This is heart-wrenching:
The rule of war used to be that you hated your enemy. That made it easy to fight your enemy. Then, starting with the first Gulf War, the new rule was that you felt sorry for your enemy. By the Iraq War, the rule had become, you’ve got to like and respect your enemy.
These new rules baffled my father, a WWII vet, who kept saying “You can’t kill an enemy unless you hate him.” I’m glad that Daddy’s not alive today to see the proposed Army Handbook coming out of the politically correct Obama Pentagon. The proposed new rule is that, if you serve in America’s military, you must hate yourself because you’re incompetent and ill-informed (the link is behind a paywall; I’ve limited the quotation below to fair use):
The proposed Army handbook suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture, not Taliban infiltration, has helped drive the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.
“Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member,” according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers.
There you have it: if you get killed in Afghanistan, it’s all your fault.
With that rule in mind, why don’t we just surrender now and save everyone a lot of time and money? I’m sure that the short-term benefits, in the form of national politically-correct self-respect, will more than offset the increase in targeted American killings at home and abroad.
Incidentally, there’s absolutely nothing wrong for an occupying force to deal intelligently with both the active enemy and the more neutral local people. It’s smart to mandate that troops behave in ways that will maximize gaining the local population’s good-will, while minimizing accidentally giving cultural offense. A sidebar to the WSJ article that quotes the handbook’s specific rules, shows that the Army can be that smart:
Green-on-blue incidents provoke a crisis of confidence and trust among [coalition forces] working with [Afghan troops]. As a means of illuminating this insider threat, those [coalition] personnel working on Security Force Assistance Teams during 2012 that live alongside and mentor [Afghan security forces] have about 200 times the risk of being murdered by an [Afghan security force] member than a U.S. police officer has of being murdered in the line of duty by a perpetrator.
* * *
- Understand that they may have poor conflict resolution skills and that insults cause irrational escalation of force.
- Do not discuss religion
* * *
Flashpoints/Grievances Some U.S. Troops Have Reported Regarding Afghanistan National Security Forces:
To better prepare [coalition forces] for the psychologically challenging conditions in Afghanistan, familiarize yourself with the following stressors some U.S. troops have reported concerning [Afghan security forces] behavior during previous deployments. Bear in mind that not all [coalition] troops have reported such experiences or beliefs.
- Some ANSF are profoundly dishonest and have no personal integrity
- ANSF do not buy-into war effort; far too many are gutless in combat
- Incompetent, ignorant and basically stupid
Bottom line: Troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [Afghan security forces]. Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [coalition forces] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead towards green-on-blue violence.
* * *
Etiquette Violations Best Avoided by [coalition forces] Taboo conversation topics include:
- Anything related to Islam
- Mention of any other religion and/or spirituality
- Debating the war
- Making derogatory comments about the Taliban
- Advocating women’s rights and equality
- Directing any criticism towards Afghans
- Mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct
Bottom line: Try to avoid highly charged and emotional issues.
What’s dumb is a handbook that, at least in its first draft, appears in its introduction (which sets the tone for the rest of the handbook) to blame American troops for problems with Afghanis. Sad to say, that’s what the introduction to the handbook (if I understand the WSJ article correctly) appears to do:
“Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member,” according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers.
There’s only one way to read that: “You Americans soldiers are crude, rude, vulgar, uninformed ugly Americans. Shape up or die.”
Every parent knows that it’s one thing to demand good, smart behavior from your child because your child is a good and smart person. It’s another thing entirely to tell your child that he’s a stupid, incompetent failure whose every negative interaction with third parties is his own fault (whether or not that’s true). The first approach creates responsible people who set high moral and practical standards for themselves. The second approach creates embittered, insecure people who refuse to examine and improve their own behavior because it’s too painful to do so. One would think that the high muckety-mucks in the Army would be savvy enough to understand this elemental human psychology.
As BlackFive says, writing from the perspective of someone who knows what it means to be on the front lines:
Cultural sensitivity is one thing. But. How any American soldier can avoid criticism (especially witnessing that behavior) of how they treat women and children is beyond me. This is almost a parallel to how we began fighting communism in central America in the 70s/80s. Look the other way. Don’t get involved. Don’t fight, just advise (and if they don’t listen, no big deal). It was when we were allowed to make moral and ethical decisions/actions that we succeeded there. It was when we stopped the avoidance nonsense that changes began to happen.
In war, it’s entirely possible to have battle causalities increase despite the fact that you’re winning. This is because, as with the Surge in Iraq, you are aggressively engaging the enemy. Yes, you are defeating the enemy, decimating his numbers, and driving him back, but the very fact of engagement is necessarily going to result in more losses on your own side too.
