Obama’s clean war in Libya, the one that was won by lying to the U.N. and then dropping bombs and flying away while ragged bands of fighters whittled away what was left of the decrepit Libyan military, doesn’t look so clean anymore. The bloodless victory has seen its first blood shed as those same fighters coddled and protected by American jets and drones tore into the temporary consulate set up to liaise with the rebels, set it on fire and dragged the body of the ambassador who had helped their rebellion succeed through the streets while posing for snapshots with his corpse.
Those four dead Americans in Libya won’t be the last casualties because there is no such thing as a bloodless victory. Afghanistan and Iraq were both won with fairly light casualties through devastating displays of firepower. But what the United States is willing to do in the opening stages of a war, it is rarely willing to do once the dust has settled and its planners have drawn up flowcharts of how to get the local electricity grid back on line again. The rabble shooting off their captured machine guns know that they just have to wait a few months and then those boys in their shiny flying machines will come down to the ground, learn a few words of Arabic, smile at everyone and set themselves up to be killed in some dirty alleyway.
This is what our wars look like and it is why military cemeteries and V.A. wards are full of soldiers killed after the hostilities had officially ended. And even in a “clean war” like Libya where there was meant to be no occupation and no soldiers patrolling alleyways, there were still Americans to kill. The brave people of Benghazi, the ones whose deaths Obama told us, in the speech full of lies that he delivered in a belated defense of his illegal war, would shake the moral conscience of the world, got around to killing some of the men who were there to help them. And that too is an old story.
We came to help the Somalis only to die at their hands and not satisfied with that, we admitted record numbers of them to the United States, where they have tried to carry out their own local versions of Black Hawk Down, including the attempted bombing of the Portland Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. We came to help the Afghanis and Iraqis and the Libyans and they kill us here and there and we learn nothing from the experience.
On September 11, the latest such date, our great victory in Libya began turning to ashes because the brave Libyan people we came to liberate bravely stormed our consulate and set it on fire, and then the even braver Libyan security forces tipped off the brave Libyan people where the safe house where the staff was evacuated to was located and the more of the brave Libyan people showed up determined to kill some Americans.
Government officials are busy telling us that the mobs in Benghazi and Cairo represented only a tiny fraction of a small percentage of an extreme minority of the population and their actions are in no way representative of the brave Egyptian and Libyan peoples who love us a great deal and would happily chase after us and pose for photos with our corpses if it wasn’t for the trouble they have getting American visas.
We have spent a great deal of time hearing similar reassurances about the brave Afghan and Iraqi peoples who were also not represented by the tiny minority with the guns. In Iraq, the Sunni insurgents and the Shi’ite death squads and the Al-Qaeda splodeys were in no way representative of anyone or anything at all. And these days they’re still killing each other, after several elections, but that is still in no way representative of the people they elected to shoot each other over sectarian differences.
In Afghanistan, if the Taliban were ever to run for office in a fair and clean election, the odds are very good that they would clean the clock with the opposition as thoroughly as the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt, Al-Nahda did in Tunisia, Hamas did in the Palestinian Authority and the AKP did in Turkey. And yes, quite a few of those women with the sad eyes who sometimes appear on magazine covers, would vote for the Taliban, because once the fighting stops and they take over, there will finally be order, even if it is the order of the whip, the cage and the grave.
It is rather important that we understand what the British understood, that while the Jihadi fighters of various flavors may be bastards, some are even foreigners, they are still their bastards. We are not their bastards and no matter how much we smile, how we grow out our beards, learn Arabic and hand out candy to children, they will steel ululate and cheer when they drag our corpses out into the street. A few will feel bad, some of them will even do something about it, but it is these people who are the true tiny minority that is not representative of the country and its people.
If we truly want a bloodless victory, then we can have it, so long as we understand how that’s done and what price there will be to pay for it.
Removing a tyrant and replacing him with the organized chaos of democracy will not be bloodless, it will be quite bloody, until the dust settles, and elections or no elections, a new tyrant places his fat ass on the throne. Once the tyrant is in power, it will be possible for us to open embassies and walk the streets, it will not be absolutely safe, but the sort of people who would be tempted to drag our bodies down the street will be dissuaded because they know that their nearest and dearest will then be dragged down the street, not by us because we’re too fussy and principled to act that way, but by the secret police of the tyrant.
