The politics of force

In 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. As near as I can tell, no one noticed. Now, every Republican will tell you at the drop of the hat that we must blindly support George Delano because “we are at war”, despite the fact that the only two enemies that the president has selected for us have been defeated. And this, of course, while ignoring the Constitution he is sworn to uphold.

Never trust a dissembler; they’re often worse than the outright liars. Congressional authorizations of the use of force against Afghanistan and Iraq do not mean that war has been declared against a third party. George Delano’s defenders dismiss this as mere semantics, which is stupid because that reduces the entire Constitution to mere semantics. It’s especially absurd coming from those who wish to make a flap about Jean Francois’ bizarre distinction between “more” and “foreign” leaders. The purpose for a declaration of war, and one coming from Congress, not the president, is not semantic, it is to ensure that the people are fully behind a martial effort that will require time, sacrifice and loss.

A mere use of force, on the other hand, can be portrayed as something that can be done easily, on the cheap, and without requiring anyone to sacrifice anything except a few hundred unfortunate parents who probably aren’t from the social class that matters anyhow. The 21-year old idiot son of a rich CEO here in Minnesota was front-page news when he managed to get himself killed by an Italian after mistakingly invading the guy’s property at 4:30 in the morning; the son of a farmer killed in Iraq the same week didn’t merit the same coverage.

The very fact that people constantly feel the need to remind everyone “we are at war” indicates that we are not, in fact, at war. Not anymore than we have been since 1996. This is the equivalent of October 1939 to May 1940, when WWII was dubbed “the phony war” because the populace and media did not see what was going on literally beneath the surface:

The British press dubbed it the “sitzkrieg” — the expected terror of Total War had not yet emerged. Overlooked was the hot war in the Atlantic. British merchantmen were fighting for their lives to keep Britain supplied with resources. What was happening was futile attempts by both sides to negotiate an end to the war that would not embarrass either side. Germany reached out to the Allies through Holland. Since the British held that Germany should recall her forces from Poland, there was not much leeway for either side to get out with a favorable position to both sides. Underscoring the U-boat menace was the swift and silent entry into Scapa Flow of U-47, commanded by Günther Prien on October 14, 1939. Prien slipped past sunken ships and chains that were used as antisubmarine nets, and sank the HMS Royal Oak with heavy loss of life. Hitler personally decorated Prien.

The only other notable confrontation took place in December 1939 off the coast of Uruguay. The German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee, a heavy cruiser armed with 15″ guns, was chased into Montevideo by three British cruisers. Much to Hitler’s dismay, the captain landed his crew, scuttled the ship, and killed himself. The Allies, desperate for victories, made a bigger deal of the Battle of the River Plate than its actual military significance. It did end a surface threat to the merchant lifeline to the United States and the Dominions. The U-boats were taking a fearful toll that was not generally reported. In the meantime, many opportunities were lost. The French did not fortify their border with Belgium, although a French officer had proved it was vulnerable during war games in 1938. The troops in the Maginot Line did not move — they did not conduct maneuvers at all, precluding the possibility that they might be needed somewhere else, like to invade Germany. The French Army had gone to ground, a bad mentality to have in fluid, mobile warfare.

The Phony War did lull many French and British citizens into a false sense of complacency, thinking the Germans would not prove to have the mettle to invade the vaunted Maginot Line.

So, the global jihad continues, while its primary supporters and suppliers and enthusiasts remain untouched. If George Delano is a war president, he is a worrisomely bad one, who neither understands the nature of the war that has been declared on America nor the need to have the full cooperation of the American people in fighting it. He might as well have blamed it on ETA as Iraq. And like Mariano Rajoy, the defeated Spanish Popular party candidate, he may well learn that attempting to deceive the electorate about the true nature of the enemy will lead to his defeat.