Thursday, March 13, 2003

On War and France
I've noticed quite often in criticism offered by anti-war types that America has turned war into a "video game". That we fight in such a way as to prevent having to put substantial numbers of US soldiers in harms way. This is bizarre criticism in that it blames us for fighting wars in the manner that guarantees our success. War is won by limiting your side's casualties while maximizing your enemy's. And 'casualties' does not explicitly mean killed and/or wounded. It also means destroying your enemy's will to fight. Indeed, battlefield surrender by the enemy is as effective as having to fight them because it further erodes the will to fight and reduces from action the threat faced.

Because the US has maximized methods and tactics that preserve its own will to fight while being able to quickly dissolve the enemy's will to fight, it ensures military success with few US casualties. This is important because for many in the anti-war camp, this threshold of relative wartime safety is in fact criminal. To those pacifists and others against US military force, they abhor the fact that the US is able to fight wars that bear little blood cost for itself. Historically, they saw the US get beaten up during Vietnam and believed this was a good thing because it spawned a period of national soul-searching. It is not by coincidence that current anti-war marches delve deep to mimic and exhume that same sense of self-loathing and self-doubt and furthermore, to put it on display - what with all the messages about racist and imperial motives the US is guided by regarding Iraq. To these people, the last thing they want to see is the US military come out again relatively unscathed and unbloodied as it has in the past few recent conflicts. They believe that so long as we remain bloodless in our fights, the more often we will fight when looking to solve international crisis.

This is truly important to realize, for its the same underlying reason that drives French obstructionism. France, as one of the leading powers of the European Union, envisions for itself and for the EU in general as a counterweight to the US. A counterweight in the economic sphere, in the trading sphere, and in the foreign policy sphere. So long as the US remains emboldened economically and militarily, France will always remain in the shadows as an also-ran. This is tremendously humiliating to the former world (and imperial) power. France prides itself on the strength of its culture, its history, and its worldview. It is specific in its attempts to thwart the US hyperpower (a word coined by a French politician to describe the US). France knows that it cannot compete with the US economically or diplomatically by itself. Hence, it must use collective instruments to size up and confront the US where it can - either through the development of a EU economic/political entity, through the UN Security Council assisted by its granted veto power, or by additional trans-national treaties and binding policies such as Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming, and the International Criminal Court for example. For France, many of these instruments can be used for dual effect - to build up its own global influence while at the same time attempt to handcuff US power and influence (economic & military).

And yet, the French action regarding the Iraq issue exposes perhaps a more nefarious attempt to check American power. For while France continues to obstruct, France buys more time for Saddam to prepare for the coming US invasion. This means more time to place troops and defensive perimeters, weapons systems and contingencies. Time for Saddam means more time to prepare defenses and offenses which means a greater chance that US forces will be killed when the fighting starts. And that's precisely what France wants to see happen. They want the costs of fighting Iraq to be greater for the US than what the US plans or intends. They want the US to be beaten up while doing this. They want the US to be bloodied because if it does get bloodied then maybe that touches off another round of national soul-searching in America, just like it did after Vietnam. For France, this is desired because in their calculation a bloodied US will be far more reluctant to pursue military recourse in the future. It will be weakened, it will be hobbled, and it will be far less likely to act as the 'hyperpower'. A chastened and humbled US elevates France and to an equal extent its pet project the EU. To that effect, all that is required is for France's (and Jacques Chirac's) longtime friend Saddam Hussein to do his part militarily against the US. And to help buy as much time for Saddam to strengthen, France does its part by continuing to obstruct.

Is this the behavior you expect from an "ally"?


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