How often have you heard that phrase from some leftist? They usually trot it out without any attempt at justification – and then accuse those who disagree of being “bloodthirsty warmongers.” It’s really an updating of the old canard that “violence never settled anything.”
Comedian Larry David refuted that one long ago, by noting that at the conclusion of “well thought out, professionally executed violence,” the adversaries are all dead. Robert A. Heinlein took a turn at it several decades before that:
‘My mother says that violence never settles anything.’
‘So?’ Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. ‘I’m sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn’t your mother tell them so? Or why don’t you?’
‘You’re making fun of me. Everyone knows that Carthage was destroyed!’
‘You seemed unaware of it,’ he said grimly. ‘Since you do know it, wouldn’t you say that violence had settled their destinies rather thoroughly?’...
...I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea — a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and thoroughly immoral — doctrine that ‘violence never settles anything’ I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms." [From Starship Troopers]
Surely we could add the names of Saddam Hussein and his sons to Heinlein’s jury roll. In light of the supposed attachment of the Left to “peace,” it’s well to review what its current standard-bearer has said on the subject:
- In December 2006, when Bush was still contemplating the surge, [Hillary] Clinton said: “Everyone knows there is no military solution to the difficulties we face in Iraq.”
- In January 2007, Clinton complained that the surge was “taking troops away from Afghanistan, where I think we need to be putting more troops, and sending them to Iraq on a mission that I think has a very limited, if any, chance for success.”
- In August 2007, Clinton said: “The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution to the situation. It has failed to do so.... It is abundantly clear that there is no military solution to the sectarian fighting in Iraq. We need to stop refereeing the war, and start getting out now.”
- When General David Petraeus issued a September 2007 report on the remarkably successful results that the surge was yielding, Clinton obstinately told Petraeus that his assertions required “a willing suspension of disbelief.”
[Applause to John Perazzo for this round-up.]
Whether you were for or against Operation Iraqi Freedom, it’s clear in retrospect that “our” violence there settled quite a lot of naughty people’s hash. Had we left a security force of adequate size, ISIS might never have established a foothold in Mesopotamia.
In point of fact, when the matter to be settled is a dispute among contending factions, a thorough application of lethal violence is the only guaranteed solution. Whether that’s the ethical and practical way to approach it are separate questions.
There is a military solution to every “problem” we confront anywhere in the world. Whether it would be right to do so, and whether the expenditure of American blood and treasure would reap a worthwhile result, are decisions we reach through political processes – and sometimes we conclude afterward that our earlier decisions were wrong. There’s no help for it. Hindsight is like that.
Just an extra Saturday-morning thought. It allowed me to defer cleaning out the cat boxes a little while longer. Whether it was worth your time is for you to decide.