Saturday, April 26, 2008

Deciphering a War

One of the characteristics of wars, or at least many of them, is that they are won by the side that reaches breaking point a day or two after the other side has already broken. This is one of the many reasons it's so hard to really know what's going on in a war, until after it's over. Often, it takes years to piece together the evidence and figure out what really happened.

I can reel off a rather good concise description of the stages of WW2 (tho not WW1, which for all my attempts I've never managed to understand). I can do the same for the first Israeli-Arab war, in 1947-49, though of course the magnitude is totally different in that case. But there were four stages, each with its own characteristics, and so on. Since much of the drivel presented these days about the Israeli-Arab conflict could benefit from a dose of simple facts, this ability of mine comes in useful from time to time.

It wouldn't occur to me to claim to understand the war in Iraq. It was more or less simple for a few weeks in Spring 2003, but never again since. To be honest, I don't even try too hard to follow the various warring parties, political parties, partial and impartial pundits, and all the rest. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm a total ignoramus. I'm a reasonably intelligent consumer of media reports, blogs, and so on, and I'll bet I could hold my own in discussion with most people. But I don't read Arabic, I don't know how to evaluate the various reports, and I do know that most of the reporters, of all groups, don't know much either... war being what war is.

Still, there are patterns. In 2006 the violence was horrendous by any reasonable criteria; sometime in 2007 the surge, or something totally different that happened at the same time, or perhaps it was the lineup of Jupiter with Pluto behind Mars or some such - whatever it was, the violence partially subsided. It's still horrendous, but there's apparently less of it. In recent weeks, I've been seeing more and more reports like this one: the Economist telling about political progress.

Is there a pattern? Will future historians include it in their two-minute synapses of the 2nd American War in Iraq?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Nope. I don't agree. Too many battles were fought by moving armies; around living spaces belonging to civilians; who, if they were smart, cleared the field. And, ran away.

While some wars are won when you interfere with the "supply lines." Letting "winning armies race ahead," until they run out of food. Or ammunition.

Wars are more than a contest, though.

Because we tend to remember, way way back, to wars fought. And, then the poets who gave this a "gimmick" by which to be remembered.

Think HOMER. You could even think the Bible. Since what's "reported" has usually been less than peaceful times.

What I find fascinating, however, is that today's journalists are screwing up. And, losing market share. Letting amateurs, who write blogs, to steal their audiences. And, to get read by way more people than professional scribes.

Why is that?

Well, it seems journalists have been missing the essence of what makes stories interesting. It's one thing to have a sexual revolution, where pot heads stick daisies into the front end of guns. But it's quite another to think of this crap as heroism.

Old fashioned heroism still stands out.

And, the germans lost because they were doomed to listen to hitler's lies.

While people, then, who wanted to hear the truth, risked their lives un-burying their short-wave radios; to pick up signals. And, this meant? It meant English began to be understood by more and more people.

WHile Yiddish died.

You could learn something from outcomes. If you only looked.