Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Islamic way of war? no way















Jim Henley has a very interesting discussion of Andrew Bacevich's piece in the American Conservative,
The Islamic Way of War. I usually agree with Bacevich but I have a feeling that this time he did exactly what I accuse the "other side" of doing, that is, inventing a b-s driven grand theory as part of an effort to advance a certain policy agenda. I've been opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, to the Israeli bombimg of Lebanon and support U.S. engagement with Iran but not because something called "the Islamic way of war" is winning, or as Bacevich puts it:
the East has solved the riddle of the Western Way of War. In Baghdad and in Anbar Province as at various points on Israel’s troubled perimeter, the message is clear: methods that once could be counted on to deliver swift decision no longer work.

Yes, some Moslem militaries are actually quite good -- the Turkish, the Pakistani, the Jordanian -- mostly thanks to training by Western (British) advisors and the adoption of Western military "way of war." Is Bacevich seriously arguing that the militaries of Egypt or Morocco or Algeria or Iran would defeat the U.S. military on the battlefield IF the U.S. decided to use the same level of military force that it used in WWII to defeat Germany or Japan? My guess is that Israel could probably re-occupy Sinai and parts of Syria in another war and could hold to these unpopulated territories. I'm also not sure that launching missiles into Israel is an "Islamic way of war." In fact, while we can debate whether a Western power can defeat a national (or religious or ethnic or tribal) insurgency, I have strong doubts that there is anything "Islamic" about guerrilla wars or even about suicide bombing: the Tamils in Sri Lanka are not Moslem and in Turkey Moslem Kurdish insurgents are fighting Moslem Turkish military. What the Palestinian intifadah and the Iraq insurgeny demonstrates is that occuppying powers make cost-effective analysis and come to the conclusion that the costs of maintaining the occupation are higher that any benefits (and in democracies public debate helps us to arrive at that conclusion sooner than later). But if anything, Algeria and the Boer war and Malaya (and I won't mention what happened to the native Americans) demonstrate that a powerful military can defeat an insurgency if the government involved has the power and the will to do that. I can go on and on but my main point is the following: Attempting to maintain military hegemony in the Middle East is not in U.S. interests and runs contrary to American values and that would be the case even if the majority of Iraqis would have welcomed U.S. troops with flowers. And Israel's long-term interest lies in making peace with its Arab neighbors and ending its occupation of the Palestinians even if Israel would have been able to maintain its military supremacy for ever and its control of the West Bank and Gaza with minimum costs.