The war under Generals Obama, Kerry and Biden

I don’t often do this, as you know, but I’m going to quote Jennifer Rubin’s post in its entirety here.  I think it’s important that people understand precisely what is going on in Washington and how it’s affecting men and women in Afghanistan.  Rubin, unsurprisingly, does as good a job as anyone summing up the immoral behavior at home, which creates death abroad.  This is even worse than Vietnam, because Obama’s conduct here is more deliberate and, in a twisted way, more informed about the risks of his conduct:

This sobering report comes from the Washington Post:

More than 1,000 American troops have been wounded in battle over the past three months in Afghanistan, accounting for one-fourth of all those injured in combat since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The dramatic increase has filled military hospitals with more amputees and other seriously injured service members and comes as October marks the deadliest month for American troops in Afghanistan.

How many were killed or lost a limb, I wonder, while the president dithered and delayed implementing the recommendations of his hand-picked general? It is not an inconsequential question. The president acts as though there were no downside to the lethargic pace of his decision-making. He would have us believe that there is no price to be paid as he micromanages, province-by-province, the number of troops he’ll dispense. He seems content to entertain the recommendations of Gens. Joe Biden and John Kerry – drawing on their years of experience (in assessing nearly every national-security challenge incorrectly) while discarding that of the real experts.

What’s a few more weeks? Or months? Well, we know there is indeed a price to allowing our current approach to languish. There is a very real cost to delaying implementation of the new plan that is the best available to achieve victory as quickly as possible. The enemy is emboldened. More civilians die. The political and security situation in Pakistan worsens. And more brave Americans are asked to sacrifice themselves while Obama considers and reconsiders whether there isn’t any way to shave some money off the tab and reduce the number of troops his commanders say are needed. After all, health care is going to cost an awful lot.

The horrid reality of war is that parents send their children to die or to return in a condition they could not possibly have envisioned. But to sacrifice even a single American who was engaged in a fruitless exercise or an understaffed operation so the president can conduct a seminar and postpone a confrontation with his own party (which no longer can stomach the “good war”) is reprehensible.

At a certain point, you have to fish or cut bait. Either Obama fights a war, in which case he fights both to win and to ensure that our troops are adequately supported in that fight. Or, Obama withdraws from the fight, and takes our troops out of harm’s way entirely. To do what he’s doing, which is not fighting but leaving our troops there is unconscionable.

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  • David Foster

    “The failure to make a decision changes the course of future events just as much as does the making of a decision”

  • Ymarsakar

    To do what he’s doing, which is not fighting but leaving our troops there is unconscionable.
    It is what the Left accused us all of. That we were feeding cannon fodder into Iraq for our own greed and indulgences. That there was no real threat there, no real possibility for victory, which they accused us of already knowing.
    Again, the rule of thumb applies here: that which the Left accuses their enemies of, is only and has only ever been true of the Left. It is still in appliance. It has never stopped. They have never stopped. Their hatred fuels them and gives them righteous motivation to carry the fight to their True Enemies. Our true enemies are enemies of America and those who would seek the death of Americans guilty of no crime and no ethical wrong. One guess what the Left’s True Enemy is.
    As I said before. Obama needs more Americans to die. It’s useful to him. It is part of his political expediency. He will create a war or a threat to kill American soldiers with, if none such exists already. This can be verified. Just wait and see.

  • Ymarsakar

    After Obama was elected, I said to myself, “interesting times ahead”. When Obama put out the trillions, I said ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. When Obama sought to destroy individuals in public, I said ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. When Obama put into power crooks, revolutionaries, thugs, and tax cheating criminals, I said to myself ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’.

    And still, we have seen nothing yet if you think this is the worst he can do. You might wish to wait a few more months. You’ll see what else can happen. There is no bottom to this pit. No end to the spiral of violence and cruelty. This enemy, you cannot defeat.

