Sometimes you just need to rip the bandaid off

We all know that the only thing more painful than ripping a bandaid off is taking it off ever so slowly.

We all know that you treat cancers by swiftly removing the whole tumor (if possible), and not by gently nudging out one cancerous cell at a time.

We all know (don’t we?) that you fight wars to win.  To that, I’d add that there’s probably more humanity in getting a war over swiftly, even if that means bringing in a lot of upfront firepower against enemy troops, than dragging a war out forever in order to spare as many enemy troop lives as possible.  That is, I’d be willing to bet that, if you could play the two war scenarios out in alternative universes, the swift, but more brutal war, would end up with fewer casualties than the attentuated, but kinder war.

In any event, because I believe that principle, I was gratified to see this story:

NATO troops fought a six-hour battle with insurgents in southern Afghanistan Monday in a firefight that left 55 militants and one NATO soldier dead, the Western alliance said.

Twenty militants also were wounded in the fight in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, NATO said. The nationality of the dead NATO soldier was not released, though many of the Western troops in Zabul are American.

The battle came on the heels of another major fight between militants and NATO and Afghan troops Saturday in neighboring Uruzgan province in which 70 insurgents were killed after they attacked a military base north of Tarin Kowt.

Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said troops in southern Afghanistan are moving into areas where insurgents are active in order to set security conditions to allow reconstruction and development.

“We’re not going to get fixated on a scoreboard tally of insurgents killed,” he said. “What’s more important is getting an accountable government in place.”

NATO and Afghan troops are pressing ahead with a new joint offensive called Operation Eagle, aimed at keeping pressure on the Taliban through the fall and winter and to pave the way for long-promised development after the harshest fighting since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban.

The 32,000-strong NATO-led force took command of security operations in all of Afghanistan last month and has been battling resurgent Taliban militants in the south and east.

There’s more, but the point seems to be that NATO has figured out that you don’t win a war against a determined enemy by dropping a desultory bomb or two on a mule.

And no, I do not feel sorry for the Talibanis who died.  This is war, for God sakes!  Their goal is to kill us; our goal is to kill them first.  They’ve put themselves in the line of fire.  If they’d go away, and leave the beleaguered Afghani people to enjoy the fruits of democracy (and, of course, stop trying to kill NATO troops), we’d leave them alone.  And just to keep the dead Talibani’s voluntary appearance on the battlefield in perspective, remember that the Taliban worked closely with Al Qaeda in 2001, not to kill soldiers in a declared war, but to massacre as many American civilians as possible.

The same situation applies in Afghanistan as it does in Israel.  As you know, the saying there is that, if the Palestinians stopped fighting, peace would come to that land; if the Israelis stopped fighting, they’d all be massacred.  War is never just about killing.  It’s always about the reasons behind the killing and the impetus or lack thereof to continue with the killing.