Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Brahmin's Hymn

[posted by Callimachus]

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

Victor Davis Hanson here attempts to describe the new face of warfare in the world, and why we in the U.S. are just not as good at it as we feel we ought to be.

The West's GPS- and laser-guided bombing was supposed to usher in a new age of warfare. Islamic terrorists even in faraway Afghanistan were no longer immune to missiles that could appear from nowhere and shatter their remote caves. And precision weapons allowed us to minimize civilian casualties and avoid the collateral damage of Vietnam-style bombing. But the ongoing fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon — and even NATO's 1998 bombing campaign in Serbia — suggests otherwise. As the Americans have learned in Baghdad, and the Israelis in southern Lebanon, it is not easy to use commandos and specially trained anti-terrorist forces to quickly defeat insurgents who know that time is on their side and that any death — enemy or friend, civilian or combatant — advances their cause. It is much easier to create misery than to prevent it — especially when the general suffering of the people is blamed on the prosperous Western interloper and so aids the cause of the terrorist.

He breaks it down into several qualities. And though it doesn't rate a sub-heading of its own, "the media" clearly is part of the big picture.

The fallen terrorist is usually not in uniform, and pictures of his charred remains are likely to be beamed around the globe as proof that another underprivileged civilian has been murdered by bullying American troops. Note that the media distinguish between civilian and military Israeli losses. Not so with Hezbollah: Everyone who dies in Lebanon is portrayed as a "civilian." Remember, also, that the anti-Western Hezbollah has a very Western media-relations department, whose director, for all his hatred of America, issues American-style business cards complete with an e-mail address.

His big picture, but also mine. It is absurd to attempt to describe the war in Iraq, or Israel's recent war against Hezbollah -- or any future distant, localized conflict -- without reference to the infulence of media coverage on home front morale, global perceptions, and insurgent measures of their own success. They reckon ill who leave this out.