  • BrianE

    This is what got us in trouble in Vietnam. We know that Obama will never, never, ever commit to defeating the al Qaeda proxies, the Taliban, so let’s get out now, before any more of our kids are sacrificed on the alter of political expediency. We’ll let our drones keep al Qaeda off balance, as the left will acquiesce to this for a time, until they join the growing leftist chorus that drones are illegal, at which time we’ll also stop these attacks. I’m sorry for the suffering by the people in Afghanistan, but there aren’t enough generations left before the end of time to turn Afghanistan into a functioning nation-state. The only rationale for Iraq was they had had a history of a civil society and it was (reasonable)  not out of the realm of possibility they could return to one. I don’t think (anyone) any sane person has those expectations for Afghanistan. I realize our pull out would have consequences to Pakistan-India, which might be worse than the consequences we are facing now. If someone can present an argument that pulling out of Afghanistan will cause the Pakistan government to fall into the hands of jihadists, that might make a difference. 

  • Ymarsakar

    We’ll let our drones keep al Qaeda off balance, as the left will acquiesce to this for a time, until they join the growing leftist chorus that drones are illegal, at which time we’ll also stop these attacks.
    More money for the slush funds of Obama and the Democrats.

  • Ymarsakar

    so let’s get out now
    That’s not our decision to make.

  • highlander

    If al-Qaeda reconstituting itself in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban is not a sufficient threat for us to act, what is?
    If we can just walk away from a war we were told was necessary, what did all those young men and women die for?
    If we’re not going to use our military forces to defend our country — and fight to win — why have a military at all?

  • Al

    I agree with Y that the pit is going to get deeper. And while this enemy can not be defeated, it can be kept at bay. Just one of the Libs activities is the deliberate destruction of our military. I guess what gives me solice and faith is that the Libs, and especially Obama, believe those in the military and the rest of us “unwashed” can not think.
    This is a bad thought, but there will be a Fort Sumter in Obama’s, and our, future.

  • BrianE

    Newsweek article by (Annita?) Quinlan advances the idea that Obama is taking his time getting us out of two wars we were mired in when he took office. Obviously the left thinks any decision Obama makes is merely cover for the final exit. Long distance war is the liberal’s tactic of choice. Remember Serbia? From an AP article:

    The U.S. commander in Afghanistan will soon order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding among villagers, an official said Monday, announcing one of the strongest measures yet to protect Afghan civilians.
    The most contentious civilian casualty cases in recent years occurred during battles in Afghan villages when U.S. airstrikes aimed at militants also killed civilians. American commanders say such deaths hurt their mission because they turn average Afghans against the government and international forces …
    Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his measure of effectiveness will be the “number of Afghans shielded from violence” — not the number of militants killed.
    McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith.
    “But if there is a compound they’re taking fire from and they can remove themselves from the area safely, without any undue danger to the forces, then that’s the option they should take,” Smith said. “Because in these compounds we know there are often civilians kept captive by the Taliban.”

    Discussion of the new ROE here: October had the highest casualty rates since we invaded Afghanistan. Is any of this attributable to the new ROE? I’ll admit I’m biased on this. I have a son with another tour due before he gets out, and I don’t want him to become fodder in a political solution. Either we fight to win or get out. The question I’ve asked before is what winning will look like.

  • BrianE

    Anyone know how to make the formating work?  The old expandable bar doesn’t seem to work anymore.

  • BrianE

    Mathew Hoh was on Zakaria’s GPS this am. He described a situation where in the Kolengari Valley, a remote valley with it’s own language, where the industry is timber. For hundreds of years, he claims, the residents have harvested the timber, which is sent to Pakistan for processing. We arrive in the valley, he said, along with Afghani troops. They then tell the citizens this valley belongs to the central government and they will now have to pay a tax to the central government. For hundreds of years, he claims, the residents of this valley have been isolated and have lived autonomously. What people, he said, wouldn’t resist this intrusion by the central government into their lives. Sounds pretty conservative to me! His central point appears to be the local nature of the Afghan people– he didn’t call it tribalism, but valleyism. So we’re going to be the force that establishes a central government with all that means? How’s it working out for us? I’ll repeat myself. If our presence prevents the Pakistani government from falling to the jihadists (with the problems of the nuclear weapons and all that) and the subsequent increased conflict with India (which is already fighting its own insurgency) I might be convinced our strategic presence might be worth the cost.

