It’s time for a new strategy…

02 Sep

So argues Andrew J. Bacevich in his very thoughtful article. (Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War has just come out in paperback.)

EVER SINCE BRITAIN AND FRANCE overthrew Ottoman rule in World War I to create the modern Middle East, Western nations have relied on unquestioned military superiority to secure their position in the region. Between the world wars, European imperialists ruthlessly employed firepower to crush nationalist uprisings. After World War II, as the United States supplanted Europe, American military power underwrote the oil-for-protection bargain forged with Saudi Arabia and eventually made Washington the ultimate guarantor of regional stability. When Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had the temerity to challenge American primacy in 1990, the outcome served only to affirm US military preeminence.

Meanwhile, Israel was subjecting its Arab neighbors to recurring military humiliations. The Israel Defense Forces improvised in 1948 became by the 1960s a seemingly invincible army. That Israel was itself a Western implant and that it relied increasingly on weapons with a “Made in the USA” label seemed further proof of Western military superiority…

Today the tables are turning. Despite a massive American and Israeli technological edge, including nuclear arsenals, mounting evidence suggests that the age of Western military ascendancy is coming to an end. Muslim radicals have evolved an Islamist way of war that is as complex as it is cunning. As a consequence, in and around the Persian Gulf the military balance is shifting. The failures suffered by the United States in Iraq and by Israel in southern Lebanon may well signify a turning point in modern military history, comparable in significance to the development of blitzkrieg in the 1930s or of the atomic bomb a decade later. Although the full implications of this shift are not clear, they promise to be huge, calling into question basic strategic assumptions that have held sway in the United States and Israel…

And speaking of war and weapons, what a vile invention the cluster bomb is, the kind of thing that makes one question the superiority of western civilisation, perhaps, or certainly to find the Calvinist doctrine of the total depravity of man attractive. (If you are not religious, think Lord of the Flies.) Apparently such a device first emerged in Nazi Germany, but has since been refined by experts, especially in the USA. “Cluster bombs were developed in order to improve the efficiency of aerial attacks, particularly against ‘soft’ targets like personnel. Single bombs are less useful for this purpose because they cover a smaller area (known as a ‘footprint’ in military parlance), and their effectiveness is dependent on the accuracy of the bomb’s drop. A cluster bomb functions like a shotgun, covering a wider area with a spread of miniature bombs.” It will be a good day for humanity, that is for “soft targets” everywhere, when revulsion against their use grows so strong that they are universally outlawed.

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Posted by on September 2, 2006 in Current affairs, News and Current Affairs


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