Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What it Means to Truly Win a War

J. David Lewis has written an excellent piece on what a nation must do to win a war. Below are a few excerpts, but I urge everyone to read the article in its entirety. (As an aside, I must say that up until about last year, I was under the false belief that to win a war, all one had to do was to defeat the enemy militarily. Listening to Dr. Brook and Dr. Lewis' public talks have since clarified the issue in my mind, and Mr. Lewis' article does a fantastic job of presenting the essentials of their arguments.)
...But even if this were true, the goal of a war must not be “to end it” by accepting terms from a weakened aggressor. This leaves the enemy in place, but claims that he no longer matters, because his capacity to fight us is gone for the moment. The aim must rather be “to win,” which means an unconditional victory over a defeated enemy that permanently destroys his motivations to fight. It is a serious error to focus on capacities and ignore motivations. To do so is to ignore the causes of wars.
Surrender does not mean that an aggressor offers terms to stop attacking because he is weak. It means abject surrender, before an utterly overwhelming power, and the repudiation of the very idea of war through a brutal demonstration of what it actually means. Defeat has an existential and an intellectual aspect. Existentially, a nation's capacity to fight is destroyed; it cannot wage war now. But intellectually the culture gives up. Under the shock of overwhelming defeat a stunned silence results; voices once clamoring for war and the motivations they engender are decimated; and the nation never again arms for attack. Intransigence in the victor is vital; he does not accept terms, he demands surrender, or death, for everyone on the other side if necessary.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did John Lewis change his name to J. David Lewis?

1:36 PM  
Blogger Amit Ghate said...

I had assumed they were two distinct people, but I think you are right (see author link at capmag: ).

4:05 PM  

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