Sunday, July 26, 2009

Triumph of the Will

Catchy title.

About some German grunt who survived on the Western Front for the whole war having his regiment shot to smithereens several times. Had an uncanny ability to be somewhere else when incoming artillery hit where he had been. Earned an Iron Cross, he did. Name of Hitler, Adolf. He wrote a book about his battle. Mein Kampf.

Later elevated himself to Chancellor of Germany, then took the title of Fuhrer. His own military tried to kill him over forty times. His battle sense saved him far too many times as he took his beloved country into a defeat so devastating to rival the fall of Carthage. And at the end, he blamed Germany for having failed him as he killed himself, his wife, and his dog.

Despite clear evidence that Hitler would never negotiate, the Allies built strategies around unfounded assumptions that by destroying key industrial and military facilities and capabilities, Hitler would negotiate. His generals would have, and let the Allies know that they would. The Allies never took that seriously and suffered the division of Europe between the Soviet Union and an American led West. Hitler’s sense of his Fate was that death was preferable than a loss of Face.

Later Khruschev blinked in the Cuban Crisis and the world was led away from a nuclear holocaust. This time it appeared that despite long preparations for nuclear war between the US and the USSR, cooler minds prevailed. In this case, there was more to lose than gain by fighting. It was a clear instance where the Fate was too great to bear to save Face.

Then there war Vietnam, in which the loss of Face to the North Vietnamese by battle losses was of no concern so long as they stuck to their perceived Fate as the winners in their conquest of Vietnam. In the end, it was the Americans who lost Face, and Hanoi’s victory was a huge Face saver.

Desert Storm was a limited objective war, in which Saddam had an opportunity to postpone his ultimate Fate, and in part save Face by crushing the Shi’a after the cease fire with the Coalition. And keep his Fame and Fortune for a decade more.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam was willing to negotiate, but we would have none of it. We assumed that removing Saddam would cause the Iraqi people to adopt American Neo-Conservatism as the salvation from the errors and shortcomings of Iraqi culture…all five thousand years of it, going back before the Bronze Age. Let alone the glory days of the Caliphate, once the pinnacle of human civilization rivaled only in China (maybe). That, despite good intentions, was a slap in the Face.

Despite Neo-Conservative confusion between secular Arabs like Saddam and religious zealots such as Al Qaeda, a modernized version of the Crusade era Hashashashin (deep cover Assassins) which had also operated from bases in the mountains. Like the Hasashashin, Al Qaeda soldiers (aka terrorists) would sacrifice their lives to take out a target.

Now it takes a real genius to assume that Suicide Bombers would be intimidated by Shock and Awe. There’s a case where the enemy’s Face (and that of relatives and compatriots) is enhanced by accepting death as his Fate. It is very hard to terrify a suicidal terrorist.

In order to defuse the bomber, it is necessary to prove that saving Face can be done with a less explosive Fate. Discounting those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is counter-productive. Likewise it is counter-productive for infidels to call the faithful, Islamo-Fascists. Besides being a mushy mouthful, it’s about as accurate as calling a Texan a “damnyankee”.

Before fusing the ordnance, one should find where the “line” is that pulls the trigger, what really pisses them off and where the buttons are that open doors and discussions. It is a matter of a Fate which saves Face, with a touch of Fame and Fortune.

Gordon S Fowkes

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