Le 30 juillet 2010, le professeur (et ancien colonel de l’U.S. Army) Andrew J. Bacevich publie, sur TomDispatch.com, un essai sur “la fin du concept de victoire”. C'est une variation fondamentale sur le thème qui caractérise notre époque de “la fin de la guerre” comme moyen utile et efficace de réguler les situations des relations internationales. (Bacevich met cette idée en pendant de la proposition de Francis Fukuyama, en 1989, de “la fin de l’Histoire”.)
(Nous-mêmes avons développé ce thème à plusieurs reprises, – voir notamment le 7 janvier 2005)
Bacevich observe que cette idée était déjà largement acceptée dès 1945 par la plupart des pays, sauf les USA et Israël. Les décennies qui suivirent, et surtout les événements depuis le 11 septembre 2001 ont démontré, non seulement la plausibilité, mais la réalité du constat. Le concept de “victoire” n’a plus aucun sens à cause de son inefficacité, voire de son impossibilité. La question est de savoir comment les deux pays en question, Israël et les USA, vont accepter cette réalité. Bacevich retourne la fameuse intervention de Madeleine Albright en 1993, auprès du général Powell, alors président du comité des chefs d’état-major : «Nearly 20 years ago, a querulous Madeleine Albright demanded to know: “What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?” Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What’s the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn’t actually work?»
Quelques extraits de l’essai de Bacevich.
«…That was theory. Reality, above all the two world wars of the last century, told a decidedly different story. Armed conflict in the industrial age reached new heights of lethality and destructiveness. Once begun, wars devoured everything, inflicting staggering material, psychological, and moral damage. Pain vastly exceeded gain. In that regard, the war of 1914-1918 became emblematic: even the winners ended up losers. When fighting eventually stopped, the victors were left not to celebrate but to mourn. As a consequence, well before Fukuyama penned his essay, faith in war’s problem-solving capacity had begun to erode. As early as 1945, among several great powers – thanks to war, now great in name only – that faith disappeared altogether.
»Among nations classified as liberal democracies, only two resisted this trend. One was the United States, the sole major belligerent to emerge from the Second World War stronger, richer, and more confident. The second was Israel, created as a direct consequence of the horrors unleashed by that cataclysm. By the 1950s, both countries subscribed to this common conviction: national security (and, arguably, national survival) demanded unambiguous military superiority. In the lexicon of American and Israeli politics, “peace” was a codeword. The essential prerequisite for peace was for any and all adversaries, real or potential, to accept a condition of permanent inferiority. In this regard, the two nations – not yet intimate allies – stood apart from the rest of the Western world.
»So even as they professed their devotion to peace, civilian and military elites in the United States and Israel prepared obsessively for war. They saw no contradiction between rhetoric and reality.
»Yet belief in the efficacy of military power almost inevitably breeds the temptation to put that power to work. “Peace through strength” easily enough becomes “peace through war.” Israel succumbed to this temptation in 1967. For Israelis, the Six Day War proved a turning point. Plucky David defeated, and then became, Goliath. Even as the United States was flailing about in Vietnam, Israel had evidently succeeded in definitively mastering war.
»A quarter-century later, U.S. forces seemingly caught up. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm, George H.W. Bush’s war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, showed that American troops like Israeli soldiers knew how to win quickly, cheaply, and humanely. Generals like H. Norman Schwarzkopf persuaded themselves that their brief desert campaign against Iraq had replicated – even eclipsed – the battlefield exploits of such famous Israeli warriors as Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Vietnam faded into irrelevance.
»For both Israel and the United States, however, appearances proved deceptive. Apart from fostering grand illusions, the splendid wars of 1967 and 1991 decided little. In both cases, victory turned out to be more apparent than real. Worse, triumphalism fostered massive future miscalculation. […]
»No one doubted that Israelis (regionally) and Americans (globally) enjoyed unquestioned military dominance. Throughout Israel’s near abroad, its tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships operated at will. So, too, did American tanks, fighter-bombers, and warships wherever they were sent.
»So what? Events made it increasingly evident that military dominance did not translate into concrete political advantage. Rather than enhancing the prospects for peace, coercion produced ever more complications. No matter how badly battered and beaten, the “terrorists” (a catch-all term applied to anyone resisting Israeli or American authority) weren’t intimidated, remained unrepentant, and kept coming back for more. […]
»If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it’s this: victory is a chimera. Counting on today’s enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky.
»Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, Americans contemplated their equivalent of Israel’s “demographic bomb” -– a “fiscal bomb.” Ingrained habits of profligacy, both individual and collective, held out the prospect of long-term stagnation: no growth, no jobs, no fun. Out-of-control spending on endless wars exacerbated that threat.
»By 2007, the American officer corps itself gave up on victory, although without giving up on war. First in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, priorities shifted. High-ranking generals shelved their expectations of winning – at least as a Rabin or Schwarzkopf would have understood that term. They sought instead to not lose. In Washington as in U.S. military command posts, the avoidance of outright defeat emerged as the new gold standard of success.
»As a consequence, U.S. troops today sally forth from their base camps not to defeat the enemy, but to “protect the people,” consistent with the latest doctrinal fashion. Meanwhile, tea-sipping U.S. commanders cut deals with warlords and tribal chieftains in hopes of persuading guerrillas to lay down their arms.
»A new conventional wisdom has taken hold, endorsed by everyone from new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus, the most celebrated soldier of this American age, to Barack Obama, commander-in-chief and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. For the conflicts in which the United States finds itself enmeshed, “military solutions” do not exist. As Petraeus himself has emphasized, “we can’t kill our way out of" the fix we’re in. In this way, he also pronounced a eulogy on the Western conception of warfare of the last two centuries.
»What then are the implications of arriving at the end of Western military history?
»In his famous essay, Fukuyama cautioned against thinking that the end of ideological history heralded the arrival of global peace and harmony. Peoples and nations, he predicted, would still find plenty to squabble about.
»With the end of military history, a similar expectation applies. Politically motivated violence will persist and may in specific instances even retain marginal utility. Yet the prospect of Big Wars solving Big Problems is probably gone for good. Certainly, no one in their right mind, Israeli or American, can believe that a continued resort to force will remedy whatever it is that fuels anti-Israeli or anti-American antagonism throughout much of the Islamic world. To expect persistence to produce something different or better is moonshine.
»It remains to be seen whether Israel and the United States can come to terms with the end of military history…»