Commentary: In modern warfare, some old rules still apply

The Fresno BeeDecember 15, 2009 

Has war been reinvented in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Sometimes it seems so, with the confusion that has come with the instant communication offered by the Internet, YouTube and satellite television — along with the new arts of precision destruction via high-tech weapons like drones and GPS-guided weapons.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers don't quite disappear into distant theaters abroad. Instead, they can e-mail or call their spouses from halfway across the world — often minutes before and after battle.

A phony Internet rumor, like the supposed flushing of a Quran at Guantánamo Bay, can incite thousands in mere minutes.

As those in the West become ever more affluent and leisured, it is harder for us to ask our children to risk the good life in often distant, controversial wars. Who wants to leave our comfy suburbs to fight in godforsaken places like the Hindu Kush or Fallujah — against those for whom violence and poverty are accustomed experiences?

The West still has the technological edge in warfare. But thanks to globalization, the Internet and billions of petrodollars, terrorists can get their hands on weapons (or the instructions on how to build them) that often prove as lethal as those used by American or NATO troops.

Osama bin Laden did not have anything like the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, but that did not prevent him from taking down the World Trade Center.

Nonetheless, many of the old rules still apply amid the modern fog of war. Human nature, after all, does not change. And since the beginning of civilization the point of war always has been for one side through the use of force to make the other accept its political will.

We should remember that and get back to basics in Afghanistan. Our leaders must remind us that war always offers only two choices -- bad and worse.

We certainly could leave Afghanistan. That would allow the Taliban to return to power and host more radical Islamic terrorists.

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