Sensing on intentional lethality

Why not use tear gas in Fallujah?

One Hand Clapping:

The cruel, hard fact is that we and our Iraqi allies are giving battle to the insurgents to kill them, not take them prisoner. It is their destruction, not their surrender, we are trying to accomplish. Certainly any of them who offer surrender, and some have, will be accepted and they’ll be treated humanely. But we didn’t begin the offensive for that purpose.

The intentional lethality of making war is a very common misperception among people of the comfortable classes such as Mrs. Joel – for example, the graduate students I had dinner with one night just after the air campaign began against the Afghan Taliban. They apparently thought that our bombing was a form of posturing, a symbolic display, intended to yield psychological, not lethal, effects on the enemy.

One guest said that the bombing “wouldn’t intimidate” the Taliban.

“We’re not trying to intimidate them,” I said.

“Then why are we bombing them?” came the question.

“To kill them,” I answered. There was a long silence at the table. The concept seemed not to have occurred to them.

This isn’t the first time Rev. Sensing has brought up this conversation. The fact that it keeps coming up is troubling to me.

We are fighting a war. I know that some want to pretend that we’re not, but all the evidence from the past 10 years (at the very least…) indicates otherwise.

We cannot try to intimidate the extremist into submission. Shock and awe certainly has it’s place on the battlefield, but its effectiveness against the hardened foreign fighters in places like Fallujah would be just about nil, while we would certainly wipe out large numbers of civilians. This is the hope of the jihadist, and it is a temptation that we must not give into.

So we cannot tear gas them into submission. And we cannot carpet bomb them into submission. The remaining alternatives?

Send in the foot soldiers. Maybe quietly and carefully, like we saw in Fallujah last spring and more recently in Najaf. Maybe not so quietly, like we’ve seen over the past week. But in they must go.

We will never kill all the insurgents. But we can make it harder and more expensive for them to do business. Sometimes that takes a civil affairs project. Sometimes all it takes is a truckload of food and medicine.

And sometimes it takes six infantry battalions.