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War is War is More Stimulating Talk Radio

(To read the entire "War is War” series, please click here.)

When I first told Eric C about my “war is war” series, he said I should mention that “war-is-war”-iors want to (roughly), “carpet bomb the Middle East”. I said no. Who would actually advocate that position? It is ridiculous.

Man, I hate losing arguments.

On September 11th, I was listening to Wayne Resnick on the local LA area conservative talk radio station KFI AM 640, home of “more stimulating talk radio”. Wayne Resnick was arguing exactly what I said “war-is-war”-iors would never advocate: bombing the Middle East.

Resnick summed up American policy thusly, “We put up with too much stuff.” We--America--don’t “have to put up with people who want to kill us.” After his commercial break, he promised to ask the question, tactically speaking, whether, after 9/11, we should have gone and “bomb[ed] Afghanistan out of existence.” Specifically, he used the intentionally incendiary phrase, “carpet bombing”. He continued, “There is some tactical precedence for this, Nagasaki, Hiroshima.” To the naysayers who say, it “will play into the reasons they hate us,” he parries with, “Is it really going to make the situation worse?” (Download the podcast on iTunes--search Wayne Resnick, date September 11th--if you want the full story. It’s about thirty minutes in.)

I want to answer the question he never really answered: if we had pursued a “war is war” approach to the post-9/11 world--i.e. bombing civilians--would it have made us safer? (I will ignore his Army lexicon misuse of strategy versus tactics; we all know what he meant.)

So let’s assume--days after 9/11--the U.S. had decided to carpet bomb Afghanistan from one end to the other. As Resnick said, "we don’t put up with stuff anymore". So day after day, U.S. bombers would wipe out village after village. I mean, if we wanted to, we could have announced that we were trimming our nuclear arsenal by a hundred bombs and used those too. Perhaps we put boots on the ground, I don’t know what point they would serve, short of sighting the remaining targets to destroy. Again, Resnick uses the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, meaning deliberately targeting civilians and population centers. Those are his terms. After hundreds of thousands, more likely millions, of deaths we would eventually stop. (I guess the civilians would desperately beg for peace.)

At this point, we would have pacified Afghanistan. The rest of the Arab world probably fears American might too. As Resnick points out, the Islamic world already hates us, we might as well embrace it. If I were a betting man, though, following America’s genocidal civilian bombing campaign, I believe Americans anywhere in the world would be deliberate targets. Terrorism would sky rocket. (Unlike what happened after 9/11; terror attacks against Americans in the last decade have been exceedingly rare and primarily the products of “lone wolves”.)

Then comes the OPEC oil embargo. Sure, they would lose a ton of money, but China would pick up the slack, eventually. So oil prices in the U.S., at the least, would skyrocket. Saudi Arabia just wouldn’t “put up with” bombing Muslim civilians. Now the U.S. might need to carpet bomb OPEC nations to get the oil flowing again, but that might not work, and it could destroy the means of oil production in the first place.

The European Union would contemplate an economic embargo as well. Same with Canada and its oil. At this point, the U.S. could try to bomb those countries into submission, but that probably wouldn’t work either. Remember, Europe and Canada don’t want to see millions of people slaughtered in retaliation for 9/11. They would have to respond, economics be damned. Their peoples would demand it. They just would not “put up” with it.

Oh, and remember, most Americans don’t want to see millions of people massacred, as I wrote here. At least a third to half the country would vigorously condemn the mass murder of innocent Afghans who literally couldn’t find America on a map and had never met Osama bin Laden. Many Americans just wouldn’t see those deaths as justified. Wayne Resnick sees them as responsible because they lived in Afghanistan. How many share his belief?

Back to the real world. The war in Afghanistan was probably the right response to 9/11. Maybe some tweaks, maybe some more focus on the long term, but generally the right response. What Mr. Resnick missed is that the U.S. “putting up with stuff” is a good thing. Otherwise we are tyrants. We aren’t, we are leaders who have force and persuasion at their disposal. Like all great leaders--including mafia bosses--persuasion is superior to force. (The Don Corleone approach to the Sonny Corleone approach.)

An even better thought is that “we put up with stuff” because of all the global constraints on war. The liberal perspective on international relations says that as the world gets more inter-connected, and as global institutions tie the world together, the more infrequent war will be. The UN, NATO, the World Bank, the G-20 G-7, G-8, G-infinity, the IMF, NGOs, ASEAN, OAS and other international bodies help prevent war. We “put up with stuff” to gain the benefits of an inter-connected world, an inter-connected world without generational wars that cost and slaughter millions.

Despite common misconceptions, the number and intensity of war has decreased dramatically since 1900, and even greater since 1950. That’s a good thing.

three comments

That story from the beginning is true. I told Michael we should write about that, he said no, then it happened. Crazy.

Eric the Soothsayer. That has a nice ring to it.

No it doesn’t.

And I had heard this type of talk for a long while. It just doesn’t get seriously put into writing. But podcast-audio counts as official.