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?
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?
- Here’s Your Choice… Total War Or Quagmire. You Decide. – PART 1
- Here’s Your Choice… Total War Or Quagmire. You Decide. – PART 2
Sun Tsu’s Art of War suggests….
In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns. (from here)
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?
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?