Scenes Of Urban Warfare In Fallujah
Dexter Filkins of the New York Times was embedded with a US Marines company that did a lot of street fighting in the battle for Fallujah and reports on the high casualty rates from a single week's fighting and scenes from the fighting.
The 150 marines with whom I traveled, Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines, had it as tough as any unit in the fight. They moved through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart of the resistance, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers, working their way through Falluja's narrow streets with 75-pound packs on their backs.
In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including 6 dead, meaning that the unit's men had about a one-in-four chance of being wounded or killed in little more than a week.
The Marines did the bulk of their fighting without any armored vehicle support. Was this due to terrain or a shortage of such vehicles?
The screams of the marines when one of their comrades, Cpl. Jake Knospler, lost part of his jaw to a hand grenade.
"No, no, no!" the marines shouted as they dragged Corporal Knospler from the darkened house where the bomb went off. It was 2 a.m., the sky dark without a moon. "No, no, no!"
Nothing in the combat I saw even remotely resembled the scenes regularly flashed across movie screens; even so, they often seemed no more real.
Think about that casualty rate. A month of fighting at that intensity would completely wipe out a military unit. The air support and their training and equipment allowed them to give a lot better than they got. But the ratio of killings between US and enemy forces in urban combat is far less advantageous to the US side than is the case on more open ground. Our capital equipment advantage just doesn't help as much in cities.
It is time for a lesson from Samuel Huntington:
In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous. That it is false has been the central thesis of this book, a thesis well summed up by Michael Howard: the "common Western assumption that cultural diversity is a historical curiosity being rapidly eroded by the growth of a common, western-oriented, Anglophone world-culture, shaping our basic values . . . is simply not true." A reader not by now convinced of the wisdom of Sir Michael's remark exists in a world far removed from that described in this book.
The belief that non-Western peoples should adopt Western values, institutions, and culture is immoral because of what would be necessary to bring it about. The almost-universal reach of European power in the late nineteenth century and the global dominance of the United States in the late twentieth century spread much of Western civilization across the world. European globalism, however, is no more. American hegemony is receding if only because it is no longer needed to protect the United States against a Cold War-style Soviet military threat. Culture, as we have argued, follows power. If non-Western societies are once again to be shaped by Western culture, it will happen only as a result of the expansion, deployment, and impact of Western power. Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism. In addition, as a maturing civilization, the West no longer has the economic or demographic dynamism required to impose its will on other societies and any effort to do so is also contrary to the Western values of self-determination and democracy. As Asian and Muslim civilizations begin more and more to assert the universal relevance of their cultures, Westerners will come to appreciate more and more the connection between universalism and imperialism.
Western universalism is dangerous to the world because it could lead to a major intercivilizational war between core states and it is dangerous to the West because it could lead to defeat of the West. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Westerners see their civilization in position of unparalleled dominance, while at the same time weaker Asian, Muslim, and other societies are beginning to gain strength. Hence they could be led to apply the familiar and powerful logic of Brutus:
Our legions are brim-full, our cause is ripe.
The enemy increaseth every day;
We at the height, are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
This logic, however, produced Brutus's defeat at Philippi, and the prudent course for the West is not to attempt to stop the shift in power but to learn to navigate the shallows, endure the miseries, moderate its ventures, and safeguard its culture.
All civilizations go though similar processes of emergence, rise, and decline. The West differs from other civilizations not in the way it has developed but in the distinctive character of its values and institutions. These include most notably its Christianity, pluralism, individualism, and rule of law, which made it possible for the West to invent modernity, expand throughout the world, and become the envy of other societies. In their ensemble these characteristics are peculiar to the West. Europe, as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., has said, is "the source—the unique source" of the "ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and cultural freedom. These are European ideas, not Asian, nor African, nor Middle Eastern ideas, except by adoption." They make Western civilization unique, and Western civilization is valuable not because it is universal but because it is unique. The principal responsibility of Western leaders, consequently, is not to attempt to reshape other civilizations in the image of the West, which is beyond their declining power, but to preserve, protect, and renew the unique qualities of Western civilization. Because it is the most powerful Western country, that responsibility falls overwhelmingly on the United States of America.
To preserve Western civilization in the face of declining Western power, it is in the interest of the United States and European countries:
to achieve greater political, economic, and military integration and to coordinate their policies so as to preclude states from other civilizations exploiting differences among them;
to incorporate into the European Union and NATO the Western states of Central Europe that is, the Visegrad countries, the Baltic republics, Slovenia, and Croatia;
to encourage the "Westernization" of Latin America and, as far as possible, the close alignment of Latin American countries with the West;
to restrain the development of the conventional and unconventional military power of Islamic and Sinic countries;
to slow the drift of Japan away from the West and toward accommodation with China;
to accept Russia as the core state of Orthodoxy and a major regional power with legitimate interests in the security of its southern borders;
to maintain Western technological and military superiority over other civilizations;
and, most important, to recognize that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multicivilizational world.
In the aftermath of the Cold War the United States became consumed with massive debates over the proper course of American foreign policy. In this era, however, the United States can neither dominate nor escape the world. Neither internationalism nor isolationism, neither multilateralism nor unilateralism, will best serve its interests. Those will best be advanced by eschewing these opposing extremes and instead adopting an Atlanticist policy of close cooperation with its European partners to protect and advance the interests and values of the unique civilization they share.