No more clean wins
Posted by aogThursday, 27 May 2004 at 20:17 TrackBack Ping URL

With regard to the conclusion of my previous post, I think that the Cold War will be a far better model than WWI or WWII for our current war because of the slippery political nature of the conflict.

It’s commonly claimed that we won the Cold War without firing a shot, but that’s not even remotely true. We and others fought small wars all over the planet in that contest. Tens of millions perished in the conflict. I’m hoping that this war won’t be that bloody, but it’s certainly not a given that it won’t be. But the fact remains that the Cold War bloody, if perhaps not quite as bloody as WWII. It seems to be a common concept (that I’ve remarked on before) that if there is no actual “war” then there isn’t any important suffering, death or destruction. This leads directly to viewing the Cold War as not having a lot of human cost, a view I strongly dispute.

In contrast, this war is seen as “bloody” even though far fewer people are dieing. In fact, not only are fewer people dieing during this war compared to the Cold War, but fewer are dieing now than during the preceeding “peace”. Somehow this is seen as a bloody failure through the sort of moral inversion described above.

Yet something to keep in mind is that beyond all of that, we didn’t win “clean” in the Cold War. The USA supported some very nasty and evil regimes in order to forestall an even greater evil. Even during the Cold War, one of the arguments for supporting right wing dictators was that they generally not as nasty as leftist ones and were far more likely to evolve in to relatively free societies (Spain, Chile - in contrast, name one Communist regime that reformed before the collapse of the USSR). I firmly believe that this was for the best in the end, but others may disagree. What I think is undeniable is that our victories in WWIV will be far more like the mixed results (overall good, plenty of bad mixed in) than the now perceived as “clean” victory of WWII.