In a recent discussion group I was confronted with the idea of total, conventional, attrition-style warfare as a simplistic solution to the vagaries of counter-insurgency.
And simultaneously I came across this order, issued by a Nazi commander in occupied Greece during World War Two.The Germans faced an insurgency in the rough terrain of Greece's mountainous hinterland, which sometimes wore no uniform and could be aided by the civilian population. The Nazis pursued a simplistic solution of brutality which refused to use any critical analysis of the human terrain of their war.
The enemy has thrown into bandit warfare fanatic, communist-trained fighters who will not stop at any act of violence. The stake here is more than to be or not to be. This fight has nothing to do with a soldier's chivalry nor with the decisions of the Geneva Conventions. If this fight against the bands, in the East as well as in the Balkans is not carried out with the most brutal means, the forces at our disposal may in the near future not last out to master this plague. The troops are therefore authorised and ordered in this struggle to take any measures without restriction even against women and children if these are necessary for success. [Humanitarian] considerations of any kind are a crime against the German nation. [issued by Field Marshal Keitel, following instructions from Hitler, 16th December 1942]
The German policies of reprisal, mass murder, and deportations did nothing to dent the numbers of guerilla forces that harassed the occupiers from the mountains. In fact, destruction of villages probably forced many into the mountains and into taking up arms. Is this who we want to be? Do we really want to take a page out of the Nazi playbook in our own foreign affairs?
Christ, man, maybe politicians don't win wars, but they can sure lose them, so think again.
That possibility, and reality, was not precluded in my statement.
The military exists to accomplish policy goals so I would argue that all war is political anyway. Therefore I would argue that all your distinctions about soldiers, politicians, and politics is just rhetorical.
Speaking of moral principles in war:
How would you avoid killing civilians during the course of a war? Seems like that would be impossible in a real world scenario.
Tragedies are eternally a part of war. But we cannot actively seek it out and when success is so dependent on the support of the host population, it must be a priority to minimize it.
With 12 years in service and 46 months in combat (I'm in Afghanistan right now) I think the one and only true answer to small wars against a faceless enemy is 4th Generation warfare, counter insurgency, and the implementation of Special operations due to small unit tactics. If anyone is familiar with John Poole (Veitnam Veteran) he wrote books on the subject, "tequila junction", is one. The idea being that you form counter insurgencies in kinetic areas containing fighters. A counter insurgency being a small group of highly trained men, and a team of females for female engagements. You conduct yourself like an insurgency although instead of using strong arm tactics to scare or "terrorize" the local populace, you trade food, water, and assistance with protection for training and help with their villages. Anything from digging wells, buildings schools, and helping them stand up their own local police force.
Now the original plan was for these teams to "go native" completely, no military vehicles or uniforms, relaxed grooming standards, etc. However the brass doesn't like that answer because one there is very little control over the groups, and two it steals there thunder as field grade officers. Two things I'd like to point out, the war in Afghanistan has left many of its most experienced soldiers, and airmen with considerable battle fatigue, they are simply tired. Afghanistan is bordered by Iran and Pakistan, both countries keep a steady pace of feeding funds and fighters into Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan, in my opinion, should of been 4th Gen warfare from day 1, the conventional combat arms units should've locked down the border so the Small units could fight the war from the inside without a constant replacement of men, weapons, and equipment from foreign finacers.