Unappealing options

(Yep–another “found on Facebook“.  Effing depressing when Facebook gives you better blog fodder than the news or other blogs.)

I’m not a huge John Ringo fan, but if you look at my bookshelves, you’ll find that he isn’t a rarity, either.  So I have to admit to being a little surprised to finding a short essay from him that I had never heard of, “Option Zero”.  Originally appearing on Baen’s Bar, it apparently has nearly escaped the Intertubz memory, which in itself is frightening enough.

The essay itself may well scare you the rest of the way out of your wits.  While it is obviously from early on in the “War on Terror”, and while things have changed greatly, if you think about it, not matter what you think of it, no matter what you call it, the war isn’t over.  While I don’t give a happy damn for our government, no matter who is in power at this point, our Muslim enemies don’t really care about that, and would happily murder me and my family just the same, thanks.

So as a public service, I’m going to join A Gun Guy’s Perspective in hosting a copy of “Option Zero”.  If Baen or John Ringo want it down, leave a comment and it will come down.  But I think this needs to be seen and considered seriously, given current events, before Option Zero is our only option.  I’m one of those guys he speaks of at the end, and in that case, yeah–I’d happily push that button.  I’ll really have nothing left to live for, so the results really won’t matter to me.  You might want to consider that, Hadji.

Option Zero Minimize

For all that we’re locked in a war with Afghanistan (and, yeah, that is what is happening) and we are probably going to end up at war with other countries, we really haven’t seen much discussion of what the options for a war on terrorism look like. Mostly, in my o so humble opinion, because people don’t like to face them. Why? Because there are no “pretty” options, they are all really nasty.

Well I’m good at talking about really nasty options; it’s my “day job.”

So I’m going to lay out the three options to a war on terrorism (and one nightmare.) And if you think about it long and hard, you’ll see that there isn’t a “fourth” option.

The first thing to consider is what is the ending strategy; what final outcome do you want from this war? The only reasonable “complete victory” description is the following: No nation-state or proto-nation state shall harbor, neither by direct support, nor by omission nor commission, known international terrorist groups.

Definitions. There’s a fixed definition of terrorism in US Code, so we’ll go with that one for now. Then we have to consider what the “harbor, support” aspects. The US has terrorists. Timothy McVeigh is the most famous but we also have Puerto Ricans, environmentalists, etc. But the FBI also works hard (harder at some times, less hard at others) to shut them down. So the US does not support those terrorist groups. Either by omission (“we know they are there but we don’t want to bother them”) or commission (“we know they are there and we like what they do.”)

But at that point we have to decide what to do about it, who bells the cat in other words. Remember, victory is getting countries to never ever in their wildest dreams sponsor terrorists.

This ain’t easy. Terrorism is a good thing to most of these countries. They can attack other countries and not get “blamed” for it. And countries always have something they want to attack other countries about. We could have terrorist groups in Mexico trying to cut off immigration and terrorists in Canada trying to reduce the flow of maple syrup. But we don’t.

So any option worth discussing means that any nation-state, from Afghanistan to Britain, will think long and hard about sponsoring terrorism, especially against the US, and then decide it isn’t worth it.

Option One is the nuclear counter-terror option, let’s just call it the “Kill ‘em all” option. “We’re stronger, more ruthless and more horrible than you so ticking us off was a bad idea.” The actual operational method would go broadly along these lines:

Determine your enemy country’s centers of gravity. This is rarely the capital city by the way. Nuke all functional centers of gravity. Using Iraq as an example, nuke all the “palaces” which are probably used as production and research facilities for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Nuke Takrit, which is the hometown of Saddam Hussein and from which he draws all his bodyguards. Nuke all barracks and motorpool facilities for the Republican Guard. Then send a list of rather reasonable demands (along the lines of “give us Saddam pickled in brine and all of your WMD and terrorist support people, here’s a list”) and if they don’t respond appropriately, hit a list of targets, centering on governmental groups, until they give up. And they will eventually. It might take four of five governments, but they will. And after it happens to a couple of countries, others will rethink the strategic wisdom of sponsoring terrorism.

This is not a pretty option and it has a huge number of possible negative ramifications. Most of the ones that are bandied about – the US would be held liable for war-crimes, embargoes, the US would never be the same again, etc. – are fundamentally unlikely or have already occurred. But Bad Things would happen.

