A principal of military science says that artillery trumps fortifications. Ancient peoples built crude wooden palisades to defend themselves against the spear and ax wielding invaders. Those defensive structures would fall to siege engines. Moving forward, masonry fortifications were constructed, only to crumble when confronted by catapults. Medieval castle builders would strengthen those walls, which would then be destroyed by trebuchets and early forms of cannon. That sequence of events gave rise to the Trace Italian, the complex star shaped fort, elaborately built with sloping walls to deflect cannon balls and deep ditches to repel storming parties. The Trace Italian was as elaborate a defensive structure as man has designed, but it too was rendered useless in short order by advanced tactics, howitzers and mortars. Artillery always wins.
This principle can be applied to empires, in the sense that empires die when they shift into a defensive posture. Ancient Rome doomed itself to extinction the day its leaders decided to draw a defensive line across the Danube and the Rhine.
The Boer War marked a similar zenith for the British Empire, which would remain in stasis for a few years after the South African conflict, before starting the slow process of contraction and disintegration after surviving the horrors of World War I, a retreat that accelerated after World War II. As Churchill predicted, most of those lands that had enjoyed the benevolent protection of the United Kingdom, like Rhodesia, India and Pakistan, soon fell into a state that closely resembled both tyranny and anarchy.
The American Empire has been a unique creation. The American empire is not based on control, but was rather built upon a principle: that liberty and self-determination would make a better world for all. Japan, Germany, Eastern Europe, South Korea and a host of other nations have reaped the benefits of this unique, altruistic philosophy. The American Empire – if “empire” is an accurate term – took root after World War I and grew spectacularly after World War II.
Perhaps historians will look back a thousand years from now and opine that Viet Nam was the beginning of the end of our marvelous, if disjointed, and usually dysfunctional empire. Before Viet Nam, America did not apologize for trying to protect liberty. After Viet Nam, defending freedom somehow became equated with oppression, in many quarters anyway.
George W. Bush’s actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, like his father’s defense of Kuwait, effectively reversed a decade of defensive, fortress mentality with regards to terrorists and the states that oppose them.
Barack H. Obama’s promise to retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan has, thankfully, not yet been kept. But, as his reaction to the Christmas bomber has demonstrated, his mentality remains entirely of the bunker variety. Hunker down. Step up security procedures. Make the walls a little thicker.
It won’t work – not without an offensive. It never has. You can’t fortify America and hope to stop the latest version of Sponge Bob Plastique Pants (love that line of JohnFN’s) forever. Artillery always wins. We are at war with an idea and to win that war we must do the only thing that has ever well and truly won a war: apply strength such that the idea – if not destroyed – withers into ineffectiveness. Patton, Monty and Zhukov so smashed Hitler’s minions that National Socialism has been reduced to a joke today, with a few, forlorn followers who are an annoyance, not a threat. The same may be said of Japanese Imperialism. Macarthur, Nimitz and Little Boy (and let us not forget Fat Man) made the Japanese people realize that maybe ruling the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere wasn’t really their destiny after all.
Obama refuses to acknowledge the war against the idea, preferring to paint every incident as one involving some isolated, delusional, disaffected soul who has more in common with the neighborhood burglar than a soldier in the Waffen SS. But you know, when you assemble enough deluded, disaffected souls who buy their tighty-whities at “Suicide Bombers R Us”, you end up with something that closely resembles an army – an army of self-directed artillery shells.
So build the walls as high as you like Mr. President. Until we truly deal with the evil philosophies of Islamafacism and jihadism, the artillery of our enemies will continue to batter them.
And – eventually – artillery always wins.