“War’s New Face” Revisited

by | Apr 19, 2003

Daniel Pipes’ recent column identifies changes to the way the West (namely, the USA and Israel) conduct war. He seems to report this factually and there is no explicit opinion on the matter, but the implication is that he doesn’t have a problem with it–and may even endorse it. He cites the following characteristics of […]

Daniel Pipes’ recent column identifies changes to the way the West (namely, the USA and Israel) conduct war. He seems to report this factually and there is no explicit opinion on the matter, but the implication is that he doesn’t have a problem with it–and may even endorse it. He cites the following characteristics of how the West conducts war now:

  • Treating the government of a country as the enemy and its people as “potential friends,” which leads to “U.S. planes winging to Afghanistan, simultaneously carrying bombs to destroy the regime and food to relieve the populace.”
  • “Western armies strive to keep down the other sides’ losses. In response, non-Western rulers sometimes inflict casualties on their own population.”
  • “The U.S. government established the precedent of paying for the rehabilitation of its former enemies.
  • “Fighting to help the other side: Traditionally, each side fought explicitly for its own interests. No longer: the coalition name for its war against Saddam Hussein is not “Operation No Nukes” or “Operation Cheap Oil” but “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Old notions of national interest would seem to be weakening.”
  • “Rooting for the other side: Nationality once defined loyalties; no longer.”

“In the aggregate, these changes amount to a transformation of warfare. In important ways, Western operations against non-Western states resemble police raids more than warfare. Western governments are the police, local tyrants are the criminals and the subject populations are the victims.”

Factually Daniels is right, and if continued it will be the downfall of America. That Dr. Pipes doesn’t seem to notice it is very disappointing. Let me elaborate on Dr. Pipe’s points:

  • The proposition that the populace of a country we are at war with are “potential friends” is false. The reality is, and we know this from history (e.g., Germany and Japan during WW2), that the majority of people are sheep: they support whoever their leaders are. They are not innocent, nor “potential friends.” They are accomplices. They would never truly value the liberty we can provide: they will only blindly accept it unless another dictator offers them something else.
  • Our fear of inflicting casualties has taught our enemies how effective it is to use human shields. Already our military cannot destroy key targets because of this. Although this only led to the deaths of several Americans in Iraq (which is a moral crime), it is foreseeable that this kind of blackmail will result in massive American casualties one day.
  • We rebuild our enemies when they still hate us–and will make war on us again. Rebuilding Germany and Japan worked because we utterly crushed their societies and broke their will. We do not do that any more, so we continue the cycle of hatred and war against us.
  • “Old notions of national interest” has only one alternative: abject sacrifice of our national interest to others. It speaks loudly of our culture’s moral bankruptcy, of its defaulting on its right to self-defense.
  • Rooting for the other side, when our side defends values and their side seeks to destroy values, is nihilism.

Each of these bullet points have one thing in common: they share the premise that our values are to be subordinated to our enemy, that we must give the benefit of the doubt to anyone except to ourselves.

This “new face” of war is merely a consequence of America’s capitulation to altruism, to the fetish of self-sacrifice, to the betrayal of American values for the sake of its destroyers. If America doesn’t change its course, America is history. I am profoundly disappointed in Dr. Pipes’s position of either ambivalence or tacit support of this “new face” of war. What it shows is that without an integrated philosophical framework, even well meaning scholars like Dr. Pipes–whose writings I generally support–misses the big picture.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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