Tuesday, July 06, 2004

On the way: The Cowards' Approach to War

For over a year now, the media and the leftists have demanded for the Bush administration to voice an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many on the right, sans media, have wondered about the exit strategy from Bosnia for years.

What is our exit strategy from the Korean conflict? Did Truman ever voice one?

What is our exit strategy from our bout with the Axis powers of Germany and Japan? Surely FDR announced an exit strategy to the American public in World War Part Deux.

Well, yes, he did. Speaking almost a year before Pearl Harbor, FDR spoke of "no end save victory" in the defense of liberty and freedom. This is how he led the American and Allied efforts in WWII, demanding the unconditional surrender of the Axis countries of Germany, Italy and Japan. He did not fight for a stalemate. He did not settle for a return to pre-war boundaries. He fought to win.

It is my belief that the very concept of exit strategy is a self-defeating idea. To have any strategy other than victory as the objective is a mistake. A stated and accomplished list of milestones may insure a “peace with honor,” but it in no way guarantees a desired outcome in the long term. War is not the end-all be-all solution to the world’s problems; however, when war must be waged, it must be waged to win. American lives should not be tossed aside for the sake of a tie or, worse yet, an honorable defeat when victory could have been attained had we, as a people, had the stomach for it.

I have been unable to find any military or political usage of the phrase "exit strategy" prior to the Viet Nam War. Certainly, this is the conflict that popularized the term.

Stated bluntly, exit strategy is a planned way of disengaging short of victory. Contingency planning in the event of defeat is needed and understandable; planning a withdrawal, based on milestones and dates decided by political needs and not long-term requirements, without defeat but before victory is achieved is indefensible. And yet, this is just what has been demanded by the media during practically every American military involvement of the last thirty years.

Yes, in the short term, this does have the effect of reducing casualties within a given conflict. Unfortunately, it serves to set the stage for greater loss of life in the next conflict. It is the cowards’ way of waging war, deferring the losses to those fighting later.


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