HEEDING ALEXANDER THE GREAT IN PAKISTAN
By John G. Lankford
East of the Suez and in much of the emerging world, conditions, cultures, and understandings are very different from ours. We enter conflicts expecting and seeking compromises and negotiated settlements, and we tend to conduct conflicts tentatively and with great restraint in the belief that will hasten an accord ending the conflicts and restoring the peace.
We have done so in our current War on Terror. This approach risks, probably assures, infliction of great cruelties as the unintended consequences of kind intentions.
That is what we did in Vietnam. The strategy of gradual escalation of the war's intensity, our side's fighting latitude maddeningly circumscribed at every stage, led to a protracted, bloody travesty we forebore to win until we no longer had any stomach for the effort.
It is what we did not do in the conflict with Japan. By firebombing Tokyo and dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we persuaded Emperor Hirohito to agree to unconditional surrender and to declare the war at an end. Until he did so, our preparations to invade the Japanese home islands and the ruling Japanese military regime's preparations to defend them, including exhorting every civilian to fight to the death, continued unabated, even after the bombings. It is plausibly estimated that the bombings and the Emperor's response saved, on balance, millions of lives.
Life in a harsh environment really consists of striving mightily to do the best one can, accepting and adjusting only to truly overwhelming adversities. It is not only necessary to be intrepid, but also to be seen to be so. Harsh conditions breed rough-and-ready people, and to appear to be weak or indecisive invites contempt and abuse. This is the situation in much of the emerging world, including Central Asia.
Alexander the Great subdued that region. He did it by presenting himself as an elemental force, i.e., an irresistable force--a phenomenon one could submit to and accomodate without sacrificing honor, respect, or reputation for intrepidity any more than one would sacrifice those things by making way for an erupting volcano.
Alexander accomplished that by being mild, benevolent, and beneficent to city-states that submitted to him without resistance. He left them largely autonomous, their incumbent power structures in place. He incorporated their armies into his own, assuring peace by suppression of old local rivalries and imposing only one mandatory policy: In external affairs, march in step with Alexander.
In Alexander's wake, came swarms of builders and merchants, raising living standards for his new allies. His strategy was later imitated by the Romans and the British. Alexander was the first Western exponent of globalization.
Alexander also succeeded by thoroughly obliterating any city-state that defied him, completely eliminating the problem, man, woman, and child. That is what elementals do, and that is how they make it known they are, after all, elementals.
Unlike Alexander, we do not care to conquer or even moderately and mildly occupy foreign lands, lands where the peoples have national identities and cultures that are different from ours. We have discovered the truth of one of the few propositions on which Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jeffersom, George Washington, and other American Founders agreed: Conquer none, trade with all, smash any who attack the territory or legitimate interests of the United States of America. If a nation is determined to be hostile to us, we make our point by leaving that nation out of the global trade network we largely control. We simply decline to acquiesce in ememies' demands that we help subsidize our destruction at their hands--and we do not even do that very strictly. Our twentieth-century lesson to Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and others was this: You may not conquer the world by force. You are welcome to try your best to buy it, as we do.
But, like Alexander, we cannot afford to omit the elemental demonstration where it is called for and where we can manage it. To shrink from that is to prolong human agony. Our present assailants, all but a remnant driven out of most of Afghanistan, continue to taunt, defy, and threaten us from a safe haven in northwest Paklistan. At every moment, all but a few top leaders have the option of turning to productive, constructive endeavors, blending back into the pacified population, making the best of life, leaving us alone. Instead, they adhere to vows to disintegrate our country by skulking terrorism, and train their children to be kamikazes without--and, when possible, with--airplanes.
To this point, we have magnanimously limited our response to precision target strikes by extremely well-trainrd and well-equiped combat specialists, wringing our hands over every death and injury to any apparent noncombatant among whom our assailants cynically shelter, mocking and exploiting our humanitarianism. We have also acquiesced in policies bound to transform our country into at least a mild prison camp, ourselves into subjugated inmates. Rather than strike hard at our enemies, we erect checkpoints and arrange to search and surveil each other.
When we grow tired of being tired of being prisoners in owr own home, and especially when we sustain another worse-than-Pearl-Harbor terrorist massacre, we are going to oscillate to the other extreme, as we always have. We will realize we did not work hard, earn well, and submit to high taxes to build and maintain the world's mightiest military establishment so we could live like a conquered and occupied population. We are going to demand that our leaders obliterate the assailants and everything they live for. And we are going to make this point very clear: Either America's current leaders respond affirmatively and satisfactorily to our demand, or we will replace them with leaders who will so respond.
President Bush attracted our near-unanimous approval when he declared it his policy to capture our assailants and all who helped them or, if they refused to surrender, to kill them in place. When he appeared to equivocate and temporize over the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio, his approval rating dropped significantly. That is the harbinger of the coming oscillation.
By measures taken so far, we have separated the sensible Afghans from the rabid Afghans and the Pakistani who hate us congenially from the Pakistani and neighboring tribes who hate us aggressively. Those of both of the latter categories are now ganged up in northwest Pakistan, loudly and repetitively asking for it.
As a matter of form in the interest of national sovereignty, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will greet the proposed bombfall by howling all the way to the political bank. Having risen to his exalted post on the backs of the Taliban and like radicals, he turned on them at the behest of the U.S.A. Northwest Pakistan is their stronghold, and they oppose and defy his government now. They are instrumental in formenting what could well be a nuclear war between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, doing so in part to topple Musharraf's regime, recapture all of Pakistan as a power base, attempt to expand again into Afghanistan, and carry on their radical Islamist agenda. So far, they have forced Musharraf to remove the Pakistani national army from the radicals' stronghold and put it on the Kashmir front, easing their border crossings into Afghanistan, et cetera. Musharraf knows that, if the radical Islamists prevail, they will kill him. If they cease to exist, he can avoid a nuclear war and millions of deaths, establish control over their erstwhile hives, and continue exploiting the benefits of cooperation with the U.S.A. It is either the doom of the radicals or the doom of everybody else in the region, and only the U.S.A. has the wherewithal to make sure it is the doom of the radicals. Musharraf has a very strong incentive to remain on the side of the U.S.A. and its allies, despite what President Bush might have the U.S. military do in northwest Pakistan.
We are the only ones capable of obliterating the northwest Paskistan stronghold of the Islamic terrorists in a non-nuclear manner, using multi-kiloton-rated aerosol (fuel-air) bombs. The principle is the same as used on the fu-gas contraptions used for perimeter defenses in Vietnam. The large-possibilities, especially in confined valleys, were described in Barry Sadler's novel, Run for the Sun. We have already used relatively small versions to blow out caves in Afghanistan. It is widely believed we have much larger versions. If not, it is certain we have lots of machine shops. They are simple and easy to build. They are very heavy, but we have the aircraft to lift them and drop them.
The necessary bombardment will also establish a point we have so far neglected to make: Attack the United States of America, and we will terminate your heartbeat and those of all people close to you. This elemental lesson will not be lost among the aggressors' leaders, collaborators, and sympathizers far and wide. Those too rabid to be convinced by restrained measures must be overawed. It is an old tradition east of the Suez, as witness Alexander the Great.
His tutor, we should remember, was Aristotle.
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