  • BrianE

    After listening to the entire interview, Hoh strikes me as another Scott Ritter, in the sense that he has become disillusioned with our strategy. He’s young, and the lack of perspective might color his judgements. But his arguments deserve consideration. I don’t think he’s being duplicitous- something Ritter might have been guilty of. I can’t keep paragraphs separate. Anyone have a clue?

  • Ymarsakar

    The strategic presence isn’t designed to be centralized given COIN principles.

  • BrianE

    “A debate has evolved between those who appear to espouse “COIN as the solution to every military problem the US faces” and those who believe that the military should get back to and protect its ability to conduct “traditional Warfighting” so the US military can fight and win its nation’s wars. There are those who believe the focus should be on countering hybrid and irregular threats and those who believe that “full spectrum operations” will provide the military the ability to train for and conduct operations across the spectrum of conflict including the ability to counter irregular or hybrid threats and conduct state on state warfare when necessary. This has been a fierce debate and has caused much confusion within the military as officers and men of all ranks seek to prepare for the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan while attempting to maintain and hone traditional warfighting skills. Yet the reemergence and general acceptance of COIN theory has benefited the development of military doctrine and the transformation of the Army in many ways to deal with the myriad of irregular and hybrid threats that will likely continue to evolve in the 21st Century. The fundamental issue comes down to how do we “win” the wars we are in without mortgaging the future of the US military capabilities. I put “win” in quotation marks because defining winning in COIN is something that we must consider. Can there be victory in the conventional sense in COIN? Or is it more along these lines: “Someday, if you are successful, the mission will disappear, like a river flowing into a swamp.”
    Which leads me to my final random thought: If you have to win a fight you send the Army and the Marines. If you have to help someone else win a fight without taking over the fight (and if it is going to take 10 or more years to reach a satisfactory conclusion), then perhaps another type of force is needed.”

  • BrianE

    My understanding of the Afghan strategy was to build up a strong central government to prevent the Taliban from regrouping.  Is that possible, and is that what the Afghan people want? They appear to not want the Taliban. It’s still unclear that they want a strong central government, at least of the tribe of Karzai.

  • Ymarsakar

    My understanding of the Afghan strategy was to build up a strong central government to prevent the Taliban from regrouping.
    The strategy for the theater changes depending on both internal and external factors. Just as the strategy for Iraq changed. The political goals remain the same, generally speaking, but the specifics of strategy, the systemic approach towards a solution for a goal mandated by external factors, is not static.
    Without the elimination and securing of Pakistan’s tribal areas, you can’t prevent the Taliban from regrouping. I’m sure Bush was told this, but there’s no real solution other than 1. Invade Pakistan or 2. Let the Pakistanis handle it themselves or 3. Combine 2 and a little Predator drone action. In addition, the US cannot turn their eyes on Pakistan, regardless of people’s Osama wishes, unless their rear, Afghanistan’s cities and tribes, are secured. And not just on paper or claims by NATO’s French forces that things are okay.
    <B>protect its ability to conduct “traditional Warfighting” so the US military can fight and win its nation’s wars.</b>

    That’s not a military decision. That’s a political decision. What the military is going to fight is going to depend on what the politicians decide they will fight. That is the consequence of civilian control of military policies. The Army, after Vietnam ended in disaster, decided that counter-insurgency was a dead end, that the only places the US military will need to fight in, as in on the ground, would be either limited war or total war circumstances. That’s why they weren’t prepared for Iraq, but the Special Forces, not regular army or rusty on insurgency and terrorism, did handle things better and faster in Afghanistan.
    Again, if it was up to the military, they’d never get anywhere near things like Fallujah, urban insurgency, or counter-insurgency, or things like that. They’d fight the last war, which was the conventional Cold War era and that would be that. Unfortunately, neither they nor we can control where or when future threats may manifest. The military can try to predict future abstract conflicts via war games, but that doesn’t answer the question of what to do about the war that exists now.
    I describe this particular view of mine because it’s not really important to me whether the military argues about COIN or not. That’s not the point. And it won’t solve anything to begin with, regardless of how the debate ends up. If the politician puts you in a COIN situation, ala Vietnam, then you fight a COIN fight. If the politician wants you to smash a small country like Iraq via conventional forces, that’s what you do. If the politician orders you to invade Pakistan, Russia, and China at once, that’s what you do, and you then bring the tools you need to do it with. If that doesn’t include COIN, then it doesn’t include COIN. There’s nothing too complicated on this level, at least.
    The fundamental issue comes down to how do we “win” the wars we are in without mortgaging the future of the US military capabilities

