Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Notes On War

War is force.  This force is applied by the waring groups to each other. The purpose of this force is get the other group/s to act in a certain way.  Perhaps Clausewitz spelled this out best with the statement, “War is politics by other means.”

The measure of human work is money.  That may not represent the world we wish to live in, but, it is, in fact, the world we live in. It’s not a perfect metric, but its easy to figure and quantifiable, so I will use it here.

For every act in politics and thus war, there is a cost versus benefit (c/b).  This c/b must be considered in the short term and long term.

The empires which are best at accurately figuring c/b’s tend to to be best at expanding and managing their respective empires.

The method of war is to spend the least (cost) to get the most (benefit).  As I mentioned, this must be figured for both short term and long term.  These c/b ratios are the cause and sustenance of the early concept of chivalry and the modern concept of “war crimes”

The idea of “war crimes” is patently absurd.  At home, when a man kills someone because (a.) he was wearing the wrong clothes and (b.) his boss told him to, we call him gangster.  When his boss is a general, we call him a hero.  At home, if man blows up a building, he is an arsonist. On the front lines, he is a pilot.  War represents a reversal of moral code.

Empires to do not do c/b in years, they do it in centuries.  The traditions of honor and chivalry became embedded because they work.  If you plan on holding a nation within your empire, the vassal state’s success is your success.  Ideally, you would seize the nation causing as little damage to the infrastructure and production of wealth as possible because as soon as the nation is yours that’s your infrastructure.

Remember that the method of war is to accomplish the most with the least investment.  To do this, the empire must attack logistical choke points.  Logistical choke points are weak links in the chain.  It is for this reason that Allied bombers targeted ball bearing factories.  Ball bearing go in everything.  Knock out a handful of factories and it shuts down hundreds of other factories.  That’s excellent c/b.  This is also why Allied bombers targeted bridges.  Knock out a few bridges and you can isolate hundreds of square miles of terrain from effective support.  That is also excellent c/b.

You don’t kill anyone you don’t have to (ie non-combatants) because you want the beaten men to go home to their woman and make lots of babies, and plant lots of crops.  The short term benefit of killing a whole town of non-combatants will have an enormous long term cost that is usually not worth the expense.  Killing non-combatants is usually very poor c/b.

Notice I said usually.  The idea of non-combatants is logically indefensible.  It is beautiful lie and worthy to be cherished.  But like other such lies (the innocence of childhood and a caring God spring to mind) it remains a lie.  And sometimes that lie must be confronted.

Killing 100 soldiers is, by it self, a pretty pointless act, strategically.  Killing 100 factory workers who assemble 10,000 soldier’s rifles is remarkably more effective.  Sometimes the factory workers are woman, children, and your own POW’s.  If that’s the case, the c/b is not so favorable.  More consideration is needed, but sometimes, a logistical choke point controls so many resources that the enormous cost of killing cherished persons is worth it, because the benefit is perceived to be even larger.

The United States if often criticized for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Was it a ghastly act? Certainly.  But the question is not “Was the act horrible?” the question is “Was the act worse than the alternatives?”  The Emperor of Japan had sworn that every man woman and child would be armed, and that the Japanese would fight to the last person.  Our experiences with the Japanese fighting in the islands lead us to believe this was no idle threat.

The atomic bombing was done in the hope that this would break the will of the people to fight. 250,000 noncombatants were sacrificed in the hope of saving the remaining infrastructure and the remaining 70,000,000 noncombatants.  Apparently, it worked.  Japan is our ally now, so apparently, the c/b estimate was accurate.

I say all this to give historical perspective to Fabius Maximus‘ question “Should the US use terrorism to fight terror.”  Its an invalid question.  The morality of war is based purely on perspective.  I am sure that according to Al-Qaeda we have using terror for years.  To Johnny Q Public, we’ve never done it ever.

Is it right? We don’t know yet.  60 years is only about 2 or 3 generations.  It’s barely enough time to decide if we were right about Japan, though the evidence seems to say yes.  Is fighting anti-US terrorists by funding pro-US terrorists a good idea?  Personally, I say no, and use Saddam Hussein and the Taliban  as my exhibits A and B (Both had documented relationships with the CIA.)

However, despite of how I or anyone else feels about, governments, including ours, will continue to pay unsavory characters to fight unsavory characters, regardless of semantics.  Only time (in the order of decades or more) will tell us if the c/b for this a net gain or a net loss.


September 4, 2008 - Posted by | Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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