If we do decide to get rid of one tyrant, it would be a very good idea to have a tyrant in mind to replace him. This new tyrant will not be our friend, but he might be sufficiently frightened of us to do what we say. In Libya, we already had a tyrant like that, and we hunted him down and watched him be sodomized to death by the brave Libyan people in the name of freedom, democracy and apple pie. And then nearly a year later, the brave Libyan people were playing with our ambassador’s corpse the way that they had with their tyrant’s– because once you unleash the savages, they don’t just go back to hoeing olive trees and dragging sacks of sand through the desert. Why would they, when they can make ten times as much by enlisting in a militia and burning our consulates to the ground?
The best to win a truly bloodless victory is not to set food in the bloody county or to allow anyone from their bloody county to set food in our country. It’s called a Cordon Sanitaire and it’s one of the surest way to keep that victory bloodless, at least on our side, once we’ve leveled the appropriate portions of the country that had it coming last. But even then war is not truly bloodless, once the fighting begins, then sooner or later blood will be shed.
Our technology is quite impressive. We can send a drone from around the world to take out a car winding around a dusty track in the north of Yemen. And a mob of savages can break into our consulate, use low tech firebombs to torch it and drag the body of an ambassador who died of smoke inhalation into the street and take photos of him with smartphones and then upload those photos to the internet in a fraction of a second.
That’s the problem with technocrats who imagine that technology makes things simple and clean. It doesn’t, it just makes everything happen that much faster. The same technology that has given us incredible firepower and reach has also brought the enemy and their propaganda that much closer. The society that can produce massive amounts of smartphones is also the one that produces massive amounts of bleeding hearts that pine for a bloodless victory and turn on the cause at the first drop of blood.
Technology does not make war cleaner and neither do ideals. The Chicago Progressives thought that they could fight a cleaner war by keeping the occupation out of it. They were wrong. They chose to use locals to guard a consulate that was not fortified so as not to upset or alienate the locals with a show of force. And now the Marines are coming to Libya and drones will patrol the country for Jihadist camps. Libya is becoming Iraq, just as Iraq became Afghanistan and Afghanistan became Somalia and every conflict fought against savages on civilized terms recapitulates the same terms of the same war whose lessons have still not been learned.
As the photos of the ambassador’s body showed up on the news, somewhere in the White House, fresh off the campaign trail, Obama probably rubbed his forehead, looked at the bloody mess and wondered where something as simple and clean as removing Gaddafi while letting the locals run the show had gone so wrong. The whole thing may pay off for him in the polls, an international crisis is usually good for a few points, but it will look less good when there are a few thousand US “advisers” patrolling Tripoli and trying to hold off the complete collapse of the Libyan government.
It’s not certain that this is what will happen and that is also the point– in war nothing is certain and the enemy gets a vote. War is not a story where one side determines the plot, takes the initiative and carries it through all the way from beginning to end. It is a stumbling struggle, like most real life fights, it is a clumsy exchange of vicious blows, many of which never land, but some of which do to surprising effect. Violence is not predictable, but sometimes it is necessary, and when it is necessary, it is best to do it swiftly and devastatingly, and then to dispense with the humanitarian gestures if your enemies have hardly gotten past the point of murdering their own daughters and are not at the cultural level to appreciate when you show up with water filtration equipment and portable generators.
Victory is rarely bloodless but it is achieved by deciding whose blood should be shed. War is the pursuit of military goals through military means. For the last two decades, the United States has doggedly pursued humanitarian goals through military means and it is no wonder that our leaders are unable to choose whose blood to shed or to understand that making that choice is what war is. That crippling imbecility is why Al Jazeera is broadcasting photos of our ambassador being dragged through the street, it is why two-thousand Americans will not be coming home from Afghanistan, but the Taliban will be in Kabul in a few more years, and why we won Iraq and then lost Iraq, as we have won and lost every other war since the last time we fought a war as a ruthless and decisive campaign.
There are no bloodless victories, but we can choose whether to bleed our enemy or to bleed our hearts. And when our hearts bleed for the enemy, than the blood sooner or later stops being a metaphor and becomes a sticky dark red liquid on the boots of the brave Afghan people, the brave Iraqi people, the brave Libyan people or the brave Syrian people and all the other brave peoples we will set out to save from the hells they make for themselves.
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