2007/07/17

War or not war? Victory or defeat?

One of the most important reasons to wage war is that people expect to win.
Well, history tells us that losing a war is statistically at least as likely as to win it, but statistics cannot reveal the true horror.

Even many victories are questionable.

So, how shall we decide whether a conflict was won or lost?
The most basic condition that needs to be fulfilled is that a won war actually improved the situation for the country that "won" it in comparison to a "defeat" or no war at all.

Well, this is remarkably difficult to fulfill. Philosophy still doesn't provide us the tools to weight variables like killed citizens, wounded citizens, money, resources other than money, influence, fame and prestige. As every war that's claimed to be "won" included both losses and gains, it's probably impossible to claim victory at all based on math. But perceptions alone as measure for victory or defeat don't help either as everyone is thoroughly manipulated in his perceptions at the end of a war.

Anyway, it cannot hold up to serious thinking that some people claim that victory or not is simply decided by mission accomplishment. To accomplish a mission doesn't tell much, as missions almost never include comprehensive cost limits.

It's certainly no victory to accomplish a small mission that benefits the own country only marginally at costs of several thousand own KIA and several ten thousand own WIA as well as some hundred billion dollars expenditure.

It seems as if the choice of war and peace isn't usually done based on hard facts in the west, but rather on the limits of public opinion (with incorporated fading memories of past bad experiences) and not really understandable decision finding mechanics inside of the governments. There's no reason to trust that civilian politicians were more often than not competent enough to anticipate how a military mission would look like or to anticipate the costs both for individuals and for the national budget.

It's about time to develop a better system to determine whether possible missions are worth the losses and whether wars should be waged although they're often avoidable. The Powell-Weinberger doctrine for example doesn't include the costs - it merely attempts to avoid them by allowing only short wars with such overwhelming power that a military defeat seems impossible. It's a doctrine that wouldn't have allowed to stop Hitler - and that alone suffices to disqualify it.

We also need doctrines that help us to determine when a war is unlikely to end in a victory and the war should be ended. Delaying defeat has never served any country in history.

We truly need to improve our political culture concerning the decision of "War or not (any more)?". It's too important, we cannot be satisfied with the performance of our politicians so far.

S O

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