Published online in the New York Times on January 16, 2008
Re “We Still Need the Big Guns,” by Charles J. Dunlap Jr. (Op-Ed, Jan. 9):
To the Editor:
Many commentators have glorified Gen. David H. Petraeus’s counterinsurgency manual as the second coming of George Kennan’s famous “X” article.
This effusive praise is largely a consequence of our need to derive a political narrative from the fog of war.
Describing General Petraeus’s manual as the magnum opus of a great warrior-intellectual is a lot more compelling story line than calling it what it really is: a literary review comprised of abstract aphorisms.
Unfortunately, Charles J. Dunlap’s call for an “unapologetically high-tech military” is an either/or proposition that ignores the reality that high-tech military powers have been consistently defeated by low-tech insurgencies over the past 60 years.
America’s future enemies are likely to employ this style of war because they know it works. If the United States follows General Dunlap’s advice and “substitutes machines for the bodies of young Americans,” we will become more willing to go to war since our society will become even more divorced from war’s visceral cost in human lives.
Does anyone think that participating in more wars that we have proved historically incapable of winning sounds like a good idea?
Washington, Jan. 9, 2008