Bad Things are going to happen, have happened and will continue to happen. The only question is which option are the fewest Bad Things going to flow from. This is not support for Option One, simply a statement of fact. Onward and downward.

Option Two should probably be called “The Card Option” since it was stated first and most eloquently (that I know of) by Orson Scott Card of “Ender’s Game” fame. The Card Option is basically redoing WWII. Invade, subjugate, rebuild, re-stabilize under democratic regimes and stay in place long enough to ensure it holds. Japan and Germany writ over and over again until the remaining “failed states” that harbored terrorists either stopped being “failed” or at least killed all the terrorists with extreme prejudice.

This option has the benefit of being the most “moral” and being the one most likely to succeed. However, it’s also the most costly, both in military and civilian lives and in dollars. Option Two would kill more civilians than Option One, based upon experiences in WWII and wars since then. “Collateral Damage” would have to be writ large when doing such things as taking Kabul or Kandahar against determined guerrilla forces. “We had to destroy the village to save it” over and over again.

As to “money”, you don’t want to think about the price tag. Something on the order of a trillion dollars per year defense budget and 15-20% of the American population in uniform. And not for five years but for something on the order of 15-20. Afghanistan alone would require at least 15 divisions of infantry (mixed heavy and light) and we’d probably have to take Pakistan first. Not have it as a weak ally. And that fight would go (briefly) nuclear.

I think we could return to some relative “norm” at the end of the war. But Bad Things would happen. And we’d have to have a tremendous amount of resolve for many years. Resolve to not only pour our young men and women into the furnace but be willing to say “Yes, constitutional liberal democracies don’t make war on each other so we have to enforce constitutional liberal democracies upon these states.” And stay long enough to make it hold.

Very ugly. “The White Man’s Burden” for the 21 st Century. The Italian Premier’s “Islam makes lousy civilizations.” Very ugly.

Option Three is a “Chindit War,” what we are currently waging. Already we are beginning to see the weaknesses of such a war. There is no real “reason” for the Taliban to relinquish power. They know that all they have to do to survive is hold on. And since we’re not getting down and taking territory away from them, they are not fundamentally effected; they still have power which is their main goal. In the meantime, there is huge collateral damage for no noticeable strategic or operational effect.

A Chindit War can, possibly, work. On a relatively long time scale. And if we stick to it. But it won’t shock the enemy (which is every country that sponsors terrorism ) into rethinking the strategic costs. Nor will it first remove the leadership that supports despotism and terrorism and then emplace over time leadership that understands democracy in its bones.

Which means a Chindit War can never end; we’ll be fighting international terrorism and failed states that support it when my children are old and gray. And the longer you give a wily and determined enemy to strike you, the more chance he has of scoring. Note the current anthrax “thing.”

There are various “versions” of these basic option. But mostly they are “Three Plus” or “Two Minus” or even “One Minus.” I have yet to see anyone say “there’s a completely different option” short of “we’ll give in to all their demands.”

However, there is “another” option, call it “One to Infinity.” It is what I call Option Zero.

Hemorrhagic smallpox is nearly one hundred percent fatal (194 out of 200 cases.) The only “cure” for it is to be immunized (general smallpox vaccination.) Immunizations last for approximately thirty years. Full population immunizations were discontinued in the US in the 1970s but military personnel were immunized up through 1989.

Imagine absolute horror for a moment. Imagine that right now hemorrhagic smallpox was being distributed by mujaheddin that were “living weapons.” Imagine that it infected nearly one hundred percent of the American public.

All that would be left after it swept across the country is former military who served from 1973-1989.

Their children would be dead. Their friends would be dead. Their parents would be dead. Virtually every “liberal” in the US would be dead.

And they would still have enough nuclear weapons to vaporize half the world.

If you don’t think we would use them, you’re dead wrong. You don’t have to be hail to press a button. Bad knees don’t really count in an Ohio. There wouldn’t be a teary eye in the house as the Minutemen and Tridents arched into the sky. And the guys who had last piloted F-4s would be flying B-2s and screaming: “This is for my grand-children you rag-head bastards!”

Welcome to Option Zero. “At the end of this war, the Arabic language will be spoken only in hell.”

Which is why we need to get off Option Three by next spring. Before Option Zero becomes “Option Only.”

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