How to Lose a War

AP Photo/Cpl. Matthew ‘Aussie’ Orr

How to Lose a War

The mightiest military in history is making itself vulnerable to annihilation.
From the September 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Anyone who would criticize the United States for having too much power should be quite pleased with the way world affairs are developing.

If America ever thought it could foster the blossoming of an age of peace-loving democracies worldwide, it must now adjust to a quite different reality. If it ever thought itself strong enough to maintain the status quo, being the world’s only superpower, that notion is rapidly fading.

Menacing threats to world peace are gathering like dark, hungry wolves. War in Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah on the attack. Iran gunning for nuclear weapons and threatening world war. Islamic radicalism spreading throughout the Middle East—and Britain, and Western Europe, and Central Europe, and Canada, and Southeast Asia and elsewhere. North Korea launching missiles apparently capable of hitting America. Russia and China defying the West, working aggressively to restore their imperial greatness.

These are towering threats. Yet in every case, although expending significant sums and infinite energy in working with these problems, U.S. efforts seem doomed to fail.

The United States simply lacks a foreign policy with a bite. Just watch the news and you can see it. Suddenly everything is about multilateralism—turning the world’s worst problems over to feeble international bodies and ad hoc groups of nations with competing interests—“solutions” that have been proven time and again to never work. The U.S. is hardly acting like the swaggering superpower critics routinely accuse it of being.


The simple answer comes down to two words: Afghanistan, Iraq.

America has become entangled in impossible projects in both countries. Armed forces are stretched thin trying to serve not only as warriors but also as policemen and social workers. Dollars that in previous generations would have gone toward leveling the enemy’s cities and breaking the enemy’s will are being funneled into a host of other chores intended to show how nice and unselfish and non-imperialistic the U.S. truly is.

Making these impossible situations even uglier is a relentless media assault aimed at convincing people—both in America and abroad—that the current U.S. administration is not nice, but is, in fact, selfish and imperialistic. Add to this a president with plummeting approval ratings and a legislature heading into elections this fall—always a good time for politicians to loudly criticize pretty much everything.

The upshot is, the road to peace that was meant to go through Baghdad actually goes no place. Afghanistan and Iraq are dead-ends. The U.S. cannot realistically mount an attack of any magnitude anywhere else.

America’s enemies know this.

Hence, the gathering threats. Wolves know an opportunity when they smell it.

Not for a long time have the limits of America’s capabilities been so evident—nor the confidence of America’s enemies so strong.

We are witnessing an epoch-making moment: the clear decline of the mightiest military in history. This convergence of circumstances is developing into one from which America will not recover.

Again, staunch critics of America’s superpowerdom consider this good news. But it is not. It is painfully shocking and sad news—and not only for Americans.

Time will prove that the era of Pax Americana—the relative stability of the past half-century while America has been a benevolent superpower, a stability that is rapidly eroding as the U.S. becomes overwhelmed—is about to give way to a world of nightmares.

How could this happen? We can point to specific causes that make the tragedy of what is happening—and what is about to happen—all the more heartbreaking.

A Failed War

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, drawing the U.S. into a full-throttle war. That war ended three years and eight months later when America dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, instantly breaking Japan’s will to fight and forcing its surrender.

By contrast, though 9/11 occurred almost five years ago, the war it provoked is far from being over. Actually, by several measures the problems that gave birth to that event are much worse today. There are several reasons for this.

Consider, to begin, the very definition of the war America is prosecuting. Entrapped in political correctness and thus uncomfortable with any unfavorable portrayals of Islam, America’s leaders have defined it as a “war on terror.” This is confusing. Terror is not an enemy, but a tactic. Failing to clearly identify Islamist extremism and its chief sponsor nations as the enemy is like defining World War ii as a “war on blitzkrieg” so as not to directly implicate Germany.

Characterizations of the “terrorist threat” as vague, shadowy, elusive and ubiquitous are also misleading. The threat emanates predominantly from a few nations, one in particular: Iran. Just as the collapse of the ussr overnight reduced the communist threat, ending state support of Islamist terrorism would all but end terrorism.

Trouble is, Iran has allies: most notably, Russia and China. Afghanistan was friendless and powerless—so the U.S. selected it (or, more accurately, the Taliban) as the first target in the “war on terror.” In terms of contributing to global terrorism, the Taliban was small potatoes compared to Iran, but this is the trouble one runs into after failing to properly define the enemy.

America’s subsequent attack on Iraq (or, more accurately, Saddam Hussein) was even more problematic, because it eliminated the single greatest check on Iran, virtually guaranteeing the ascendancy of the Islamic Republic.

Perhaps the present U.S. administration viewed Afghanistan and Iraq as tools to frighten Iran into submission, or to provoke a popular uprising against its radical leaders. Obviously, neither of these has happened.

As a result of this confusion in defining the enemy, in five years the U.S. effectively has done nothing to target Iran or degrade its support of terrorism. Though Iran is a far less fearsome enemy than Japan was in World War ii, five years of “war on terror” have actually left it stronger. Its president is pushing to build nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map. Iranian agents fuel an insurgency in Iraq that kills American soldiers. Right now, Iran is directing, funding, arming and personally assisting in the Hamas and Hezbollah attacks that have transformed Israel and Lebanon into what looks to be the first battleground of World War iii.

But the U.S. has done worse than merely not attack Iran: It has actually pursued dialogue with Iran, soliciting its help in bringing the bog in Iraq under control by reining in the Shiites. In order to tidy up its business in Iraq—its primary theater in the “war on terror”—the “superpower” United States is requesting aid from the world’s top state sponsor of terror!

This is the unbelievable situation, five years into the “war on terror.”

On top of that, democratic elections in the region—encouraged by the U.S.—have strengthened Islamists’ political portfolios in Egypt and installed Islamists into the highest offices in the Palestinian territories. Meanwhile, the troubles in Afghanistan refuse to go away (see page 14), and Iraq appears destined to end up with a government that will eventually ally with Iran.

In other words, the “war on terror” is not reducing the threat of terror against America.

How could this be? How can the deluge of dollars, steel, sweat, tears and blood America has dedicated to this cause—not to mention the lives of over 2,800 of its soldiers—fall so far short?

A Spiritual Problem

It is important here to state plainly the Trumpet’s intention in exposing this problem.

After World War ii, Gen. Douglas MacArthur bemoaned both the tragic failure of all efforts to create peace through diplomacy as well as the sheer destructiveness of war. There was a fundamental problem with man, he said. “The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh” (emphasis mine). MacArthur’s conclusion rings even truer today.

In speaking of the problems facing the U.S. and other nations, the Trumpet bases its analyses on biblical principles and prophecies. Our purpose is not to advocate physical or military solutions, because, as MacArthur said, the basic problem is spiritual.

Consider. To the ancient nation of Israel, God promised manifold blessings for obedience to His laws. Among these was the promise of security through supernatural protection: “And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid … neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword” (Leviticus 26:6-8). Clearly the U.S. is not receiving this blessing today.

The counterpart to the promised blessing of victory over enemies is God’s warning about terrifying curses for disobedience. The idea of being under a curse may seem ancient and superstitious in this modern, scientific age. But if you believe the Bible, you know that curses are real—even today. To rebellious Israel and its descendants (which include the United States), God warns, “And I will break the pride of your power … And your strength shall be spent in vain …” (Leviticus 26:19-20).

Consider the staggering implications of these scriptures.

They imply that these modern nations would have power, and pride in that power—they would have military strength. This fact is corroborated by other prophecies about the modern descendants of Israel (e.g. Genesis 24:60; 49:22-26; Micah 5:7-9). But—because of these nations’ disobedience—God would break that pride, and thus—as a curse—all that power would be wasted, squandered!

Is America now under this curse?

Absolutely. There could be no more perfect description of the U.S. today—still far and away the greatest military power on Earth—than to say that the pride in its power has been broken, and that it spends its strength in vain.

American officials defend hopelessly ineffective policy and call it “moral” use of power, or “just war,” intended to show how ethical, decent and principled war should be. In the end, however, this methodology makes America a triple loser: 1) true victory is impossible to achieve; 2) liberal elements of Western society are never satisfied that the war is altruistic enough; and 3) enemies view all such efforts as weakness—all the more cause to press on toward ultimate victory. The harder the U.S. works to implement a “just war” doctrine, the deeper the hole it digs for itself.

Put in biblical terms, the U.S. is spending its strength in vain.

We must be able to identify the spiritual reality underpinning current events. We must be able to recognize a curse when we see it.

What Is an Enemy?

The United States has many enemiesenemies which, left unchallenged, would quickly cripple its ability to protect itself against them.

The problem is, Americans are loath to call anyone an “enemy.” As the generations since World War ii have become more privileged and self-absorbed, formerly black-and-white morality has been replaced by a world of grays, of relativism, where even the most depraved behavior can be explained and excused. The Western mind has become deeply ambivalent about evil. Even words like evil and enemy are considered simplistic and backward.

In our world, a father whose son, Nick Berg, was barbarically beheaded by radical Islamists does not blame the radical Islamists—he blames George W. Bush. There must be a reason they did this to my son, he thinks, and that reason must be my government. This has become a pillar liberal doctrine—that the perpetrators of evil acts are not responsible because they are actually victims of a far greater evil: Western ideals (which, it is believed, are fully embodied in the person of the current U.S. president). This ridiculous moral reasoning saturates Western liberals, who see Western guilt in every act of non-Western barbarity. It extends forgiveness without requiring repentance and evident forsaking of the sin—a “get out of jail free” card that the Islamists are all too happy to take full advantage of, while they press forward with their war plan.

While America’s present administration has not gone so far as to blame itself for Islamist beheadings, it has a proven tendency to become infected with the moral haziness of that perverted thinking.

As foreign as the concept of “enemy” has become to Americans, however, it is crystal clear to radical Islamists. They view every non-Muslim—even every insufficiently radical Muslim—as an enemy. Their entire worldview is built around separating believers from infidels, and doing whatever is necessary, including shedding blood, to ensure the ascendancy of the former group over the latter.

This slice of humanity—which is much larger than America allows itself to believe—has repeatedly declared, through words and deeds, its intention to fight to the death. It cannot be dissuaded by international censure, persuasion, negotiation, nice words, handshakes or material incentives; in fact, it views all such efforts with contempt. It cannot be appeased by treating its prisoners with respect, honoring its traditions, or paying deference to its mosques or holy days. No Western political policy would alter the attitudes of radical Islamists the slightest bit.

Thus we see a bright line dividing the two sides in this conflict. As Lee Harris wrote in Civilization and Its Enemies, “This is the major fact of our time. We are caught in the midst of a conflict between those for whom the category of the enemy is essential to their way of organizing all human experience and those who have banished even the idea of the enemy from both public discourse and even their innermost thoughts.”

The fact that America has essentially “banished even the idea of the enemy” completely ambushes the success of its military endeavors.

Just War Theory

In America’s military academies, a major textbook used in ethics classes is Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer. Objective Standard writers Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein call the “just war theory” this book advocates “the sole moral theory of war taught today.” It is intended to help determine whether it is morally appropriate to enter a particular war, and how to wage it justly once you’re in it.

The criteria that “just war theory” uses to make these evaluations spell out an entirely altruistic morality with respect to war. That means it rigorously demands valuing the needs of one’s enemy (who is trying to kill you) above one’s own needs—branding as immoral any effort to seek the interests of one’s own nation. To simply defend America is not a good enough motive: War must make the world safer, spread democracy (not in any imperialistic way, you understand, but for the benefit of others), and supply hope to foreigners who have suffered at the hands of dictators, for example.

Virtually all Americans believe the U.S. has the right to defend itself. Most support “just war theory” because it looks like principled self-defense. In reality, however, it makes self-defense impossible. It essentially dictates that if an enemy threatens your security, you must quash the threat not by destroying the enemy, but by helping him. As Brook and Epstein describe it, “An injunction to go to war with altruistic intentions, seeking an altruistic outcome, is in direct contradiction to the requirements of self-defense; it forbids the very essence of self-defense in the context of war: identifying and defeating enemy nations” (Objective Standard, Spring 2006).

One can quickly see how the battlefield shared by a mammoth-sized military juggernaut and a feisty force many times smaller suddenly becomes rather level: One side has a complicated and contradictory set of objectives aimed at ultimately serving the enemy—the other only wants to destroy.

