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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chickenhawk War Pundits Are Calmly Telling U.S. Allies to Commit National Suicide | ForeignPolicy | AlterNet

I'd hate to be Georgia right now. So many American pundits have plans for the Georgians, brilliant schemes designed to get Georgia into a big war with the Russians. "Here's what you oughta do." It's like listening in on bar talk -- some drunk trying to talk a 98-pound weakling into a rematch with the hulking thug who just put him on the floor. Funny thing, they never want to prove their theory themselves.

The backseat generals started early. On August 16, a week after the fighting between Russian and Georgian troops started, the neocon magazine Weekly Standard featured a chirpy, upbeat article listing all the hardware we could ship to the Georgians to help them fight a nice, long, bloody guerrilla war.

It was classic Tom Clancy stuff, all based on the idea you make war with stuff, not people. These guys just won't face the fact that for the guerrilla, the key weapon, the only weapon that matters, is people -- and starting a guerrilla war means sentencing most of the people in your address book to a very nasty death.

Now we've got Sarah Palin, everybody's favorite sniper-mom, volunteering to go to war with Russia over South Ossetia.

As far as I know, Palin isn't volunteering to go there herself. She sticks to targets that don't shoot back, like moose. But then that's what all these eager volunteers have in common: none of them are actually going to go over and fight the Russians themselves, and as far as I know none of them even thought about asking the poor Georgians whether they're up for the sheer Hell of a guerrilla war. All the Georgians wanted was to join NATO, make a little money and maybe get a used car. They're like a guy who joins the Army for a college scholarship and finds himself on the front lines -- except they're not even in NATO yet. We're volunteering them to make the ultimate sacrifice and we haven't even let them in the club yet.

The absolute craziest cheerleading came out of an article in DoD buzz by Greg Grant, quoting an anonymous Department of Defense source who wants Georgia to become the new Hezbollah.

Greg's anonymous warmonger got a big, way-too-enthusiastic boost from Noah Schachtman who writes for this lame-named war site, "The Danger Room," in Wired magazine. His article, "Should Georgia Become A Black Sea Hezbollah?" seems to come up with a gung-ho answer, basically, "Sure! Do it!" Wrong question, and definitely wrong answer.

I'm pretty sure if you asked any Georgians, they'd screech, "Agh! No! We don't want to live like Hezbollah, cowering in our huts under constant bombardment, raising kids with no prospects but martyrdom!" But then the neocons haven't asked anybody in Georgia. Safe in their living rooms, they think it'd be a great idea for Georgia, a very unwarlike little middle-class country, to try to imitate the Lebanese Shia who make up Hezbollah's suicide squads.

The strangest thing about these articles is that they just drip admiration for Hezbollah. It's weird to find American defense pundits praising Hezbollah all of a sudden. I've been talking up Hezbollah's military wing for years, and all I got was a lot of abuse

Back when Israel and Hezbollah fought in 2006, every mainstream military pundit was assuring America that Israel would soon drive Hezbollah out of South Lebanon. I said no chance, and eventually, without admitting they were wrong and I was right, the pundits have changed their minds. Now they just love Hezbollah and want our poor Georgian allies to imitate Hezbollah. But these armchair Rambos just don't get it. You can't take a peace-loving, middle-class Georgian and make him into a Hezbollah guerrilla. You have to start with the right kind of people, because guerrilla war -- I keep having to repeat this -- is about people. It's not gadgets, it's not clever strategies, it's not a McGyver episodes. It's being willing to accept a level of misery and death the average American can't imagine. Won't imagine. That's what it takes.

That's why I knew Hezbollah would win the 2006 war with Israel: because they have been through decades of misery, cluster bombs raining down on their miserable villages, raids by the proxy-force South Lebanon Army -- and through it all, Hezbollah has been doing the slow, boring work of organizing the dirt-poor Shia, providing basic services, suffering with them and preparing them for the big fight. That's what makes a good guerrilla army: misery channeled into paramilitary organization. That's what made it possible for the Shia to force the Israelis out of Lebanon, and then fight them to a stalemate when they tried to come back in 2006: because they'd been living rough, poor and hopeless for a long time, then had that misery turned into a coldblooded willingness to die. That's the un-cool, no-fun side of guerrilla warfare: the guerrillas lose way, way more people than the armies fighting them.

Chickenhawk War Pundits Are Calmly Telling U.S. Allies to Commit National Suicide | ForeignPolicy | AlterNet

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