Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again

Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again. By David Bolgiano.

Those given the awful task of combat must be able to act with the necessary savagery and purposefulness to destroy those acting as, or in direct support of, Islamic terrorists worldwide.

In 2008, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Michael Mullen said, “We can’t kill our way to victory.” Ever since, many have parroted his words.

But what if Admiral Mullen was wrong? The United States has been at war with radical Islamists four times longer than it was with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. And those previous enemies were far more competent and aggressive than the terrorists. It is time to kill a lot more of them. …

Human behavior has not changed much in recorded history. Neither have the basic tenets of war. It takes killing with speed and sustained effect to win wars. The notions that the U.S. military can win with “precision strikes” or “winning hearts and minds” are fantasy. Even the great victory in Operation Desert Storm was a bloody killing field. Just ask the remnants of the Tawakalna Division of the Iraqi Army. …

This country’s “Greatest Generation” killed enormous numbers of the enemy’s military servicemen and civilians in World War II. General Curtis LeMay knew that if he killed enough Japanese they would quit. While brutal by 2017 standards, his approach yielded lasting results—a productive peace with Japan that has lasted since 1945. The legal justification then—the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor—is the same casus belli as the one in the current war against al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL): the 11 September 2001 sneak attack on the United States.

Had the United States not killed Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the hundreds of thousands, it is likely they would have fought on and the U.S. military would have been forced to kill millions in close ground combat until they finally quit. The United States and its allies did the same against Nazi Germany. While victory required taking and holding territory, the Germans and Japanese fought until it became clear to them that the Allies would keep killing them until they quit. …

While the United States’ current enemies are so-called non-state actors, they have no trouble with their identity and moral agency. Yet U.S. military leadership still has not told its young men and women, “It’s okay to kill the enemy.” Moreover, the military does not celebrate its victories. How many ticker-tape parades have there been for Medal of Honor recipients in this war? When individual warriors are adjudged to have killed the “wrong” target, they face conviction and imprisonment rather than being given the benefit of the doubt, as so many were given during World War II. It is no wonder that post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide levels are so high. Instead of praising its victors, the United States browbeats them about civilian casualty numbers. How does this strengthen the U.S. military’s moral agency? …

An unpleasant truth often overlooked is that although war is a great evil, it does have a great virtue: it can resolve political conflicts and lead to peace. This can happen when all belligerents become exhausted or when one wins decisively. Either way the key is that the fighting must continue until a resolution is reached. War brings peace only after passing a culminating phase of violence. Hopes of military success must fade for accommodation to become more attractive than further combat. …

It is time for a shift away from the rudderless drift that has plagued the military since the end of the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm. Battle-hardened commanders who excel at killing too often are passed over for promotion in favor of those with multiple degrees from elite universities who self-select each other for advancement.

The un-PC reality.