What would the commentariat say about a hyperpower that put an end to the insurgencies in the most brutal and final way, never mind the collateral damage? And would that commentariat welcome the same sort of governmental ruthlessness, if applied to sharing the wealth or rebuilding the roads or making the trucking and airline companies pay more for their roads and airports, or imposing party discipline on the Congress?Jim Lacey takes the occasion of the removal of the last U.S. tanks from Germany to elaborate.
It is worth noting that our problems crushing insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan were not a result of insufficient American power to do the job. Rather, they were the consequences of that almost uniquely American trait of rarely using all the power at our disposal. First off, we fought both wars with only a fraction of our latent power. More importantly, we fought them in a manner that few armies have ever shown a willingness to do.I'm intrigued, though, by a passage in the essay in which President Lincoln secures the withdrawal of French forces from Maximilian's Mexico with a warning that Grant and some of the Army of the Potomac might be headed that way. President Lincoln lived only a week beyond Lee's surrender, and Johnston's surrender to Sherman happened after that. Must. Conduct. Further. Research.
There is a formula for winning against insurgents. It is harsh, brutal, and often immoral. For examples, look at how civilized countries conducted earlier wars — how Britain won the Boer War, or how Belgium crushed rebels in the Congo, or what France attempted in Algeria. America eschewed those methods in favor of treating the population humanely, rebuilding nations and societies, and doing everything possible to keep our military power squarely focused on armed enemies. Were mistakes made? Yes; war is never as clean, as simple, or as antiseptic as we would like. Still, when the final histories of our involvement in the Middle East are written I am certain they will demonstrate levels of restraint and morality no other power would have troubled itself with.
In this brief interlude, while the United States remains a global hyperpower, no one in the world goes to bed fearful that America will misuse its power to dictate to other nations. More often the opposite is true. We live in a world where small pariah regimes (North Korea, Iran) feel free to continuously threaten the global peace, sure in the knowledge that our ire is slow to rise.