Free Markets, Free People


Afghanistan: Political Will Or Political Cynicism?

For all the rhetoric about Afghanistan being “the ‘good’ war” and where we should be concentrating the fight that we heard during the campaign, it really comes as no surprise to me that politicians, the chattering class, and the liberal left is now pitching abandonment of the effort there just when we are seriously considering that which is necessary to turn the fight around.

The problem?

As usual it has to do with political will.

The new commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has done his assessment of the situation and has rendered his report.

“The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort.”

Read that carefully – two words in particular are aimed primarily at one particular sphere of influence – the political. What McChrystal is saying to the political community is, “I think we can be successful if we follow the revised strategy I’ve set forward, but without the “commitment and resolve” from the political community to see this through, it will all be for naught.”

Anthony Cordesman, who was involved in McChrystal’s assessment, delivers what I would characterize as a pretty succinct and honest appraisal of why we’re in the situation we’re in now:

The most critical reason has been resources. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade.

Our country left a power vacuum in most of Afghanistan that the Taliban and other jihadist insurgents could exploit and occupy, and Washington did not respond when the U.S. Embassy team in Kabul requested more resources.

The Bush administration gave priority to sending forces to Iraq, it blustered about the successes of civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan that were grossly undermanned and underresourced, and it did not react to the growing corruption of Hamid Karzai’s government or the major problems created by national caveats and restrictions on the use of allied forces and aid.

It treated Pakistan as an ally when it was clear to U.S. experts on the scene that the Pakistani military and intelligence service did (and do) tolerate al-Qaeda and Afghan sanctuaries and still try to manipulate Afghan Pashtuns to Pakistan’s advantage.

Further, it never developed an integrated civil-military plan or operational effort even within the U.S. team in Afghanistan; left far too much of the aid effort focused on failed development programs; and denied the reality of insurgent successes in ways that gave insurgents the initiative well into 2009.

Like it or not, Afghanistan has been the second priority when it came to resources. Turning it around is going to take both time and more resources – something, if you read the pundits and politicians today, many are not willing to do.

Cordesman says that “most experts” agree that US troop levels in Afghanistan need to be increased by “three to eight more brigade combat teams”. But he also stresses that those BCTs would primarily be engaged in training Afghan troops and making them “full partners rather than tools”. The need for that training is past critical and was highlighted as a problem when 4,000 plus Marines pushed into Helmand province and only 600 Afghan troops (around a battalion) were able to participate.

However Cordesman’s last point about civil-military plans is just as critical and just as on-point. These programs are critical and lacking. A big plus up in that area is required to turn the situation around.

Militarily, what we must do is “take, hold and keep the Afghan population secure”. Classic COIN.

Just as important but glaringly lacking at the moment is the other and equally important side of the process:

[S]ecure local governance and economic activity to give Afghans reason to trust their government and allied forces. They must build the provincial, district and local government capabilities that the Kabul government cannot and will not build for them. No outcome of the recent presidential election can make up for the critical flaws in a grossly overcentralized government that is corrupt, is often a tool of power brokers and narco-traffickers, and lacks basic capacity in virtually every ministry.

Hamid Karzai is nothing more than the mayor of Kabul in reality. One of the critical tasks we faced and overcame in Iraq was teaching Iraqis at every level how to build those necessary government capabilities and then link them all together in a single functioning entity. While certainly not perfect, it provided a decent basis for governance that they’ve been able to assess and refine as they’ve gained experience.

That task has yet to be done in Afghanistan.

And it may never be done either.

Why?

Because the “good war” that the left claimed was legitimate and necessary to fight is suddenly neither.

We’re now treated to daily editorials and op/eds wondering if Afghanistan is Obama’s Vietnam or whether we find ourselves in yet another “quagmire”.

And it is reported that even conservative commenter George Will is preparing to come out against our continued presence there, rationalizing such a pull-out with a foolish solution (his column is now available):

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.”

Of course such a strategy will secure neither Afghanistan or Pakistan and certainly do nothing at all toward eliminating the al Qaeda threat. Instead it would give the organization a much freer hand in both countries.

