Fallujah and the Moral Level of War
In recent weeks, the indirect approach the Marines adopted in April in Fallujah, when they withdrew instead of storming the city, began to pay off. A reduction of American pressure allowed fissures within the Iraqi resistance to appear and grow. Fallujah natives were beginning to turn against outsiders, most of whom represent extreme Islamism, America’s real enemy. Such splits are of the utmost importance in Fourth Generation war, because they operate at war’s most powerful level, the moral level. There is a vast moral difference between us killing fighters for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Fallujah and the locals doing so.
If American military leaders understood Fourth Generation war, they would slowly, patiently encourage the local Iraqi resistance to go after the outsiders, providing rewards and even assistance, if that was wanted (all done covertly, of course). The first genuine American victory in Iraq would be the day the local resistance asked for our (again, covert) help.
Unfortunately, our leaders do not understand the Fourth Generation, so it appears we are about to throw this opportunity away. We continue to bomb and shell Fallujah, which pushes our enemies toward each other. We seem to be readying an all-out assault on the city, which will have the usual result when Goliath defeats David: a moral defeat for Goliath. Many Iraqis will die, the city will be wrecked (as always, we will promise to rebuild it but not do so), and any losses the insurgents suffer will be made up many times over by a flood of new recruits. Never was it more truly said that, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Our nightly bombing of Fallujah illustrates another important point about 4GW: to call it "terrorism" is a misnomer. In fact, terrorism is merely a technique, and we use it too when we think it will benefit us. In Madam Albright’s boutique war on Serbia, when the bombing campaign against the Serbian Army in Kosovo failed, we resorted to terror bombing of civilian targets in Serbia proper. Now, we are using terror bombing on Fallujah.
Of course, we claim we are hitting only Mr. al-Zarqawi’s fighters, but anyone who knows ordinance knows that is a lie. The 500, 1000 and 2000-pound bombs we drop have bursting radii that guarantee civilian casualties in an urban environment. More, it appears we see those civilian casualties as useful.
The October 12 New York Times offered this interesting quote from "one Pentagon official:"
If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the local as some point have to make a decisionDo they want to harbor the insurgents and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the insurgents and have the benefit of not having them there?
As the article goes on to make clear, American officials believe such terror bombing will split the resistance. In fact, the whole history of air warfare says it will have the opposite effect.
The point here is not merely that in using terrorism ourselves, we are doing something bad. The point is that, by using the word "terrorism" as a synonym for anything our enemies do, while defining anything we do as legitimate acts of war, we undermine ourselves at the moral level which, again, is the decisive level in Fourth Generation war.
Imagine if Mr. al-Zarqawi himself said the following about the suicide car bombs his group uses, bombs that have killed many Iraqi civilians:
If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision. Do they want to harbor the Americans and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the Americans and have the benefits of not having them there?
Would we denounce that as "justifying terrorism?" Of course we would and rightly so.
What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the turkey. Obvious double standards put us on the moral low ground. The rest of the world can see the hypocrisy, even if what passes for America’s "leaders" cannot. As the old saying goes, it is worse than a crime; it is a blunder.
WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation