During my time at the Kennedy Special Warfare Center, I learned that only dinosaurs believe the atomic bomb is the ultimate weapon. We learned the ultimate weapon is the guerrilla — highly motivated individuals who can operate independently behind front lines for long periods, to damage and confuse superior military forces. Defeating a guerrilla force is like playing “whack-a-mole” — kill one here and another pops up over there.
The exception, albeit temporary, to this strategy is when guerrillas are fighting “scorched-earth” military forces. Turkey simply massacred a million men, women, and children, to stifle disagreement. Germany had “brown-shirts” who publicly mugged those who disagreed, often leaving them dead. Russia and Chili have a long history of ” the disappeareds” – people who suddenly disappear, never to be heard from again. There are ways to suppress dissent, but the cost of a “scorched-earth” strategy in America is unimaginable.
There is hard power, and there is soft power. Our government is organized on that basis. The Defense Department projects hard power, whereas the State Department projects soft power. Which is better is this unsettled environment?
The Wall Street Journal believes it is a mistake to utilize active-duty military forces to suppress the current protests, and I agree. If ego requires that they must be used, then they should only be used to enforce curfews, when the thugs show up, not to play whack-a-mole with deeply committed protesters before then.