Politicians have also begun to weigh in with rationalizations for pulling out of Afghanistan that can only be characterized as ignorant. Take Sen. Russ Feingold who claims he was for the war before he decided now to be against it. And, per Feingold, if we only listen to him, we can have our cake and eat it too:

We need to start discussing a flexible timetable to bring our brave troops out of Afghanistan. Proposing a timetable doesn’t mean giving up our ability to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Far from it: We should continue a more focused military mission that includes targeted strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and we should step up our long-term civilian efforts to deal with the corruption in the Afghan government that has helped the Taliban to thrive. But we must recognize that our troop presence contributes to resentment in some quarters and hinders our ability to achieve our broader national security goals.

Of course Feingold’s solution expects the Taliban and al Qaeda to remain quiescent and cooperate with his plan by leaving the population, the government and our “long-term civilian efforts” alone after we pull our troops out and Afghanistan unable to defend itself.

There are other political moves afoot as well as Cordesman points out. Speaking of the realities of the Afghanistan situation and the required support necessary to change it successfully, he says:

Unfortunately, strong elements in the White House, State Department and other agencies seem determined to ignore these realities. They are pressuring the president to direct Eikenberry and McChrystal to come to Washington to present a broad set of strategic concepts rather than specific requests for troops, more civilians, money and an integrated civil-military plan for action. They are pushing to prevent a fully integrated civil-military effort, and to avoid giving Eikenberry and McChrystal all the authority they need to try to force more unity of effort from allied forces and the U.N.-led aid effort.

And his conclusion, based on that is as true as it is unacceptable:

If these elements succeed, President Obama will be as much a failed wartime president as George W. Bush. He may succeed in lowering the political, military and financial profile of the war for up to a year, but in the process he will squander our last hope of winning. This would only trade one set of political problems for a far worse set in the future and leave us with an enduring regional mess and sanctuary for extremism. We have a reasonable chance of victory if we properly outfit and empower our new team in Afghanistan; we face certain defeat if we do not.

It will be interesting to see how the Obama team reacts to the McChrystal report. If, as Cordesman suggests, he attempts to put off a decision by caving into the pressure to have Generals Eikenberry and McChrystal provide a series of dog-and-pony shows outlining “a broad set of strategic concepts”, then I’d conclude that the political will to carry the mission to a successful conclusion is likely not there.

What we’ll instead see is a series of these sorts of delays used to push a decision on commitment further and further out until it is politically safe for the administration to pull the plug. That, of course, would be 2012 with a second term safely secured. If my cynical prediction is correct, you’ll see the effort in Afghanistan given enough support to keep it from collapsing but really not furthering the effort toward success.

If that is indeed how it plays out, then politicians will be trading the lives of our soldiers for time to successfully secure their political future. That is both immoral and totally unacceptable.

Afghanistan is a salvageable. But it will take a long time, a full commitment to the mission, patience and above all, political will.

If the political will is not there, the administration owes it to our troops to do its “cutting and running” now, and let the political chips fall where they may.

If, instead, they string this thing out until it is politically acceptable to do that, they deserve to be banished to the lowest level of hell, there to toil in agonized perpetuity for putting politics above the lives of our soldiers.

~McQ

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41 Responses to Afghanistan: Political Will Or Political Cynicism?

  • I have never understood why our first instinct in both Afghanistan and Iraq was to set up a national government. One reason we went into both places was because the nation state part was seriously broken.

    Building from the ground up (local to national) is harder and takes longer, but it is more effective. Give the locals a voice in councils, facilitate the appointment of mayors and other officials. While their culture might be different from ours, when the public is able to go directly to problem solvers they have influence and ownership.

    On a related issue, why do we impose a European style proportional representation system in both places? Single member districts offer much better representation to local views. National governments with single member districts are much more stable than governments where representatives are selected from party lists based on a total share of the national vote.

    I think the key phrase McChrystal used was “unity of effort”. I don’t see much of that yet.

    Lastly, where is Petraeus in all this? He’s the Centcom CinC. Is he just a mere conduit now?

    • On a related issue, why do we impose a European style proportional representation system in both places?

      My recollection is that was the UN sticking its oar in, but I could be wrong.

