Op-eds now more central in war than bullets

Jewish World Review Daniel Pipes October 18, 2006

Soldiers, sailors, and airmen once determined the outcome of warfare, but no longer. Today, television producers, columnists, preachers, and politicians have the pivotal role in deciding how well the West fights. This shift has deep implications.

In a conventional conflict like World War II, fighting had two premises so basic, they went nearly unnoticed.

The first: Conventional armed forces engage in an all-out fight for victory. The opposing sides deploy serried ranks of soldiers, lines of tanks, fleets of ships, and squadrons of aircraft. Millions of youth go to war as civilians endure privations. Strategy and intelligence matter, but the size of one’s population, economy, and arsenal count even more. An observer can assess the progress of war by keeping tabs of such objective factors as steel output, oil stocks, ship construction, and control of land.

Second assumption: Each side’s population loyally backs its national leadership. To be sure, traitors and dissidents need to be rooted out, but a wide consensus backs the rulers. This was especially noteworthy in the Soviet Union, where even Stalin’s demented mass-murdering did not stop the population from giving its all for “Mother Russia.”

Both aspects of this paradigm are now defunct in the West.

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2 thoughts on “Op-eds now more central in war than bullets”

  1. Can it be that with Iraq disintegrating into bloody mayhem and civil war, and a resurgent Taliban increasingly challenging the US installed regime in Afghanistan, Mr. Pipes actually believes the problem is insufficient public relations?

    If that’s true, than Mr. Pipes is in for a disappointment because the public increasingly view neoconservatives like himself as instigators of one of the worst foreign policy disasters in US history. The public can tell the difference between rationales for war that are justified and those that prove unfounded. The public can tell the difference between a successful prosecution of the war that leads to positive outcomes and incompetence and mismanagement at the top leading to anarchy and chaos.

    Recently the Bristish medical Journal, The Lancet, relased a study of mortality rates in Iraq suggesting that our invasion of that country had caused the deaths of over 600,000 Iraqis. The Iraqi blogger known as Riverbend writes,

    We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

    There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.

    Let’s pretend the 600,000+ number is all wrong and that the minimum is the correct number: nearly 400,000. Is that better? Prior to the war, the Bush administration kept claiming that Saddam killed 300,000 Iraqis over 24 years. After this latest report published in The Lancet, 300,000 is looking quite modest and tame.

    The United States is now responsible for killing more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein. As we somberly consider this deep stain on our nation, the suggestion by Mr. Pipes that all we need is more positive public relations seems absolutely obscene.


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