Congress funds a war effort, they have essentially approved of it. But they abhor taking responsibility. When a Congressmen spending most of his time avoiding responsibility, what is the point of voting for him. A rock can refuse responsibility.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very good definition, you mention, regarding the roles being peacekeepers and/or peacemakers. That’s what our role is in the world, if we choose to continue to accept that. But I feel our policy problems arise when the use of “blunt force diplomacy” (the military) is not properly coordinated with those that follow to assure that peace is maintained. But whether we are in peacemaker role or peacekeeper role it’s going to cost American (and Allied, since we tend to prefer “coalitions”) lives. Also… as you and I both suggested, since Vietnam the best way to fight America anywhere is a guerrilla war in urban areas. We are NOT in that frame of mind even now. Our military is not set for urban combat (in many ways, not to go into here).. and our political “nation building” role is absolutely fragmented.

    Thanks for recognizing my posts, Tom. Not everything has to be about Trump World alone. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The headache with Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan is that we allowed external powers to foment and supply a guerrilla war. Unless we are willing to make those who are willing to supply guerrilla pay a high penalty for such interference, they can easily make our lives miserable.

      Like

  4. The best way to make the peace is to destroy the enemy when at war.

    The best way to keep the peace is to instill in the enemy images of total annihilation, when not at war.

    Since war is totally craziness, I don’t think it is a good analogy for peace making and peace keeping among brethren in civil society.

    Liked by 1 person

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