    • Not just Centcom CinC, but the inventor of the COIN strategy that saved our efforts in Iraq. Good question, though. Where has he been?

  • Not going to happen. Right now they can (already have, the attached report demonstrating) lay the blame on George Bush. Not that it wouldn’t be just, we DID focus on subduing Iraq to the detriment of our effort in Afghanistan (I recall the left, Erb being our local example, were all pumped up when NATO took the helm, and the Euros were surely going to more broadly and better manage the ‘just war’ that we should have been fighting).

    Suddenly, it’s an American War again. I’m not going to even begin to claim that McChrystal is flying in the face of history. He knows that history, he knows his troops, he’s IN Afghanistan and he probably knows his job.
    I’ll accept that we can actually do it, if we have the will to.

    The problem is the will to do it is back here trying to make sure we get our national health care plan so the Administration isn’t a failure before the first year has elapsed, that the deficit was, oh my, a little higher than the White House said it was going to be. That we have to focus on saving the world from Carbon Emissions with a cap and trade bill, while getting the NEA to start churning out happy art propaganda about the administration policies. That we make sure the internet is taken care of and that yet another Czar find a job in extragovernmental capacity.

    Afghanistan is about to get the treatment from us that it got when the Soviets withdrew. The opportunity presented to the left to demonstrate it can be hard on terrorism, and squash the vipers nest where Osama Bin Laden got his start (and in reality the place where the terror attack on US soil originated) and help, dare I say, empire build another stable government in a previously hellish region will be thrown aside.

    Clearly the Adminstration refuses to see what’s happening in South America, with the various ‘constitutional amendments’ being made by tin-pots. They punish Honduras, the one country to stand up for rule of law, they ignore, for all intent and purpose, Iran. They insult our close allies, and apologize to our enemies.

    Given that, why would anyone think they can follow the natural progression of a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan on our exit, followed by a push into Pakistan. All of which will take just a little longer than this administration has left in office (yes, I’m predicting Mr. Obama will no longer be resident of 1600 Pennsylvania avenue in 2012), and of course they can guarantee that by keeping the patient on minimum support until they can get gone, or, God help us, get another term. You see, they’re waiting for the shipment of moon ponies and unicorns they convinced themselves they were entitled to on Inauguration day, all this real world running the country stuff is harder than they expected.

    You called it right, we’ll spend cash reluctantly, and lives without real regard (after all, the military IS where you end up if you don’t do well in school, right?) so long as the troops keep the barbarians away from the gates long enough for the administration to finish it’s looting of the treasury.

  • Quite a damning indictment of Bush and Co. from Cordesman.

    I feel sorry for the people of A-stan, because they are about to be screwed again. We took out the Taliban in good time, but didn’t finish the job. If anybody’s seen the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War”, I think they’ll find the ending eerily prophetic.

  • This is crying out for an Ott Scerb preemptive strike.

    Anyway, yes this is all about political will. Bush did show that will in regards to Iraq, and now it is Obama’s turn to show that will in regards to the war that he himself said was important to fight.

    Oh wait, that goes back to the leadership question we have been discussing here. A leader shows some spine. Expect Baracky to choose the quick and easy solution.

  • As the true cost of our economic crisis becomes clear, it’ll be impossible to maintain expensive overseas commitments, especially ones that are focused on nation building and settling internal disputes. It might be that due to politics (‘only Nixon could go to China’) it’ll ultimately be a Republican to follow conservative Will’s lead and withdrawal. Iraq is emerging as very close to Iran, and practically divided in three parts. Afghanistan is a mess on so many levels that the idea we can fix it is a vast over-estimation of our capacity to socially engineer a country, and Obama needs to have a clear exit in place by 2012. If Obama does stay, he has to go really big — follow the Powell doctrine, and then take the political slams and hope it works. Go big, or get out are his only feasible options. I just don’t think we can afford to go big.

    • Frankly we can’t afford NOT to, terrorism is just looking for a good home.

      But that’s okay, we’ll kid ourselves into thinking we CAN afford to provide health care to one and all (including wandering border jumpers), but cannot afford to deal with terrorism in at least this place, where we already ARE, where there are plain roots.

      And when we take another economy slamming body blow (airlines, banking, retail, lives) as some American city becomes the next terror target, the cost in “steer and gear and stack” will suddenly far outweigh any investment we would have made to keep, or put, the “thousand swords” in the field doing their job.

      • And for those who find “Steer and gear and stack”vaguely familiar but can’t quite place the reference….

      • Fear of terrorism is what caused our problems — an irrational fear that somehow we need to control the politics of other countries in order to protect ourselves from terrorism. Innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered hundreds of times the amount of damage and death we suffered on 9-11. Meanwhile, it’s probably not done a thing to hinder al qaeda, nor does us leaving Iraq and Afghanistan do anything to help them hit us again. Fear of terrorism was an irrational response to a lucky strike they made that was more spectacle than effective. Some people live very frightened lives it seems. Look where that’s got us. Fear is not a good policy adviser!

        • “Fear of terrorism is what caused our problems — an irrational fear that somehow we need to control the politics of other countries in order to protect ourselves from terrorism.”

          If one were to listen to you, we invaded numerous sovereign nations at random after September 11 (and killed non-combatants indiscriminately, but I digress). Afghanistan–and indeed Iraq, although its importance ex ante is a matter of debate–is and always was pivotal in our strategy to combat terrorism, or more properly, fight a global counterinsurgency. It has nothing to do with “irrational fear”; it has been a calculated and deliberate effort, and a matter of stated national policy, to wage this campaign overseas.

          Afghanistan was the obvious choice for this location, with the most important reasons being: (1) It was a failed state with a power vacuum, which allowed terrorist groups to operate with impunity and often with the explicit approval of the Taliban in its areas of control; (2) It already was a training ground for terrorism and the actual September 11 perpetrators themselves. A withdrawal from Afghanistan in the foreseeable future (just off the top of my head, but next ten years) would simply allow a reversion to those two states.

          • Erb: “Fear of terrorism was an irrational response to a lucky strike they made that was more spectacle than effective.”

            What?! What? Did you really just say that? Usually, Erb, you’re kind of cute in an awe-look-at-the-cute-little-progressive-shill kind of way. A visit from you means a visit from Ott Scerb and he always makes me laugh (unlike you, he does so intentionally). But this is so *&%#-ing ignorant, so steeped in your stupid post-modern revisionism it is beyond the pale.

            It would have been an irrational response if nothing had actually happened, and when the smoke had cleared, the towers were still standing, the planes were still in the air and almost 3,000 victims were still alive. Sadly, that is not the case.

          • It is always funny to watch liberals go through the routine they call “reasoning”. Of course anyone else would laugh at the suggestion they actually reason. For instance, 3,000 people were killed within an hour or two on a single day? Not enough to really get excited about. 3,000 soldiers over 5 years or so? Now there’s a cause to shut down Washington over.

          • The focus on US dead is frustrating. The real tragedies in Iraq and Afghanistan is the dead innocents over there. American military people sign up and volunteer. The innocents do not. When I read of, say, a three year old orphaned because her parents were “suspicious” at a check point (not understanding what was expected of them), it’s a sign that something is really messed up. We’re putting the lives of military people who choose the risk ahead of innocent civilians and children — and they compose the balk of the dead. It’s a perversion to think that somehow “our” people have more human value than “their” people. Alas, that kind of thinking seems to inform many anti-war voices as well.

          • “It’s a perversion to think that somehow “our” people have more human value than “their” people. Alas, that kind of thinking seems to inform many anti-war voices as well.”

            It also seems to inform many of those who would create a single-payer health care system. And those who think it is vile to spread evil rumors about John Kerry but okay to spread evil rumors about Sarah Palin.

          • It’s a perversion to think that somehow “our” people have more human value than “their” people.

            Sometimes what you write is a perversion. I don’t want dead Iraqi innocents, or even dead Iranian innocents. I don’t want dead innocents, you think the guys who orphan your theoretical kid WANT that?

            We go way the hell out of our way to avoid dead innocents, you hopeless intellectual jerk.
            But pardon me if I feel a little more empathy for people in my tribe over people in their tribe. You act like our guys freaking WANT to be there, that somehow they were hoping to be shipped far from home, friends and family and parked in harms way. Do you think firemen WANT fires? Do Police men WANT to be shot at?

            Tell me you don’t feel more grief if someone in YOUR family dies than if someone in an acquaintances family dies. It’s human nature to mourn your own before you spend a lot of time grieving over people who aren’t. Say you don’t and you’re a liar. You can bet your ass if they saw something that could have been done to prevent ANOTHER incident of a kid being orphaned because of simple mis-communication, they’d find a way to fix it to avoid it a second time. You, in your safe little academic world don’t have to deal with the people who orphaned that kid, and you will probably never be in a situation where you’ll have 2 seconds to make a life or death decision that allows you or your buddies to see the next sunrise or has you or them coming home in a steel casket draped with a flag. Like they were machines who had no regrets.
            You’re a pompous buffoon. You prove it nearly every time you post.

          • LOL! Looker, from the insults that you can’t hold back I imagine you angry and pounding the keyboard. Settle down!

            I don’t think in terms of tribes, an Iraqi innocent is to me more important to protect than an American soldier, that’s the ethics and law of just war theory for centuries. Humans are humans. But we KNOW that we are going to kill innocents. Stories from the front and the experiences of soldiers show we don’t always go out of our way to defend innocents — from My Lai to Abu Ghraib, in any war humans can and do lose control. The point is that we should minimize to an absolute low putting our soldiers and the innocents of our country and other countries into such situations. Do you know the extent of PTSD and family disorders because of Iraq? The businesses lost, the injuries, the disabilities, both here and there? For what? That’s my point. It should be HARD to justify war, and to rationalize keeping it going. Instead it gets sold via emotion — fear and anger — and then pride and abstraction cause people (including, it seems, Obama) not to be willing to stop it once started. Your post demonstrates a lot of emotion, it may be blinding you from understanding what I’m saying.

          • See above -

          • “…an Iraqi innocent is to me more important to protect than an American soldier, that’s the ethics and law of just war theory for centuries.”

            That is absolutely incorrect. It may be your opinion, but to my knowledge, nothing of the sort is remotely said in any definition of Just War, American military doctrine, the Laws of Armed Conflict, or other international law such as the Hague or Geneva Conventions. All agree that civilian casualties must be absolutely minimized to the greatest extent possible, but all also recognize the reality that if a force places greater interest in preventing civilian casualties than successfully executing its military objectives, it will never be able to achieve those objectives. The former is what you are advocating. That would in the end, be an even greater waste of life and treasure than anything else, because it would both prevent a rapid end to the conflict and put out of reach military victory. Just War theory says explicitly that, in order to embark upon a war, you must have reasonable prospects of winning it.

            “It should be HARD to justify war, and to rationalize keeping it going.”

            This is also incorrect–in part. It is unquestionably true that war should be hard to justify, but once it has been decided that going to war is compatible with the Just War criteria (and the public will to win it, if you wish to invoke the Powell Doctrine) there should be no question remaining as to the ultimate goal of success. According to the Just War theory, you must have a reasonable chance of winning and be acting to stop or prevent a grave wrong. If your nation has decided those are both true, there is no reason to say “[i]t should be hard to … rationalize keeping it going”.

            Virtually every American war at the time was an unpopular one, especially when and if it became protracted, or had a significant anti-war faction, often in the government itself. I can think of vociferous and powerful anti-war movements for the following American conflicts: The Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Occupation of Haiti, the Banana Wars, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the Afghan War.

            Saying that anti-war sentiment is something lacking in America is to ignore the reality of history. Certainly, not all of those conflicts satisfied the Just War criteria. But often they were or they were justified by the American government, and often another part of the government then worked in opposition to the stated national policy. Occasionally, such anti-war movements very nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (e.g. the Civil War, which incidentally almost ended the Democratic Party). In another, the anti-war movement literally did end an American war in defeat (Viet Nam War, see A Better War by Lewis Sorley).

    • Shorter Erb: “We should forget the whole thing. Or not. But whichever way it goes, I’ll say I predicted it.”

      • Fact of the matter is, I’ve been right and most commentators on this blog wrong on so many issues: 1) the impact of Sarah Palin on the McCain ticket (she sunk him), 2) the resurgence of the Taliban and our disintegrating situation in Afghanistan (I was derided when I warned about that a few years ago, and have been repeating my warnings); 3) the impact of Rev. Wright on the election (people here were saying it would sink Obama for sure); 4) the economic crisis facing America (I was poo-poo’d by 70% of the commentators who reacted, a few agreed we were facing a major crisis); 5) the way the Iraq war would weaken the US (I was considered ultra-pessimistic, and told that once we were seen as victorious, the rest of the world would quickly support us); 6) Hillary’s weakness against Obama (people were saying Hillary could not lose because she apparently was like a mob queen); and 7) I argued that immigration as an issue would not be a major focus of 2008, when people here were thinking it might be the dominant issue. There are others.

        Now, I’ve been wrong too. I did not think the surge would have the effectiveness it did (though even experts note it is short term and no one can say we’re winning in Iraq), I thought the stimulus would be effective enough to buy us time to make budget cuts, it appears now to have only made matters worse. I thought Bush would cut his loses in Iraq and go with the ISG report, and instead he pushed it aside. I thought Palin would be indicted for corruption, but that hasn’t happened. I thought that the US or Israel was going to strike Iran, and thankfully that didn’t happen. I didn’t think oil prices would drop as fast as they did last year, and I thought the dollar would be much weaker than it is now — its been more resilient than I predicted. I was wrong on these, and there are others.

        That’s the thing about predictions on things like this, sometimes you’re right, sometimes your wrong. Mature people can accept that, and give credit when a person they disagree with his right. Immature people need to be right all the time, and can’t admit when someone else they dislike called it right.

        • Well done, Erb! If you could be this forthcoming all the time, and admit sooner when you get it wrong, people might stop making fun of you. You’re still stretching a bit about the whole effects of Palin and Wright thing – you were far from the only one who thought McCain was going to lose no matter what. And some of the other items on your crow list are not as slam dunk as you think. But it’s a start.

          Now the next big step is to stop pontificating on things you’re pretty clueless about. Your “markets don’t adjust themselves” silliness and the stuff about leadership a couple of days ago are good examples.

          • It’s an economic fact that markets aren’t magic and don’t automatically adjust to the optimal equilibrium when an imbalance sets in. In theory markets can be expected to do that if you make certain assumptions and keep all other things equal. But in the real world uncertainties, miscalculations, powerful actors who circumvent markets, etc., all combine to assure that any theoretical perfection is an abstract fiction out of touch with the real world. Markets are good. They should be allowed to operate relatively freely. But they aren’t perfect, they need regulation, and powerful actors (not just governments, but also wealthy corporate and financial actors) will do what they can to make themselves immune from market pressures.

        • Speaking of Sarah Palin, how about that slanderous remark you made about her? Ready to apologize yet? C’mon, someone courageous enough to speak truth to power, like you, and someone morally superior enough to care about all the innocent lives the US has snuffed out, like you, MUST have the decency to admit wrongdoing and apologize.

  • Afghanistan is only valuable to the United States to the extent that Islamists believe that they are winning or can win.

    It is the perfect place to kill them, but they won’t keep coming if they face total defeat.

    Don’t think of it in terms of fighting the Taliban or al Qaueda. Think of it as fighting a certain demographic group within fundamentalist Islam, a group that will, among other things, kill Muslims who it doesn’t believe are Muslim enough.

    This is the demographic that will never stop killing until it is killed. It is the demographic that will be drawn into Afghanistan on the belief that Afghanistan is a frontier that can be won and controlled.

    It is much like a frontier where the forces of civilization and the forces of tribal societies face off, analagous to the American west during the Indian wars. But a key difference here is that these Muslim “tribes” are in fact a part of Islamic civilization as it continues to disintegrate. They reject modernism and are at war not only with the West but with key elements of Islamic society that are tending toward modernization.

    Afghanistan is not a battlefield that can be shaped in the same way that Iraq was. It will instead be more like a perpetual low-intensity struggle. The enemy will be more guerrila than insurgent, more killable than likely to be defeated because, in the end, its military objective will only be to fight and kill.

    In a counterinsurgency model like the one in Iraq, the people are won over into a stable civil society and stop supporting the insurgents and actively turn against them.

    In Afghanistan you are dealing with something down a notch or two, something that will be resupplied with combatants by Muslim societies that very much want that demographic to go to Afghanistan so that they are not killing people at home.

    It’s a revolting scenario, for sure. Nothing that Westerners who want to see things neatly tied up can easily deal with. And not anything that Western politicians are likely to have any insight into.

    The idea of throwing another hundred thousand troops in there would probably be most beneficial in helping Afghanis develop some normality, but the enemy, I think, is strictly a matter for very efficient special forces teams backed with better technology, as it comes along, that is matched to the situations, as it did and was in Iraq.

    As for the way the Obama people will handle this, expect nothing but wrong moves. I’m not sure why, but I suspect that Petraeus has been nudged aside. He must make them feel very uncomfortable. That’s a guess.

  • Nothing would please the Obama administration more than to have Petraeus handy as a scapegoat for losing in Afghanistan, thereby relieving themselves of a possible Presidential contender come 2012.

  • I suspect there are quite a lot of decent moderate and liberal democrats plus independents who do NOT want to lose Afghanistan. But, they won’t notice unless the MSM notices, which in my opinion would require several large stories such as US bases overrun with double digit troop losses or a mass casualty attack in the West. Otherwise the MSM will just keep relatively silent and the public will forget about it…

    Anyone else remember when the death count was a daily feature of Yahoo headlines?

    • “Decent” does not belong in the same sentence with “democrats”.

      But the rest of your analysis is spot on: democrats are too stupid to think anything unless it’s spoon-fed to them. If MiniTru doesn’t tell them that we’re losing in A-stan and that it’s a Bad Thing (TM), they won’t care no matter how badly things go. They won’t even notice, being too busy being whipped into anger over nasty ol’ Republicans and greedy insurance executives blocking health care reform.

      What’s going to be hilarious (NOT) is watching TAO declare victory in A-stan while trying to simultaneously blame Bush for how bad things are.

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  • We went into A-Ghan to get Osama Bin Laden. He became toast in Tora Bora–the “video shots” since are bullshit propaganda to elicit “terror”–which they have not.

    Bting the boys home from A-Ghan and Iraq . . . there is nothing left to accomplish. You can no longer demand unconditional surrender, since the “enemy” is no longer identifiable.

    This war mentality has to be over. Too many demons!, not enough reality.

  • Opposition to the war(s) has not been exclusive to the left, unless you count Pat Buchanan et al. as leftists. And now, with people of George Will’s stature calling for withdrawal (and I will bet he will not be the only one) I would bet that our stay there will be limited, like it or not.

  • Erb has a very convenient memory.

    We place a higher value on individual lives in Afghanistan than the enemy there does.

    Blowing up marketplaces.

    Beating and killing women for any reason or no reason.

    Killing anyone not Muslim enough.

    You have to be more than simply stupid, Scott. I think that Dr. Sanity pegged you perfectly yesterday:

    http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2009/09/when-denial-becomes-sociopathy.html

    It was as if she was staring right down at some of the things you write.

    What an incredible oaf you are.

  • “I’m not sure why…”

    I am, it has to do with honor, decency and basic human integrity, all things the General has that his traitorous pseudo-CIC does not.

  • “The focus on US dead is frustrating.”

    We are Americans and have an American press, of course the focus is going to be on US dead. Do you think Al Jazeera focuses on American dead? Would you expect them to?

    “The real tragedies in Iraq and Afghanistan is the dead innocents over there.”

    No. Both the civilian and military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are tragedies. You are hypocritically doing what you accuse others of — placing more value on the lives of one group at the expense of another, those volunteer soldiers you despise so much.

    “When I read of, say, a three year old orphaned because her parents were “suspicious” at a check point (not understanding what was expected of them), it’s a sign that something is really messed up.”

