World War II holds 2 classic examples of how a ‘dirty’ war can be a product of the enemies who face each other. I define a ‘dirty’ war as a war in which atrocities occur frequently. ALL wars have atrocities. However, the general rule is that the better trained the combatants are, the fewer the atrocities. Of all the major combatants, the U.S., England and Germany had the best-trained armies in the world.
Germany fought England and the U.S. in one of the cleanest of modern wars. Atrocities occurred although by many standards, they were few. Yet the German-Russian war that was fought at the same time on the eastern front was one of the dirtiest wars in modern history. Atrocities were common from one end of the massive front to the other and throughout the war. The care of POW’s was a huge atrocity by itself, on both sides. This is because the POW’s were so poorly treated. Millions of POW’s on both sides died from mal-nutrition and disease.
As stated before, the U.S. fought Germany in a clean war, yet at the same time fought Japan in a dirty war. Prisoners were not taken often, if at all. Japan did not take care of U.S. and English prisoners well. Many died from mal-nutrition and disease brought on by starvation. An exception to this general rule was that the U.S. did take good care of the Japanese that it took prisoner. The reason I consider this to be a dirty war on the part of the U.S. is because we took so few prisoners, intentionally. Add in the firebombing of Japanese cities, plus the nuclear attacks.
The overall point here is that the fighting of a clean war is not dependent upon one side following the accepted ‘rules’ of warfare. It requires both sides to do so. This creates a real problem in the ‘war on terror’ today.
Our enemy today is fighting a VERY dirty war. I have studied warfare for more than 40 years and I cannot think of any war that can come close to the types and consistency of atrocities that our enemy has constantly committed.
Once this war gets as large as I think it will, we not concern ourselves with fighting a clean war. Sooner or later one of these groups will obtain and deploy an effective weapon of mass destruction. Escalation will naturally follow if not by us, then by our enemy. WMD does not lend itself to discrimination between soldiers and civilians. This war could easily become the dirtiest war in history.