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Modern wars (2) Thu, Aug 16, 2007
I was watching a show on the History Channel last night, and it was all about the World War II and Cold War efforts in the U.S. to produce nuclear weapons.  That's how wars used to work:  You dump all kinds of money and people into an effort to produce the most advanced, most numerous, and most powerful technology that would cause the most damage to your enemies.  Whoever gets there first, essentially wins. 

Wars these days are quite different.  The U.S. is certainly the leader in terms of military might and defense spending, but somehow the nation hasn't actually won a war since World War II (I don't think conflicts like the Vietnam War count as wins, though this can probably be argued).  Modern wars largely consist of guerrilla efforts led by decentralized, rag-tag groups of unskilled, untrained, uneducated people.  Larger nations with larger weapons can surely drop large bombs from large distances, but this would cause too many innocent civilian deaths.  So fully-equipped, combat-trained soldiers are forced to leave their heavily-armored tanks and fighter jets and drive around cities in lightly-armored vehicles looking for bad guys.  The winner is the side who can last the longest.  And when nations with large defense budgets also have things like bills of rights, the battle becomes more about public opinion than an actual battlefield. #psychology

Dave Brown Thu, Aug 16, 2007
You're right about everything except one thing, the winner being the side who can last the longest. That implies that if we'd just lasted longer in Vietnam we'd have won, or that if we just last long enough in Iraq all the terrorists will just say aww shucks you win. Who wins is all about the goals of why you start fighting in the first place. So it's possible that the two sides could be fighting for totally different goals, and that both sides could win or lose. Most likely both sides do a mix of winning and losing.

A good way to look at this is comparing the two Iraq wars. In the first Iraq war our goal was to kick the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia. This was a goal that could pretty easily be accomplished using firepower and in fact we accomplished it quickly and "won." The second Iraq war is different. Our goal, at least as of the latest I've heard, is to establish a stable state that is not a haven for terrorists. This is a goal that bombs and planes can only play a very limited role in accomplishing. In reality, war making as a whole is not really a great way to accomplish that goal. That's why our soldiers are basically operating as policemen.

Dave Thu, Aug 16, 2007
Good point.  It depends what the initial goals were.  From my limited perspective, it seems like there should've been different outcomes for certain wars.  It seems like the Vietnam War should've resulted in a unified nation of Vietnam free from Communism.  But the initial goal was probably just to stop the spread of Communism into South Vietnam.  Similar point with the first Gulf War.

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