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Changes in modern warfare

Reader comment on item: War's New Face

Submitted by Doug Petrilla (United States), Apr 17, 2003 at 15:25

Dear Mr. Pipes,

The article on modern wars is interesting and certainly succeeds in showing that the nature of war is changing. I must take issue with one of your points: That wars are no longer fought for national self interest. Iraq, here, is the obvious example. We can swiftly dispense with the notion of "Operation Cheap Oil." If that were the goal of the U.S. war, then "Operation Iraqi Freedom" could have been replaced with the more cost efficient "Operation Lift the Sanctions."

However, the idea that Iraqi freedom was the main goal or inspiration of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is equally false. The Left is right when they point out that America's willingness to use military force to rescue people from tyranny seems only to apply to the neigborhood of the Persian Gulf, where those tyrannies ultimately threaten the trade in oil. Or, as in Afghanistan, to countries from which palpable, immediate, threats to the U.S. eminate. ("Threats to American hegemony" in the dingbat parlance of the left.) Note that there is no movement in the U.S. or any other Western country to liberate Zimbabwe from the tyranny of Robert Mugabe, although many Zimbabweans would no doubt greet the marines with cheers and flowers. Mugabe, for all his faults, does not consort with (international) terrorists, harbor weapons of mass destruction or threaten the physical or economic well being of the U.S. of the West in any way.

The war in Iraq was fought on behalf of U.S. national interests: Keeping weapons of mass destruction out of terrorists' hands, keeping Sadaam from threatening the oil trade in the gulf. Even Iraqi freedom itself serves the American national interests: So long as Arabs are opressed by their own governments, the U.S. and Isreal will always be the scapegoats. Afghanistan, as noted above, is as close to a classical defensive war as you are likely to find in the 21st century. Isreal's war with the Palestinian Authority is, likewise, a war of self preservation.

Instead of saying that wars are no longer fought on behalf of national self interest, it would be better to say that wars of national self interest are no longer the total wars of the 20th century. Today's wars are more like the wars of the Napoleanic era. They are fought by professional soldiers and aimed at specific, political objectives. Destruction in civilian areas is minimized because it never serves, and usually undermines, the political goals of war. Conquest and occupation create more problems than they solve. Democratization serves our interests in pacifying countries like Iraq and Afghanistan without the hassle of having to rule those countries by force.

Yours truly,

Doug Petrilla
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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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