Monday, July 03, 2006

From Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer

The case for America, consummate war-winner
A professor counts the ways the U.S. has been militarily victorious for 200 years, seeing a fundamental belief in "sanctity of life" as the reason why.
America's VictoriesWhy the U.S. Wins Warsand Will Win the War on TerrorBy Larry Schweikart
Sentinel. 352 pp. $24.95
Reviewed by Mark Yost
Even the most vehement critics of the war on terror will admit that our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are some of the best that have ever stepped onto a battlefield. University of Dayton history professor Larry Schweikart argues that America's troops have always overcome adversity, poor equipment and yes, unpopularity to win wars and do so with aplomb.
How and why are detailed well in his new book, America's Victories: Why the U.S. Wins Wars and Will Win the War on Terror. With the U.S. Marines of Haditha already convicted in the court of public opinion, this book couldn't come at a better time.
Schweikart reviews 200 years of American military history and notes that U.S. troops - often underfunded, ill-prepared and overmatched - "have whipped the British Empire (twice), beaten a Mexican army (against all European expectations), fought a fratricidal civil war that resulted in higher casualties than all previous wars put together (due to the fact that officers and soldiers on both sides were deadly effective), and rushed the Plains Indians with a minimal number of troops. American forces then dispatched the Spanish in less than a year (when again, most Europeans thought Spain would win), helped the Allies evict the Germans from France, and dominated an international alliance that simultaneously beat the Nazis, Japanese warlords, and Italian fascists."
How did we do it? The American soldier has been the most decisive factor in warfare, evolving from a ragtag militia to a draftee army to today's all-volunteer force, which is fighting, and winning, in some of the toughest conditions ever seen. As the soldier has evolved, so has U.S. military doctrine.
"It is a distinctly American military character replete with individual initiative and unprecedented autonomy for soldiers and officers, all supported by free-market production concepts... . America's victories have been undergirded by the principles establishing the sanctity of life that permeate our founding documents, and that temper our treatment of enemies and inspire us to save fallen or captured warriors like no other society and history has done."
This last point is important, for it provides context and perspective to the often-myopic analyses of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Haditha. In the chapter titled "Gitmo, Gulags, and Great Raids," Schweikart recounts how the Japanese treated their prisoners following the World War II Battle of Bataan:
Immediately the Japanese engaged in brutality, massacring the 400 men of the Filipino 91st Division, who, hands tied behind their backs, were lined up along a narrow ravine, and shot. Imperial soldiers marched into the two main field hospitals, defecating and urinating next to the wounded.
During the Death March of Bataan, captured U.S. soldiers crawled on their hands and knees, "aware that if they stopped, they could expect a bayonet or a slow death by starvation or thirst." In 1944, when American Liberator bombers flew over the Puerto Princesa prison camp in the Philippines, the Japanese herded their prisoners into an air raid shelter, not for protection, but to douse them with aviation fuel and burn them alive rather than let them go free.
Compare this to the conditions at Guantanamo Bay, where al-Qaeda prisoners are forced to listen to Christina Aguilera, and the cries of protest from the antiwar left truly ring hollow. That's because even at their worst, American soldiers still hold the moral high ground when it comes to fighting wars and winning the peace. And they're doing it again.
"The very antiwar activism that infuses a substantially antimilitary media results paradoxically in a high profile for leftist sentiments that are not shared by the majority," Schweikart writes. "In turn, the antimilitary Left feeds the tendency of others to underestimate the American willingness to fight, and, if we stick it out, usually to win."
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