Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bombing Civilians

Watching the Bill Moyers Journal last evening was a scary proposition. The subject: bombing civilians, and why that never, ever works. The bombing campaign at issue is the Afghan-Pakistan border, where our President has apparently authorized continued bombing of “terrorist” hideouts in that wild region not governed by anyone, except maybe the Taliban. The point of the discussion was that, all the evidence we have, dating back at least to WW I, is that bombing of civilians never works to bring the civilian population to its knees. Specifically, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, when the Nazis were busily bombing London and other major population centers in England, that “we will fight them >>> everywhere” suggests that not every population could be cowed by heavy bombing. Churchill, in fact, failed to heed his own admonition, by ordering the same type of heavy bombardment of German cities.

President Johnson ordered continuous bombing of North Vietnam population centers, on McNamara’s recommendation. That resulted, eventually, in America being discharged from the Vietnamese peninsula, returning home with its tail between its legs, but not before we lost some 50,000 brave young men and women.

In the Middle East, our bombing campaigns seem to have actually expanded the roster of Islamic “terrorists” willing to blow themselves up in order to kill Americans and their allies. Whole organizations now exist that never existed before we intervened—Qaida in Iraq, Taliban in Pakistan are newbies, thanks to our campaigns.

But what gave me the greatest pause was the thought that President Obama is now committing himself, and us by the way, to an expansion of a war in Afghanistan and maybe Pakistan, that we cannot win-- Vietnam Redux. We are talking 60,000 more troops. The Soviets had three times that many and were summarily dismissed from Afghanistan. We seem to be embarking on a redo of Vietnam, only this time under Obama’s watch. I think he’s too smart for that, but he may be too smart by half. Sometimes, smart people cannot believe that they will fail to succeed where others have indeed failed.  We are being sucked into this spider web, and we may soon be unable to extricate ourselves. Given that we have a few other problems, like a collapsed global economy, it seems sensible to me that we might reconsider our course of action.

Maybe it is time for President Obama to call a halt to military actions in that region and call for some kind of global discussion on what it is we are trying to accomplish, and whether that goal is achievable. Maybe, we need to go beyond our current crop of military advisers to being in some fresh brains, i.e., brains not already corrupted by the Bush doctrines.

Couldn’t hurt.

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