Some Thoughts on Total War
Is the mass destruction of civilian populations ever justified? I wish I could say that it is not. But, I am afraid that if the world allows militant Islam to continue to expand and experience perceived successes, we may find outselves in a seemingly never ending struggle with a decentralized, violent, uncompromising enemy. The non-militants Muslims will either be frightened into silence, or maybe quietly and waiting on the sidelines hoping for their more violent brethren to succeed. We must defeat them...totally. We must make them suffer. Not out of revenge or a desire to make them suffer. We must hurt them so that they learn that they were mistaken. If they can keep attacking us and suffer minimal casualties, they will never have incentive to change.
The First World War was not fought to total victory. When the winter of 1918 arrived, the German military was in headlong retreat. The German government realized that if the war continued in the spring, their armies would be driven back and destroyed. Then Germany would be occupied and at the mercy of the Allies. To prevent this, they negotiated an end to the war. The Allies imposed punitive terms on the Germans, but they were spared to horror of total defeat. The result? The German population came to believe that they had really not lost the war...that they had been betrayed by the politicians. They felt wronged and they wanted revenge. Adolph Hitler was able to build on these feelings of betrayal and outrage and lead his country to war two decades later.
During the Second World War, the Allies did not stop until their enemies were totally defeated. Civilian targets were legitimate because the destruction of the civilian infrastructure was seen as a means of destroying the enemy's ability to resupply their war machine and continue fighting. However, it also served the purpose of making the populations of the defeated powers (which had been deluded by the NAZI fascists and the Japanese military government) realize that their visions of glory were wrong. The German and Japanese civilian populations of the 1940s probably would not have reassessed their values and become the progressive, representative and (essentially peaceful) countries that they are today without the devastating losses they suffered in the 1940s.
So, what are we to make of the Middle East and the global hot spots? We no longer allow wars to be fought to the bitter end. When one side starts to lose badly, the UN (or some other entity) steps in and negotiates an end to hostilities. The result? The losing government (and the subject people) don't bear the full weight of their defeat...they can rationalize away their loss (just as the Germans did after their loss in the First World War).
There is an old episode of classic STAR TREK named "A Taste of Armaggedon." In that episode, Kirk and the Enterprise find two planets at war. The battles are fought by computer, but the casualties are real (if the computer indicates that you are a fatality, you have to report to a termination center). Kirk destroys this system and explains that it was immoral. If you sanitize war....if you make it less painful and less dreadful, then you make it more likely that you will HAVE war.
Thus, our modern age of limited war allows aggressive regimes like Iraq, Iran, and the others (think of all those warlike states in Africa) to consider war as a viable option. If it goes bad...well...the UN will step in before they are totally conquered. Hence, we get more war and more suffering.
Thus, it may be necessary for the US and the western world to end this era of limited war. If someone wants to make war on us, we will fight with every weapon at our disposal and we will not stop fighting until the enemy is totally destroyed. The opposition population must suffer horribly as a lesson so that other countries won't want to repeat that mistake.
War must be horrible. War must be the ultimate nightmare. Countries must realize that they cannot be hostile and aggressive without facing their own destruction. The militant Islamists must not be permited to feel that they can attack us with impunity.