The lesson: Worldview determines commitment.

Kurdish forces

Osama bin Laden predicted it and his prophecy appears to be coming true. In his book, β€œThe Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” Lawrence Wright quotes bin Laden as saying: β€œLook at Vietnam, look at Lebanon. Whenever soldiers start coming home in body bags, Americans panic and retreat. Such a country needs only to be confronted with two or three sharp blows, then it will flee in panic, as it always has.” “Such a country….” What does he mean? Osama was guided by a worldview: A worldwide permanent caliphate will be established when Muslims all over the world unite and overthrow the decadent and unreliable westerners….like us. In the minds of his followers and other jihadis, their war will never end until their caliphate is established. No sacrifice is too great, no suffering is too long.

The country we are today is guided by no unified worldview, even though we once were. Our citizens actively pursue their own pleasures and plans, our, ahem, “leaders”, pursue their careers and popularity, so what can you expect if you are an ally trying to survive in a hostile society, while depending on our strength and our resolve? Ask the Kurds, the Montagnards, the Free Syrian Army, and other indigenous allies which we abandoned when we experienced those “sharp blows.” I was a soldier in Vietnam and spent some time in a Special Forces camp, watching the dedication that our soldier professionals had towards their partners, the Montagnards, a Vietnam mountain tribe of fighters loyal to us and avowed enemies of the communists. I hate to think of their fate when we left, but I imagine it was similar to that of the Kurds in Iraq-Syria.

Our indigenous enemies, and their foreign fighter allies, have a worldview which thinks long term and is dedicated to victory regardless of the cost…to them or anyone else. Am I saying we should become more like our enemies? No, their worldview is, dare I judge, wrong and evil. Their attitude towards “collateral damage” is that everyone who gets in their way is fair game. In fact, everyone anywhere who doesn’t espouse exactly their beliefs is fair game. But yes, we should be like them in our commitment to the victory of our worldview….except, we don’t have one, or don’t know if we do, or we aren’t sure what we believe, and who are we to judge???

Enough of that already. If you can’t think of anything worth fighting for or dying for, get out of the way. If you are a politician rather than a statesmanperson , if your commitment is to your career and your popularity rather than to principles or future generations, you should have the grace to recuse yourself from making military or mission decisions. The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions: war of 1912, war with Mexico 1846, war with Spain 1898, war with Germany and Austria-Hungary 1917 (WWI), war with 6 combatants-Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Japan (WWII). Notably missing are declarations of war with North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II. Since that time it has agreed to resolutions authorizing the use of military force and continues to shape U.S. military policy through appropriations and oversight. The last sentence was a direct quote from the United States senate! B.S.!! What you call “oversight” is cowardly meddling. Before I suggest an effective and appropriate worldview for war, I want to render my opinion about political oversight. When you send our military to fight, your oversight has ended. Let the military decide how to pursue the mission and get the hell out of the way!

What was the worldview of the United States after WWII? We were the only nation capable and willing to be the guarantor of liberty to the oppressed and the rebuilder of destroyed nations, including former enemies. We saved many German people from starvation by the communists via our Berlin Airlift, we saved ordinary Japanese citizens from domination by the militaristic imperial culture of the elite. Then there were the war crimes tribunals in both Germany and Japan. Our worldview said that targeting non-combatants was a crime, not a method of waging war, that a just war was waged against tyranny and aggression by the stronger against the weaker.

How things have changed. Since WWII, we have not fought nation states, but movements, insurgencies or amorphous groups and networks. There is no longer a clear stronger or weaker. We have spilled much blood trying to bring “democracy” to places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, without recognizing that such places are dominated by a worldview–Islam–that is fundamentally hostile to the idea of individual liberty and freedom of expression, religion and speech. When that hostility results in too much of our blood, we disengage, without admitting or even understanding that it was a foolish errand to begin with. Is there anymore an effective and appropriate worldview for war?

We have to articulate, the way ISIS effectively does, what we believe, before we can commit to helping long term. Our dedication to liberty should be expressed by our supporting insurgents who are against tyranny in their own countries, and who would not oppress others if they gained power; Whomever that would be, if anyone. Perhaps the Kurds are a good example, perhaps not. We won’t know until they get the upper hand. Whatever we decide to do, it needs absolute commitment, or don’t start.