The U.S. has meticulously framed every action it has taken in its “war on terror” in altruistic terms. It has shown how the threats are global—an affront to the authority of the United Nations, for example. It has doggedly pursued diplomatic and multilateral solutions. In the Afghanistan war (tellingly named “Operation Enduring Freedom”), it drove out the Taliban and dropped food packages for the people. In Iraq (“Operation Iraqi Freedom”), it has spent hundreds of billions of dollars repairing damaged infrastructure, improving living conditions and working to create an atmosphere conducive to democracy. Even so, critics blast U.S. leaders for not being altruistic enough—firing off ridiculous accusations of imperialism, of “rushing to war” (despite issuing months of warnings), of waging war just to lower U.S. gas prices, of trying to impose American values (in areas where the U.S. has actually applauded the democratic election of Islamist radicals).

But consider how radically different a “just war” is from an effective war—how many aspects of war-making it affects—and how utterly vain the effort ultimately becomes.

Social Work Vs. War

Social work and war are two completely opposite endeavors. Social work can be wonderful, but where national survival is concerned, it is a completely inappropriate response to an enemy that is trying to destroy you.

Just war doctrine requires that, in every case, humanitarian goals trump self-defense. This idea facilitated America’s decision to begin its “war on terror” by blatantly ignoring the world’s most serious terrorist threat, and to instead target Afghanistan and Iraq—both of which, while posing milder dangers, had greater humanitarian needs. (This was only part of what motivated the decision, of course—the greater reason was that the U.S. didn’t have the will to fight Iran. The State of Israel is demonstrating precisely the same problem today, sacrificing its long-term security by limiting its war aim to merely pushing Hezbollah out of a little “buffer zone” in southern Lebanon.)

But humanitarian considerations did more than merely pervert America’s target selection: In both Afghanistan and Iraq, they torpedoed America’s success at strengthening its own security. (See “Protecting the Enemy,” below.)

President Bush has argued that the best way to protect America is to facilitate the spread of freedom and democracy. This is patently false. First, protecting America means eliminating threats. Undertaking the impossibly complicated and expensive rigmarole of trying to replace a tyranny with a stable, functional democracy—let alone attempting this before even breaking the enemy’s resistance, a goal that, in Iraq, continues to slip away—can hardly be viewed as the “best way” to eliminate whatever threat a state may pose. Moreover, in many cases, as Muslim nations become democratic, those who come to power are more radical and more hostile to the U.S.

Consider further. The oxymoronic “humanitarian war” approach demands that, instead of the winning nation benefitting from its victory, it is morally obligated to go broke trying to rebuild and rehabilitate those nations it defeats. Thus, rather than measuring a war’s success in terms of increased homeland security or other national benefits, Americans now consider war a failure as long as there are continued problems in the target nation.

Look at the degree to which America is trying to wage war in a way that, it believes, should place it above reproach in the eyes of other nations—the degree to which it is actually putting those nations’ opinions and interests ahead of its own. Read the headlines in your newspaper today. You will see that none of the effort to protect enemy civilians, none of the humanitarian aid, none of the care in ensuring that enemy nations keep their own wealth, none of the endeavors to put government back into the hands of the enemy peoples—nothing that America has done to conduct its “war against terror” in a “just” manner—is earning the U.S. even one iota of respect among other nations, nor among its own liberals.

What it is doing is guaranteeing war failure, and hastening America’s demise.

Two Sides

Victory in war comes when the enemy’s will to fight is broken. There is a point where a nation decides it has suffered enough—its wind is gone. Witness Japan after it saw two of its cities wiped out and didn’t want to learn through experience how many more atomic bombs the U.S. had in its arsenal.

Victory in “just war,” as the U.S. is currently fighting, is impossible to achieve, because breaking the enemy’s will is not the objective. Liberal commentators who say that attacking terrorist groups only swells the ranks of the radicals are correct—but only because the attacks are not decisive enough. They are too measured, surgical, precise and restrained—not to mention conspicuously avoiding the state fountainhead of those groups—to break the enemy’s will.

