I have four sons, two domestic, two imported. The two imported sons spent time in Romanian orphanges -- a fairly small private Christian orphange, but prior to that a large state orphange. The latter can be fairly compared to the Mouth Of Hell.
Neither of my older two boys were fighters. Both were backed into it a very few times growing up, but simply avoided most situations that might lead to fighting. That is not 100% possible, as all parents learn. I was much more worried when my third and fourth sons came over four years ago. Both had had to fight often in Casa de Copii in Oradea, especially the younger one. From what we had heard but never seen, both were very capable of hurting people badly if they chose to. We worked a great deal on teaching emotional control and avoiding conflict.
This year the younger boy, now 18, is at a new school. He is short, quiet, and has an accent. A boy in one class began insulting him, and the others were picking it up. Before he decided to do anything about it, he brought it up to us. We discussed it over several days. Chris made one set of comments that has stuck with me. I will oversimplify, but he described that in a fight, one has to decide what kind of fight you are in. Do you want to win the fight, or just hurt someone? I had not thought of the distinction before.
In an equal fight, with someone your size, experience, or whatever, the goal is to win. But in a fight with someone bigger and stronger, to fight to win and fail leaves you in a worse position than before. Your goal must be to hurt the other person, win or lose. Then he will at least not want to fight you again. This is asymetrical warfare writ small. This principle underlies the actions of terrorists. Ultimately, they do not have to win in the usual sense. They win if the opponent goes away. This is what happened to Saddam in the first Gulf War. No matter how badly he had been beaten, he would gradually acquire victory once we left.
I supported the liberation of Iraq, and still do. But that added dynamic of losing gradually after winning I had not fully considered. It certainly binds us to finishing what we have now. But I understand Colin Powell's caution better.