    Of course things like that happen. Would you care to source your example? If it was in Iraq in the last few years, I can tell you that it was likely the fault of the girl’s parent(s). We have been in Iraq for six years. All Iraqis are fully and intimately aware of American military procedures at checkpoints, and what they are expected to do. It is always tragic when someone dies, especially when it impacts a child, and especially because of simple stupidity.

    I also believe that civilian casualties in the Afghan War are highly overstated. David Kilcullen said between 2006 and 2009, 700 civilians and 14 AQ/Taliban members were killed by drones in Pakistan. That would mean 98% of the fatalities were non-combatants. Drones in Pakistan surely require the same type of clearance of fires (which ensures no non-combatants or friendly units are in the vicinity) as anywhere else. Such an astronomical failure rate is simply not believable.

    “We’re putting the lives of military people who choose the risk ahead of innocent civilians and children — and they compose the balk of the dead.”

    Would you like to make a guess as to who actually kills those civilians? Americans do not bomb marketplaces and mosques or place roadside bombs. Let’s take a look at numbers. Estimates for civilian deaths in Iraq are around 1 to 1.3 million. During the height of the insurgency, between 28 February and 5 April 2005, 29 civilians were killed by coalition forces. If you were to use that relatively high number as the monthly average and extrapolate it (29 deaths x 79 months into Iraq War), that would make a very liberal estimate of 2,291 civilians deaths by coalition forces. That is three orders of magnitude smaller than the estimated number of civilian deaths or 0.2 percent. That very liberal estimate is also half the number of coalition forces killed in Iraq.

    “It’s a perversion to think that somehow “our” people have more human value than “their” people. Alas, that kind of thinking seems to inform many anti-war voices as well.”"

    No reasonable person has said any such thing as “Americans have more human value than” any other people. Politicians are supposed to place their constituents’ interests and well-being foremost in their decision-making. It would be a “perversion” if it were any other way.

    There is also always another side to the story. The problem is that people like you either think that wars can be fought cleanly or simply use that as an excuse to deprecate the use of military force in general. In the end, though, you have nothing to offer but emotional pleas, which is the absolute last thing that should dictate foreign policy or warfighting.

    • Good points, J, though I think you miss my meaning a bit. Because wars have such tragic implications for real innocent people, I believe that they should be used only as a last resort, and primarily for defensive purposes. Going after al qaeda after 9-11 is defensible — they had hit, and clearly wanted to again. But to try to remake a country, or attack Iraq which had no part of 9-11, all because we can imagine potential scenarios where a country could be a threat, is to put fear ahead of morality. Yes, war is necessary at times, and yes, there is no clean war. But I think that if we don’t focus on the human cost and think about it (it hardly gets covered in our media), then it’ll be too easy to rationalize an unnecessary war.

      • I disagree with you on Iraq. I am a firm believer in jus in bellum for the reasons you stated here, and I believe both Afghanistan and Iraq met those criteria. I don’t want to get into another Iraq debate. All sides know their reasons and know their opponents’ and no one is likely to change their mind.

        I disagree with you that the “human cost [of war] hardly gets covered in our media”. The recent wave of car-bombings in Baghdad that killed 98 civilians was extensively covered by the American media. Granted, less spectacular civilian deaths are covered substantially less, but the same is true of American deaths, except perhaps when it is a local serviceman killed or something like that. Regardless, I think your fear that “it’ll be too easy to rationalize an unnecessary war” is unfounded. The current generations are not going to forget Iraq and Afghanistan, whether they consider them necessary or unnecessary wars.

  • What the… Not sure how my comment got way up there above ones that were posted before it. I was addressing Scott Erb’s comment at 04:21…

  • LOL! Looker, from the insults that you can’t hold back I imagine you angry and pounding the keyboard. Settle down!

    Only in your wildest fantasy.

    Speaking of perversions….in your view, an American soldier, airman, sailor or marine is worth LESS than an Iraqi civilian, you just said it in two postings.

    It’s a perversion to think that somehow “our” people have more human value than “their” people.

    …An Iraqi innocent is to me more important to protect than an American soldier…

    Even if he’s some simple good hearted kid from Iowa who’d stand between you and a Jihadi lunatic and die to save your sorry ass.

    Wanna talk human value? you’re not worth the transfer of these bytes across the net.