Elan Journo made a comment about America’s decades-long policy of pressuring Israel to appease Islamist aggression: “We are teaching the Islamic totalitarians in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran that their goal of destroying us is legitimate; that aggression is practical; that the more aggressive they are, the more we will surrender. U.S.-Israeli policy has demonstrated that we lack the intellectual self-confidence to name, let alone condemn, our enemies—and that we lack the will to deal with threats mercilessly. It vindicates the Islamists’ premise that their religious worldview can bring a scientific, technologically advanced West to its knees” (, July 19).

The longer America fights such a war, the more its strength is spent, and the stronger its enemies grow in both pride and power.

It is hard to disagree with these stinging words to America recently spoken by Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei: “In Iraq, you failed. You say you have spent $300 billion to bring a government in office that obeys you. But it did not happen. In Palestine, you made all attempts to prevent Hamas from coming to power and again you failed. Why don’t you admit that you are weak and your razor is blunt?”

Contrast the two sides in this “war on terror.”

America imposes rules on itself that tie its own hands behind its back as it tries to fight. Islamists deliberately ignore rules in order to maximize shock value, convey an image of arbitrary ruthlessness and instill terror.

America takes pains to minimize risk for its soldiers. Islamists actively recruit suicide bombers.

America’s volunteer armed forces and technology-dependant style of warfare cost hundreds of billions. Islamists level the field with far simpler, far less expensive weapons by using crude tactics intended to put the U.S. at maximum disadvantage.

America can never declare victory, because its war aims are simply too grandiose and unattainable. Islamists can declare victory just by fighting another day—proving themselves unconquerable by what is supposed to be the world’s mightiest nation.

America’s opinion-shapers and decision-makers argue that the U.S. is morally bound to take this approach, no matter the costs. Islamists couldn’t be happier.

“It seems that the more advanced we become, the more at a disadvantage we are in the 21st-century battlefield,” wrote Robert D. Kaplan (Wall Street Journal, July 19).

See the reality for what it is, and the truth comes into focus: This formerly mighty superpower has had the pride in its power broken, and it is spending its strength in vain.

America is suffering from the curse God prophesied in Leviticus 26:19-20. Because of this curse, the outcome of the present conflict is assured: The mightiest military power in history is about to be defeated.

This too is prophesied.


In 1961, Herbert W. Armstrong proclaimed, “America has won its last war.” Many scoffed. But time has proven his biblically based prophecy correct. Though the U.S. has won a couple of minor skirmishes, its military outings have stained its reputation and bloodied its nose. Its enemies can smell the blood.

Today, while the U.S. ineffectively spends its strength in Afghanistan and Iraq, those enemies watch. And pace. And encroach.

The Bible prophesies of those enemies (some even still being viewed by the U.S. as allies), in the near future, bringing America down. You can read about this by requesting The United States and Britain in Prophecy. No tweaking of American foreign policy can prevent this catastrophe from happening—only turning in heartfelt repentance and looking to God for protection and deliverance. After all, it is God’s wrath bringing this fate upon America! (Ezekiel 7:14).

But who is this power that will attack the U.S. and other nations of Israel? Biblical prophecy reveals that these nations have failed to recognize the most significant threat. It will not be Iraq, Iran, or any Muslim country. It will not be North Korea, China or Russia. The Bible shows it is actually those with whom Israel has formed a close alliance—its “lovers” (Lamentations 1:1-2; Hosea 2:13; this prophetic event is explained in our booklet Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet).

The devastation prophesied to befall the U.S. presages a period of unparalleled global suffering described in the Bible as the “great tribulation.” It is then that the true tragedy of America’s demise will become clear—when a new superpower, great and terrible, will arise to claim global supremacy.

A Truly “Just War”

But the Bible’s prophecies don’t stop there. Within a few short years, this nightmarish scenario will abruptly end, when the bright light of a new day breaks upon the land at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!

When Christ establishes His Kingdom, He will implement a truly just war policy: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war” (Revelation 19:11). He will not begin His humanitarian projects before forcefully breaking His enemies’ will to fight—smiting them and then ruling them with a rod of iron (verse 15), bringing them under His loving authority.

Jesus Christ will not negotiate for peace. He will enforce a policy of peace on His own terms. As prophesied in Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people ….” Once people submit to His authority, He will teach them the ways that bring abundant happiness and well-being for all humankind: “… and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”