posted by Yonatan
Full Metal Jacket
The line in the sand: Even though JFK masterfully diffused the Cuban missiles crisis (I wish we had here leaders who could handle the Hizbollah kidnapping like that), apparently the strengthening of communism in Northern Vietnam convinced him that the US must "draw a line in the sand" against communism expansion. Otherwise, the US status and credibility as a superpower, and its position in the Cold War will be fatally damaged.
Well, we all know how that ended up. The US wasn't so successful in blocking communist expansion in Vietnam, and nonetheless, ultimately, it triumphed over the Soviet Union. Many people wrote about the current war that Israel must win it, as otherwise its position in the middle east will be irrecoverably damaged. That losing it will have dire consequences on the West's power versus radical Islam. Hopefully there's some encouraging lesson here.
The limits of power: Olmert was unofficially quoted as saying that we won this war 15-0 (he's thinking soccer, of course, not tennis). It is often said that in Vietnam the US won every battle, but lost the war. While both these statements are not completely accurate, the end results painfully prove the obvious - that even if you have McNamara's brilliance on your side, and the-best-army-in-the-world, and complete air superiority and so on (neo-con conspirators?), it's not enough.
To actually break your enemy, it is not enough that rational reasoning shows that your enemies will be in a world of pain if they don't surrender. Just as your soldiers are willing to die if they believe this serves the interests of their country (and even when they have doubts...), so do your enemies. Forcefully "winning" a conflict can only be done in extreme situations. Perhaps one of the problems with the perspective of Israeli generals is that they think the '67 war to be the rule, rather than the exception.
The importance of power: While you usually can not force your enemy to surrender on your terms, the application of force can improve your position when negotiating a compromise. In late '68 Lyndon Johnson ordered the cessation of all US attacks in Vietnam, but the peace talks which this action was supposed to facilitate broke down. Only after Hanoi's massive bombing (condemned world-wide), did negotiations resume, leading to the Paris Peace Accords.
This, I think, is an important lesson for people like me, who so strongly believe in peace, that they have a very hard time believing that the people on the other side might be different. If Hizbollah comes out victorious from this conflict, and Israel is intimidated from risking another clash, then it will have no motivation to disband and give southern Lebanon over to the Lebanese army.
The world won't listen: The real losers of the Vietnam War were, of course, the South Vietnamese. Once US soldiers were no longer there, the '73 Paris Peace Accords proved a poor shield. When, only two years later, north Vietnamese forces overtook the south, millions fled the country, becoming refugees. And the regime that followed wasn't exactly a gentle one.
So where were the american people who protested the war? Where were the European countries who condemned the Hanoi bombings? With the watergate scandal on one end, and the soviet backup on the other, taking the south was like taking candy from a baby (not my baby though, he's tough). I fear there is a lesson for us here as well. Israel must be powerful enough to defend itself. Peace agreements will be worth nothing if this won't be the case.
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?
Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Where'd you get it?
Private Joker: I don't remember, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you've got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: "Born to Kill", sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?