by Mel Griffith
The present situation in Iraq demonstrates how difficult it is for an army, no matter how powerful, to deal with small groups of determined rebels. This is nothing new. The British won most of the major battles of the Revolution, but lost the war. Its hard to tell what the outcome would have been without the French, but Cornwallis was at Yorktown because he had been run out of the South, so things weren't going that well before the French did much. The British couldn't get the country under control even though they had the support of about a third of the population. Indeed, the famed battle of King's Mountain was mostly a fight among Americans. Col. Ferguson's regiment having been formed mostly in Pennsylvania.
The British tried vainly to control Ireland for centuries before losing all except the northern part in 1922. There has been decades of trouble in Northern Ireland until recently despite British support from a majority of the population.
Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former Secretary of War recognized the value of guerrilla warfare and urged the Confederate Army to dissolve into small units and continue the fight instead of surrendering. No one knows what would have happened if his suggestion had been followed, but it could have led to generations of bloodshed as endless revenge attacks spiraled out of control, as they have in many places many times.
It is important to remember that insurgencies can be defeated. Indeed, most are if they are fought long enough. After America took the Philippines from Spain at the turn of the last century they fought a 12 year rebellion. That was considerably longer than World War ll. was to be later. But since World War ll. hadn't happened yet and since there were no embedded CNN reporters to give a daily report on the length of the war compared to it they just kept fighting until they ran out of insurgents.
After World War ll. Communist rebels spent years trying to take over the country, without success, even though they had plenty of outside support from the Soviet Union. One of the most important qualities needed to defeat an insurgency is patience. Though we teach our school children that they should develop it, we frequently show little of it as a nation. While the loss of young lives is always tragic, and it is proper that we honor those who gave their lives for our country, it is good to remember that we lose far more people in that age group each year in traffic accidents than we have lost in the entire war.
We just don't get a national total of traffic deaths each day. It's a big country and in a population of 300 million there are many tragic deaths each day, not just those in Iraq.