Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Are there lessons to be learned from the kamikazes?

Remember the Japanese kamikazes? After the battle of Midway, when it was clear that Japan could no longer win the war, Japan had to deal with two problems: the first was that the US was inexorably making it's way to Japan's own islands (as opposed to recovering islands Japan had seized during the war). The second was the weapons problem. Japan was running out of weapons, military vehicles, and (significantly) fuel. It was this last that encouraged Japan to create the world's first guided missile: Kamikaze pilots, who would do precision targeting on a battleship, and who wouldn't need fuel for the return trip to Japanese air bases. Because Japanese culture had always focused on honorable death (witness the flip side of kamikaze, which is harakiri), it was easy to find volunteers. Popular culture also stepped up to the plate, with newspapers, books and radios lauding the brave pilots who were defending Japan to its death. The first wave of kamikaze attacks were extremely effective. The fliers succeeded in sinking a disproportionate number of battleships. In addition to kamikaze's usefulness as a weapon, it was also a propaganda coup. Americans found terrifying the thought of a guided missile powered by a man racing to certain death -- indeed, embracing that death. These outcomes and responses gave some hope to the Japanese and, for suicide military actions, where there's hope, there's death. Eventually, when there was no hope of turning the tide, there still remained the hope of inflicting maximum casualities on the allies. That's why battles such as Iwo Jima were so bloody. The Japanese, for their honor, were willing to sacrifice the last man, woman and child to make it a difficult victory. What derailed all this? What destroyed Japan's suicide culture? Well, I guess that would have to have been the atom bombs, which made it clear that the cost of the suicide culture was too great. The atom bombs destroyed the two hopes that had powered the suicide culture: the hope of some turnaround that might have resulted in a Japanese victory and, failing that, the hope of inflicting terrible losses on the US as the price for the Japanese defeat. The atomic bomb made it patently clear that neither of those hopes could be realized. I bring all this up because of the suicide culture in today's Middle East. That suicide culture thrives because there is a lot of hope. There've been good outcomes: Israel (where the suicide culture began) has been pummeled in the press and has repeatedly made concessions. In Iraq, it's a little less clear. The US is continuing to press attacks, and military victory definitely appears to be on the US side of the line -- something that's not going to change anytime soon. However, there's still hope, because of the propaganda victories favoring the suicide side, something the death squads know. After all, Zawahiri has explicitly pointed to this area of victory:

However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.
Where there's media, there's hope, and where there's hope, in a suicide culture, there's death. Believe me, I'm not advocating dropping a nuclear bomb on the anti-Democcratic armies in Iraq (or anywhere in the world where these battles are taking place). I am saying, though, that the only way we can defeat the suicide mentality is to make it patently clear that there is no hope that they will ever achieve their goals. Those committed to a death culture get hope from the popular culture attacks against the Iraq war both within and outside of the US. They'd get huge hope if the US actually listened to these attacks and withdrew (something that would call forth staggering bloodshed on a global scale). They will lose hope if the world realizes that the suicide culture needs to see before it an impenetrable wall committed to destroying suicide warriors. Since I'm extremely doubtful that this will ever happen, I think we must accept that the suicide culture is here to stay.