    That is also a political decision, primarily. Because it is the politicians that decide whether the military gets funded or not. Capability, is first and foremost a function of money, then training and logistics. And in the case of Obama, he has decided he has higher priorities. So instead of Bush not producing enough body armor upgrades in time, Obama will cut the entire production of ALL war materials, benefits, and R and D. That’s a good thing, if your goal was to create a broken US military. And that was indeed the goal of all those who accused the US of having a ‘broken military’ under Bush. I used to tell them that they’d see what a real broken military was come a Democrat President, but that was what they wanted in the first place, of course.
    Can there be victory in the conventional sense in COIN? Or is it more along these lines: “Someday, if you are successful, the mission will disappear, like a river flowing into a swamp.”
    Is that possible, and is that what the Afghan people want?

    People don’t know what they want. They know what they desire, but don’t know what they will need to acquire it. I guess what this means is that people won’t know what they want, until they have had it and then lost it. Some may think they have an idea of how to get what they want, but they may or may not be right. And some can even successfully get what they wanted, but still lose because they found that what they really wanted wasn’t what they wished for.
    I understand your concerns about the future of Afghanistan, vis a vis the resource allocation required on our part, as much as I can sitting from here and you right there.
    Victory in Afghanistan is a much talked over point lately. Optimally, we should accomplish specific goals in such a way that it benefits and protects both Afghan civilian as well as the American people, which includes the American military deployed. But that’s the idealistic goal. It may not be feasible to achieve it at once. The reason why I say it is not feasible is because when we’re talking about humans, we start going into irrational human behaviors. I mean, technically yes, the Afghans should recognize that it is in their best interests to side with us, but as we saw with the Sunnis, humans are not really rational. They’re more emotional than rational, especially when they operate in a group and when their survival is endangered by foreign elements.
    So first we have to convince the Afghans that we mean what we say we mean. That’s hard to do, because while the situation in Afghanistan took longer to deteriorate, it still can be modeled by the basic Iraqi insurgency trait. When the Iraqis saw the mighty Americans come in, they had high expectations. Idealistic expectations, perhaps, but still high expectations given the invulnerable glow of the US, which could smite an omnipotent Father Saddam. When the Iraqis saw the US start losing grip, and really fast, they lost confidence. Started boycotting elections, thinking they were better on their own. Supporting insurgencies or foreign fighters, hoping to get a bigger chunk of the pie. It took Afghanistan years to get to the point where Iraq was in 2004-5.
    But it now is here. To a certain extent, the Afghans when they see the conduct of NATO, attribute it to US designs. And even if they do not, their local propaganda and foreign infiltrators will blame us for them. And if you know NATO, you know how messed up and incompetent it truly is. McChrystal when he went to HQ in Afghanistan, saw all kinds of parties and other things going on, while the fighters at the front were absent showers or running water. No way would American officers tolerate that kind of behavior in Iraq. But Afghanistan isn’t Iraq. It’s full of foreign armies. European foreign armies. And we all know what happens when a European foreign army gets into a foreign place. Even if they tried to do something good, like fight the enemy, their politics would prevent. And if their politics didn’t prevent it, then they would be like the Russians in Georgia. Speaking of Russians, the Afghans also remember that European army as well.
    Much of the recent Afghan civilian casualties were the result of foreign militarizes calling in air strikes, obviously because they ‘panicked’ due to un-sufficient and crappy training. As well as PC qualification requirements for their officers, which doesn’t create the kind of warriors found in the US Marines/Army.
    I have a son with another tour due before he gets out, and I don’t want him to become fodder in a political solution.
