Magical Thinking or, “Please for the love of all that is good stop idolizing World War Two”

The worst part about arguing with highly intelligent people who are top in their field is that they often don’t have the humility to recognize they are idiots outside their expertise. This will include myself more often than I care to admit, but every once in a while some of my more intelligent friends and acquaintances will say something idiotic like this:


Every once in a while you’ll find veterans who are idiots about strategy. It isn’t their fault, the vast majority of the military doesn’t think about strategy, they think at the tactical level of war, or operational level of war, and they believe the ignorant tripe printed above because they don’t understand that it wasn’t the atom bomb that ended WWII, it was the rational decision to surrender caused by the options being reduced to unconditional surrender now or unconditional surrender later. Simply put, the Russian entrance into the Pacific theater of WWII cut off Japans last best hope for a negotiated surrender, and so they promptly surrendered.

But back to the idea that “you can’t bomb an ideology.” That is true. You want to know why? Because dumb college kids still wear t-shirts of Che, because Bernie Sanders just made a serious bid for the White House, because for all the “war on godless Communism” that we’ve undertaken we couldn’t bomb it out of existence. And we tried in Korea and Vietnam. You can’t kill people and destroy an ideology in the process.

But ignorance of strategy is probably the closest thing to a universal condition for enlisted members of the armed forces, after all what do we expect NCOs do do? And if you want to say “well SF is different” lets be honest, SF as a community is a master of tactics and ignores strategy outside of counter insurgency. The SF community has almost nothing to add to the discussion about where a carrier group should go to “show the flag” or which ally to prop up in order to deter a rival nation. And not that earning a commission is any guarantee of competency either, most Officers leave the service before they really get a chance to dig into strategic level plans and policy. To say that the average veteran is no more well informed on grand strategy or even campaign level planning wouldn’t be a stretch of the truth at all. But, the average veteran will often feel that their military experience gives them the voice of experience on something well above their pay grade, take it with a huge grain of salt.

A former Airman wrote the following:

I’ve detailed it in several different threads.

The plan is to kill everyone who advocates islamism in any way, without mercy or remorse, without compunction or concern, until there aren’t any left.

Then kill them again every time anyone says “kill the infidel”.

If killing all their leaders once or twice doesn’t do it within a country, you kill the entire country.

If there’s “blowback” you kill them too.

You announce very clearly up front, and every single day

“this is a war against islamism. You can be a peaceful muslim all you want, but the second you advocate jihad in any way we’re going to kill you. If you harbor those who advocate jihad, we will kill you. If they hide among you, we will kill you. We will not hesitate to destroy your hospitals and mosques if they are hiding there. If you do not wish to be killed, don’t help them hide, don’t hide them, kick them out, tell us where they are, or kill them yourself and bring them to us.

Everyone else, we will build free schools and roads for you, and repair or replace what we destroy. Everyone who needs food will get it. Everyone who needs medical care will get it. And you may freely practice islam but for one thing… Jihad. You cannot make war, or plan to make war, or preach making war, or we will kill you”.

Then you actually do it.

That will work.

But we won’t do it.

At least not until they kill a few million of us.

It makes me facepalm. In another thread this former airman said that the number was only “around 100 million.”

100 million people, scattered across every country on the face of this planet. Murdering citizens of China, Russia, and Iran inside their borders is probably going to prove problematic.

Does anyone else find it hilarious that people who can say that gun control won’t work in America because there are between 80 and 150 million gun owners who wouldn’t comply also advocating for the total elimination of 100 people spread across the globe? It is pure magical thinking to believe that either gun control or killing only the Jihadists would have even a modicum of success.

But in the vein of “screw it, let’s humor a bad idea” here is some analysis…

There is the issue of the “kill/loss” ratio. Israel manages around 1:4 during serious conflict, and the US generally manages around 1:5 during a counter insurgency. That means if you want to kill 100 million people, you need to be willing to sacrifice 20 to 25 million of your own Soldiers in the process, and with a very lean 5:1 tail to tooth ratio, that’s a fighting force of 100 to 125 million.

However, that doesn’t begin to cover the landmass problem.

There are over 50 countries that are Muslim majority. If you assume that you need at least a Brigade per major city (roughly the size of Baghdad) you can get a rough estimate of how many actual combat brigades (not support) needed. The estimated number of cities with more than 150,000 inhabitants is somewhere between 2,800 and 4,200 depending on who is doing the estimating. So if you assume that half of the cities will need some military presence to wipe out the Islamist terrorists, that puts the total number of combat brigades between 1,400 and 2,100. If you do four brigades per division, that’s between 350 Divisions, and if you go three Divisions per Corps (generally it’s less than that), you are at 116 Corps worth of Combat Power. Not including the necessary support functions. If you assume that foreign nations are just going to invite people in to kill their citizens, ask yourself why you are making that assumption.

Now that is based on the assumption that only half of the worlds major cities will require military intervention to root out those Islamist terrorists. This doesn’t account for the backwoods, backwaters, and hill country where the extremists go to train.

The next problem is time. How do you raise an Army so large, equip it, and keep it large before people simply rotate back home? The WWII answer was to draft the lot and not let them go until the war is over, conscription is a time honored technique. However there won’t be an end to this proposal of “kill them all” because there is no “Grand Islamist Council” or leader to sign the unconditional surrender documents the way Germany and Japan could. In essence, taking the fight to the enemy as proposed is the “forever war.” You can’t win it because you can’t end it. If you clear one area and leave it, of course the enemy will occupy it again (a lesson learned again and again in Vietnam).

And you can’t end it because you can never kill enough of them fast enough to dissuade others from becoming your enemy. We couldn’t kill our way out of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan (and the Soviets couldn’t kill their way out of Afghanistan either, and they are generally better at us at the job of killing lots of people).

However, none of this rational analysis will make a dent in the stupidity of those who really believe that they can kill their way to victory. Even worse than the uninformed military veteran suffering the Dunning-Kruger effect is the person who reads a few history books and can’t fathom the idea why their knowledge of nation state on nation state conflict isn’t applicable to a war against a non-state actor without formalized leadership.

And yes, Daniel Greenfield is such a person who advocates for this killing, which would have to be conducted on a scale larger than the total deaths from World War Two:

I don’t have a good plan to end Islamist terror. I do have some very good plans to upgrade security and mitigate the symptoms of Islamist terror. If history is to be any guide, we can’t eliminate terrorism, and so the only thing we can do is build robust systems that deter, prevent, and react to acts of terror. There are some things you just can’t kill your way out of.

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