18 September 2006


A war begins with a shocking surprise attack on American soil, killing thousands. The US finds itself at war with a little-understood alien culture which systematically inculcates its people with religious fanaticism, so that its young men regard death in battle as glorious, even being willing to martyr themselves by flying aircraft into collisions with enemy targets. After some delay, the US responds with a massive military campaign. Americans make no effort whatsoever to "understand" the "root causes" of the enemy's hatred and aggression, much less address them; our sole concern is to retaliate as ruthlessly as possible. As time passes, the US becomes steadily less and less concerned with enemy civilian casualties, and bombs cities indiscriminately. Individual American bombing raids obliterate whole urban areas and kill tens of thousands. One raid kills more than a hundred thousand civilians. Eventually the US escalates to using nuclear weapons against civilian targets. Enemy offers of a negotiated settlement are rejected; only unconditional surrender will do.

I have, of course, just described the Japan-US conflict of 1941-1945. Now consider the results. The all-out military response didn't "just make them hate us more". It didn't turn a whole new generation of Japanese into terrorists. It solved the problem. Since 1945 Japan has posed no further threat of war or violence against us at all, and has in fact become an ally.

If we had responded back then with the cringeing half-measures and "understanding" that our present-day hand-wringers advocate for the jihadist threat, most likely the conflict with Japan would have dragged on indecisively for decades.

Obviously I hope events in the current war never force us to escalate to the kind of tactics we had to use to defeat Japan. But if they do, we should disregard those who constantly wail that any tough military action will only boomerang back on us. The world does not work that way. It has never worked that way.

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