Saturday, September 30, 2006

War: An Open Ended Equation

If you deal with numbers and probability where just about everything in life can be distilled into an equation, war is the exception. It is an open ended equation. The impact of a tax break or increase on the economy, popularity of a product and possible income for the originators, or even the possible outcomes for popping the question on a date can be calculated either objectively or subjectively and decisions can be made.

However, war – especially extended war – has proven open ended when begun. The actual outcome is often incalculable and sometimes even unfathomable. That is why you should never start a war. You should only go to war when you have to. Then, you are going to war to defend your existence and you will either win or lose, but you had no choice; the equation was forced on you.

The American Civil War, Napoleon’s bid to conquer Russia, and WWI and II, for example, changed everything for those directly and indirectly involved in these wars in ways that were never expected by those that began these wars.

The U.S. went into Vietnam for the same reason it had gone into Korea to contain communism and prevent another domino from following in the Domino theory. And even as the U.S. lost to the communist when they took over all of Vietnam, signs were already present that the free world had won the Cold War. Communism is doomed to become a footnote in history.

While containment played a vital part in the defeat of communism and mutual assured destruction kept the Cold War from becoming hot, peaceful coexistence and détente cause the communist countries to implode of the own weaknesses. The peace of the Cold War allowed the proof that free markets perform better than planned economies.

No one won the Cold War with a preemptive strike into the heart of an opposing country. While preemptive strike should be a component of any modern military, it should only be used in which the objective can be attained in a short time of less than one year. Longer period allows the open ended-ness of war to grow. The unknown unknowns exceeds both the known knowns and known unknowns in Rumsfledese.

As the Iraq War continues in its fourth year, one of the more ominous unknowns is escalation of a civil war to include the whole of the Middle East. The Neocons had dreamed the overthrow of Saddam and installation of a democracy in Iraq would have an impact on the rest of the Middle East. While their naïve theories had little chance in the real world, their actions may nonetheless impact the rest of the Middle East, but in ways they never anticipated.

Whether the Republicans keep the majority in both houses of Congress after the mid-term or lose one house and the investigations and hearings begin on the Bushes previous six years, whether we stay in Iraq or force to leave as quickly as possible, the unknown results of continued war will become knowns. Knowns we have to live with for years to come.

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