Sunday, July 26, 2009

Victory – An Obsolete Concept?

by Daniel Pipes

July 23, 2009
updated Jul 25, 2009

"Victory" has nearly dropped out of the minds and vocabularies of modern Westerners, replaced by compromise, mediation, and slogans such as "There is no military solution" and "War never solved anything." In contrast, I agree with that bracing t-shirt counter-slogan, "Except for ending slavery, Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Baathism, war has never solved anything."

In my view, wars end only through defeat and victory; if you don't win a war you lose it. In today's world, I call for a U.S. victory over radical Islam and an Israeli victory over the Palestinians. This emphasis on victory fits into a long line of military analysis. For example:

  • Sun Tzu, about 350 B.C.: "Let your great object be victory."

    Karl von Clausewitz, author of "On War."

  • Raimondo Montecuccoli, 1670: "The objective in war is victory."

  • Karl von Clausewitz, 1832: "War … is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."

  • Winston Churchill, 1940: "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1944: "In war there is no substitute for victory." (Also stated by Douglas MacArthur in 1951.)

  • Douglas MacArthur, 1952: "It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it."

But that was then. Here are occasional contemporary quotes on the topic of victory, or its absence, in reverse chronological order:

Barack Obama, president of the United States, asked by an interviewer to define a U.S. victory in Afghanistan:

I'm always worried about using the word "victory" because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to [Douglas] MacArthur. … when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like al-Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can't attack the United States. … What that means is that they cannot set up permanent bases and train people from which to launch attacks. And we are confident that if we are assisting the Afghan people and improving their security situation, stabilizing their government, providing help on economic development so they have alternatives to the heroin trade that is now flourishing.

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