When reading history books about the Vietnam war, I always read that there were two sides to American public opinion: doves, who wanted peace; and hawks, who were for the war. These days, it seems very similar, but I'd think those definitions are quite simplistic. Yeah, we will always have the 5% of the population who thinks that war is never the answer to anything and all our enemies need is a hug. We will also always have that 5% of the population that thinks we could just solve all our problems by nuking whoever disagrees with us, starting with France.
And I bet mostly those 10% are going to be the ones on TV...but I digress.
Chalk me up as one of the other 90%, who have more complex views on how America should apply force in the world. I think that we should never engage our troops in war lightly, and I think we should apply a strict litmus test when doing so.
I'm not talking about this war, because our leadership has apparently not yet decided whether or not we actually are at war (much to the disservice of our men and women in uniform, who, when we do win this thing, will be the only reason, and the first US troops to do so since the War of 1812 without leadership from Washington), I'm talking about the next war. Hopefully we won't have so many problems if we do it right.
1. Overwhelming Force/Powell Doctrine. If we're not willing to put enough troops on the ground to win the thing, at the onset of hostilities, we are not ready to go to war. We may go to war with the Army we have, but we usually go on the understanding that reinforcements will be along d'rectly, with more guns and better planes.
2. Total War. If the American public is not ready to watch us destroy enemy cities from the sky, shell enemy cities into rubble and burn an enemy nation's entire infrastructure to the ground, we may not be ready for war. Because that's war. That's what the enemy would do to us if we give them the chance. FDR was totally against carpet bombing enemy cities, right up until Japan attacked us and Germany declared war on us. Facing the two greatest military-industrial machines the world had yet seen, FDR then decided, screw 'it, bomb the @#$! out of 'em. That way, when we take over enemy nations with our overwhelming force, the population is cowed and defeated and they know they are beaten.
The corollary to this, of course, is that once we break it, we do have to fix it, a la Marshall Plan, once we've won and they've surrendered.
3. National Service. A national service program would permanently swell the ranks of all Armed Forces and the reserves.
4. Peacekeepers. We need to bolster, seriously, our Peacekeeper divisions in order to keep order once the vanguards have destroyed enemy cities.
5. Collective Security. In 1991, the world sent over 500,000 troops into Iraq to liberate Kuwait, comprising the largest armored force the world had seen since WWII and backed up by the greatest air campaign evar. That war took 100 hours to complete.
6. Clear Strategic Objectives/Declarations of War. In WWII we knew we were fighting for the 'unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan and the Third Reich.' In 1991, we were fighting to 'drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.' Everyone, including our enemies, knew these were our goals. The psychological and strategic importance of such clarity cannot be ignored.