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Not just total war - total victory

By Bruce Walker
web posted May 20, 2002

There is a myth among the leftist pseudo-intellectual elites that victory does not work. Rush Limbaugh has noted that the only cure for the Middle East Crisis is crushing military victory for one side, and this is true - as far as it goes - but more importantly we should absorb the lesson that the good powers have never achieved total victory in the modern age of transoceanic technology.

Total victory is quite different from total war, which is what the world endured in the Great War and in the Second World War or what the United States inflicted upon itself in the American Civil War. Total war means undertaking every action available and all the strength of the nation to win a conflict. Total victory means that the conclusion of the conflict utterly confirms the will of the victors.

Desert Storm is the most recent example of total war without total victory. The coalition forces performed brilliantly in systematically destroying the power of the battle-hardened forces of Iraq, leaving soldiers who had fought huge, fanatical Iranian hordes to surrender to American drone weapons.

George H.W. BushPresident George H.W. Bush is blamed for this mistake, but he actually honored the promises made to our allies, Congress, and the American people in achieving precisely what was authorized. It is the fault of Democrats in Congress, who should have supported quickly and wholeheartedly President Bush, more than the President, who was acting within the constitutional and political constraints imposed upon him.

The American Civil War was an early example of engaging in total war without the intention of total victory. Although Union troops occupied much of the South for several years, even during Andrew Johnson's administration Union troops were being recalled and limited in action.

As a direct consequence of that, the two-party system which was evolving in the South (which had many of the closest partisan elections in American history) was allowed to descend into a one-party rule which lasted almost a century. That allowed embittered Confederate soldiers to suppress blacks in the South, which ended up causing misery and hardships for blacks, Southern whites, and America.

Although the Armistice in the Great War occurred when German armies were not defeated in the field, by the time of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was reduced to starvation and revolution. Total victory was consciously rejected in the interests of Realpolitik.

Consequently, millions of ethnic Germans were left afloat in France, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland (which insured later discord). Communists were allowed to create a one-party dictatorship in Russia, which also meant inevitable problems for the rest of the world. The status of the Republic of China, which ought to have been with a Republic of Russia evolving, free democracies, was allowed to flounder as well (a consequence of both the threat of Japan and the proximity of Communists in Russia).

Japan was justifiably offended by discriminatory immigration laws in the United States, tariffs, and silly, demeaning naval agreements. The forces that gained control in Japan are often portrayed as the inevitable consequence of xenophobic Japanese. Yet the Japanese were immensely grateful to America for its generosity in the terrible earthquake of 1921, and Japanese concern for what Russia and China might become was rational and correct.

Democracy and freedom imposed upon Russia and China, and true sovereignty in Europe would have moved the whole world toward the paths of democracy and freedom. Why, for example, was overrun Belgium reconstituted into its old national boundaries that clumped together Flemish and Walloon peoples who spoke different languages and disliked each other? Why were Czechs and Slovaks tied into an artificial nationhood? Why were Serbs and Bosnians and Croatians welded into a previously nonexistent polity?

The war weary and victorious democracies wanted peace right then, even though Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were left vast expanses of unhappy lands to plant and nourish their venomous seeds. Indeed, if an untroubled German nation had been created, there would have been no second great war. If Russia had been allowed to flourish as a free nation without territorial ambitions, then any malcontent ruler like Mussolini would have been checked.

The Second World War also ended with total war producing no total victory for freedom and democracy. The culpability of Stalin and the Soviets was beyond question: Communists not only supplied Hitler with all he needed for the first twenty-one months of the war, but Communist parties in the democracies undermined the will to resist Hitler.

Was it not obvious that the proper course in 1945 was to overthrow Stalin and install a good government for the sad peoples of that horrible empire of the new Tsars? Had Anglo-America taken that hard and painful, but quite necessary, step then China too would have moved from authoritarian to democratic government.

Our last chance to spare future generations misery was after our victory in the Cold War and in Desert Storm. Could America not then have dictated peace in the Middle East? Could we not then have told the dictators and heredity monarchs "You're in. You're out." based upon how they embraced peace with Israel and friendship with America?

Yes, we could have done that. Eschewing timidity and ease, we could have seized that moment and created a lasting peace, creating new nations which encompassed linguistic and ethnic groups and building those into states that wanted peace (Spain, Portugal, and Greece are all excellent examples of what Iraq, Syria, and Egypt could have been today).

The Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square
The Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square

We could moreover have pushed very hard on Red China when students were building a Statute of Liberty at Tiananmen Square. They were embracing us, and we should have embraced them. While China was open to the electronic media at our command, America could have pushed and pushed and pushed for true freedom, until the damn burst and the people of China became free.

Now we are at the opening salvos of a new world war - there is no doubt about that! - and while we will wage it as total war (enraged democracies always have) we must this time think also of total victory. What does this mean?

It means that we must thoroughly understand that the enslavement of North Koreans, Iraqi, Chinese, and Cubans affects our freedom and our future. We must insist that we know best and that our way - which embraces individual choice, the rule of law, and checks on government power - must exist everywhere in the world, whether wanted by the peoples of a land or not.

Hitler, after all, was an immensely popular political figure. Stalin and Mao, after decades of dulling indoctrination, could have won a truly free election taken three months after American conquest of Russia or China. The people do not have the right to choose totalitarian systems or nurture dreams of conquering other peoples. We must, in sort, impose our exceptionally good national values, which have been tested against many troubles, upon the world.

This means more than a peace, more than a treaty, more than even a surrender. It means recognizing that many peoples in many lands are suffering from the same sort of mental disease that let Hitler command healthy, educated, culture Germans into committing unspeakable crimes. It means that the values of America must become the values of the world.

We need not hold our breath expecting thanks for this great blessing which we bestow upon the world. Ingratitude is often the trifling price of wonderful change. No, the world will not thank us, but our children (whose blood and treasure will pay for our irresolution) will understand what we have done.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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