Thomas Wictor

Sparing lives is the smart way to win wars

Sparing lives is the smart way to win wars

Until tonight, I believed that winning wars requires killing. I’d tempered my viewpoint somewhat, based on what I’ve seen in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, but now I’m ready to say without any doubt that sparing lives—not taking them—is the only way to make war obsolete.

I used to agree with the sentiment below.

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Yes, that’s true.

But they generally start fighting again in the future. You have to re-fight the same wars over and over.

Why?

The answer is simple: Those who were defeated want to redeem themselves. After World War I, the victorious Allies imposed the Treaty of Versailles on Germany. You should study the many ways that the Germans got around all the restrictions placed on them. They continued to manufacture banned flamethrowers, calling them “insecticide sprayers.” They set up a secret tank school in Russia. They used “sports clubs” to train soldiers.

The smartest thing they did was to nullify the requirement that the German army be comprised of only 100,000 men.

Each man in the army was an officer. The Germans thus had 100,000 trained officers and hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers disguised as football players, fencers, swimmers, glider enthusiasts, car racers, bicyclists, and so on. On March 16, 1935, Hitler ordered the full rearmament of Germany.

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Four years later, the Germans invaded Poland, and World War II began.

Sparing lives for the future

I lived in Tokyo for five years. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Japanese love Americans. They don’t. Get a Japanese drunk, and he’ll eventually say, “If we’d had the raw materials, we would’ve beaten you.” They also inevitably complain about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Germans hate Americans too. Talk to a German about World War II, and within ten seconds he’ll be whining about the bombing of Dresden. “Nobody got bombed like we did!” they say.

Japan and Germany will never recover from the damage we inflicted on them. Russians will always hate Germans, Chinese will always hate Japanese, Finns will always hate Russians, etc., etc. To this day, Egyptians want another crack at Israel. It won’t happen, but the Egyptians still resent their defeats in 1967 and 1973.

Look at Iraq. We’re fighting the same people—the same exact individuals—who we defeated in 1991 and 2007. For some of them, this is the third go-round.

The new Israeli-Arab weapons will break that cycle. If you don’t kill large numbers of people, you don’t create a cultural trauma that can never be overcome.

Not sparing was a mistake

I went to Gettysburg in 2003. It’s the most haunted place in the United States. I also found it the saddest place I’ve ever been. There are monuments to the dead everywhere—out in fields, in the woods, on hilltops…

Gettysburg

At one such monument, I asked a fellow visitor if there would be reenactments that day.

“Yes, there sure will,” he said in a deep Southern accent. “The Yankees perform at two, and the good guys perform at three.”

I laughed, and he glared at me. He wasn’t kidding.

The American Civil War killed about 620,000 people. That’s the equivalent of 6.2 million in terms of today’s American population. The US will never recover from the Civil War.

What the new Israeli-Arab weapons allow is defeat without wholesale slaughter.

Sparing deliberately

Watch this short video of a BGM-71 TOW antitank guided missile (ATGM) hitting a group of Iranian proxies setting up their own missile in Aleppo, Syria.

In the past, every man in that clip would’ve been killed. It appears, however, that most if not all survived.

Here’s the beacon of the BGM-71. The operator used it to guide the ATGM to its target.

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What’s happens next is something I’ve never seen. The ATGM seems to use only kinetic energy, not explosives.

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There was no flash of light, meaning that there was no heat.

However, the force of the strike blew off the warhead of the enemy ATGM (red arrow), and the men lost their clothing.

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Somehow the enemy missile was destroyed without causing it to detonate as violently as it should’ve. You can see smoke, and the soldiers had their uniforms blown off, but there was no flame. This defies all known laws of physics.

Two men were uninjured enough to take cover or run.

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They should’ve died from concussion or razor-sharp fragments of metal. The reason they didn’t die is that someone decided that sparing them was better than killing them. Rebels didn’t fire that missile. The only people with access to such advanced weaponry are professional strategic special operators. It was also an incredible shot: Just the enemy missile was struck.

Sparing when possible

A second short video.

Again, an ATGM is fired at Iranian proxies in Aleppo, Syria.

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However, that munition is clearly much smaller than an American TOW.

It explodes in the midst of the four men.

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Three things tell me that it’s a new fuel-air explosive (FAE).

One, it’s evident that a round cloud of vapor detonated.

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Two, the smoke cloud is flat, which is the signature of these weapons.

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It means that the force of the explosion was directed downward.

Three, no metal fragments flew out. At least two of the four men survived a direct hit, and a fifth man was uninjured.

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A regular ATGM uses a high-explosive warhead that shatters the casing into lethal steel fragments. As you can see in the video, no fragments kicked up puffs of dust. That was an FAE with a casing that doesn’t create deadly shards of metal. Therefore professionals fired the missile. Rebels aren’t armed with such high-tech weapons.

Also, in both videos, the missile operators infiltrated the enemy line and fired at their targets from behind. That takes a lot skill, especially if you plan on surviving.

Some people have to be killed. However, most don’t. Imagine being a professional strategic special operator who has trained for ten years. How would you feel about killing conscripted Afghan or Syrian militiamen who can’t find their own rear ends with both hands, a map, and a flashlight? Terrorists such as Hamas and the Tamil Tigers are different. They have to die because they’re irredeemable.

But sparing the lives of non-fanatics is smart, it’s moral, it’s honorable, and it allows for faster recovery and rebuilding.

Americans still feel the pain of the Civil War, one hundred and fifty years later. My ancestors Eli, Levi, and Abram Lower fought in the war on the side of the Union.

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All three were so terribly wounded that they were disabled for the rest of their lives.

Has killing more and more soldiers and civilians stopped war? No.

But I think sparing them will do the trick. The Arab League fights in secret, killing as few people as possible. Mass public suffering and humiliation is avoided. I think this will allow for real peace to be achieved.

Sparing your enemy’s life allows him to change his mind. He may stop hating you, and he may someday become your friend.

If it’s not absolutely necessary to kill the enemy, I think you shouldn’t.


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