    It’s not clear what particular political solution applies here. We know Obama chose McChrystal, which fundamentally would cast doubt on McChrystal’s competence in the military sphere of things, but now we also know McChrystal was Petraeus-Cheney-Bush’s pick, not Obama’s. Obama just took credit for it cause he was too lazy to worry about it when he was elected. So what does that mean for Afghan? It means there’s a clusterf going on.
    McChrystal probably can suppress the insurgency and regain the allegiance and cooperation of Afghans, with or without the cooperation of Karzai’s central government. We didn’t need the central government of Maliki to arm Sunnis, after all, and we won’t need it in Afghanistan. If at all possible, bypass the bureaucratic bs and get to the source. That works great, as demonstrated before. However, even if McChrystal can do that, he will need more troops to offset the ROE consequences and the fact that the Taliban will surge and attack areas they view as now being weakened by US political or military maneuvers. McChrystal is already on the clock and he expected things to move faster then they have. Thus the Taliban are alerted, and the initiative is being sucked away from McChrystal, while at the same time McChrystal’s ROE changes have been implemented, but absent the required troops, MUNITIONS, or necessary fast reaction counter-insurgency required helicopters, he can’t attack. He has to sit on defense and be attacked. That’s a strategic dead end, because it turns into an attrition warfare. Not enough forces to attack, yet, but too many forces allocated for you to do anything else but wait for more forces.
    In the end, COIN is just another way of saying you teach people how to fish. And centralized government just means giving people fish via redistribution of resources. Bush’s primary plan was democracy, and that meant government. But local government also meant corruption and inefficiency, absent direct American political influence and directions. But Bush never told anyone that he wanted some kind of country similar to the Founding Father’s in terms of rights and freedoms. Maybe he should have, but he didn’t .He didn’t want to impose our values and views of what a democracy should be on them. So he left a vacuum, and the locals, whether good or bad, filled in that vacuum. However, that meant people were left without services, like New Orleans when Bush refused to take the football away from the idiots there.
    Afghanistan can become self-sufficient if the people there learn to work together. However, given their tribal outlook, ‘working together’ often can only be acquired by ‘fighting together’. That’s not going to happen if they are forced to pay taxes to a centralized government that just wastes it on bribes and kickbacks. They wouldn’t tolerate it any more than we would. They are not European ‘subjects’, after all.
    In so far as that is required, the Marines and Army are the best people to liaison with the tribes. As for the Special Forces community, their numbers are always limited. They can train and defend some villages, but no way can they cover a large enough area at a time to impact people’s political decisions. They are the best suited to the subject, but it also means they will be outgunned without conventional support. And then cut off and killed because the Taliban simply outnumber them, as seen in some previous circumstances with SEAL teams.
    If the philosophy of some people is that if you need to go to war, you go to war with the best warriors and fighters you can find, then the same is true for Afghans. If you are going to fight there, you might as well get the most local support you can, as it helps you avoid casualties.
    There’s the McNamara philosophy, of course, which says that you can acquire safety through simply killing a boat load of enemies. While this is nice tactically speaking, it has less effect on the strategic calculations behind a war.
    <B>Can there be victory in the conventional sense in COIN? Or is it more along these lines: “Someday, if you are successful, the mission will disappear, like a river flowing into a swamp.”
    Sun Tzu has noted what victory between armies is when it consists of unconventional methods. That hasn’t changed so much over the years. The key to conventional warfare is that you bring your total might against your enemy’s divided might, which now having defeated the enemy, the enemy relinquishes control and gives their population, munitions, and war materials over to you in acknowledgment that you are the more powerful faction. That doesn’t happen in unconventional fights. So you need a different way of beating the enemy and acquiring their war materials and manpower. Without acquiring their war materials and manpower, they will just keep on fighting you while you are stuck in a war of attrition.