Then there’s the mirror image situation, the one that sees your enemy having the Surge — perhaps because your own Commander in Chief announced a year ago that he was giving up on the war and had already set a date for pulling the troops out. Your troops aren’t engaging more, but the enemy troops are, and they’re very successfully killing you and destroying your weapons:
International Security Assistance Force officials are providing additional details about the Sept. 14 attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in which two coalition service members were killed when insurgents attacked the base’s airfield.
Because it is still early in the investigation of this attack, information is subject to change as new details become available, officials said.
The attack commenced just after 10 p.m., officials said, when approximately 15 insurgents executed a well-coordinated attack against the airfield on Camp Bastion. The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated at one point of the base’s perimeter fence, officials said.
The insurgents appeared to be well-equipped, trained and rehearsed, officials said. Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, the insurgents attacked coalition fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings, officials said.
Six coalition AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed and two were significantly damaged, said officials, noting three coalition refueling stations were destroyed. Six soft-skin aircraft hangars were damaged to some degree.
Coalition forces engaged the insurgents, killing 14 and wounding one who was taken into custody, officials said.
In addition to the two coalition service members that were killed, nine coalition personnel — eight military and one civilian contractor — were wounded in the attack, officials said. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.
The administration is spinning this as proof that Americans are winning. Although Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is “concerned” about the attacks (doesn’t anyone in the administration ever get upset when Americans die?), “he sees the insider attacks as the ‘last gasp’ of a Taliban insurgency that has not been able to regain lost ground.” Me? I see this as Americans being on the wrong side of someone else’s Surge. Or, as a friend of mine says, “after Vietnam we decided the enemy body count did not mean we were winning but nowadays we equate our own body count to a sign of our certain victory.”
In other words, the Left is always completely consistent: dead enemies mean we’re losing; dead Americans mean we’re winning. But please, don’t question their patriotism.
In the last two weeks, Afghan forces under American mentorship have killed ten NATO troops. Now, you and I might think this is because we are at war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and these enemy forces have had their agents infiltrate the ostensibly American-friendly Afghan forces. In other words, our guys have been killed by secret agents for their guys, a nasty tactic completely consistent with traditional warfare.
You are just so naive if you think that. You seem to have forgotten that, in Obama’s America, it’s always our fault. You see, we just haven’t been sensitive enough to the Afghan troops’ monthly needs. It’s kind of like their suffering from a massive, cultural PMS attack (emphasis mine):
General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he still doesn’t know why at least 10 NATO troops have died in the last two weeks at the hands of the Afghan forces they mentor. He suspects it may have something to do with asking those Afghans to perform dangerous operations during the recent Muslim holy month. Maybe.
During the past several weeks, Afghan forces have turned their guns on the U.S. troops that mentor them with increasing frequency. The Afghan troops have killed at least 40 U.S. and allied forces this year, the most since the war began, and Karzai’s government insists the blame lies with Pakistani infiltrators, not Afghans themselves. Allen diplomatically said he was “looking forward to the Afghans providing us with the intelligence” they’re using to reach that conclusion.
But beyond that, Allen said his staff was still studying why the attacks have increased. One possible contributing factor: the holy month of Ramazan, which most of the Muslim world calls Ramadan. Although Ramazan is an annual event, it doesn’t occur at the same time annually on the western calendar, and this year it fell during the summer fighting season. The “daily pressures” of war and the “sacrifices associated with fasting,” especially with a larger and newer force of Afghan recruits, may have contributed to some Afghan forces snapping.
I hope that the General is playing a deep game, one that involves publicly placating our nominal Afghan allies while, behind the scenes, going Hell for leather after the bad guys. If he’s not, I think we may as well leave Afghanistan immediately, before we accidentally hurt any more Afghani feelings. If this is truly the attitude coming from the top echelons of America’s military, our troops are being turned into shameful sacrifices to political correctness. After all, you can’t fight an enemy if you’re too scared, ignorant, or politically whipped to name that enemy.
Somewhere between yesterday and today, my brain went AWOL. I had a wonderful idea for a short and sweet post yesterday but never got the chance to write it down. Today, I have the chance, but absolutely no ideas, neither short and sweet ideas, nor long and boring ones. I’ve been reading the news, and find it redundant. The genius in the White House has flat-lined. The news today is the same as it was yesterday and the day before. Obama has completed his re-volution on gay marriage (“I was for it before I was against it before I was for it, but it’s none of my business anyway, because it’s a state ‘thang’”); he’s stood by helplessly as Europe, in thrall to the same economic ideas he espouses, is going into an economic death spiral; Islamists, easily recognizing a weak horse when they see one, are on the move in one place and biding their time in another (point randomly to a map and you’ll get moving Islamists or biding Islamists somewhere in the world); and the economy at home is finally being recognized as a Depression, rather than a series of interconnected recessions.
I mean, really, what insight can I offer at this point? What can I say about this president that hasn’t been said before? Yes, he’s an amateur, but he’s also been very effective at transforming America from a first rate capitalist country (or, at least semi-first rate); into a second rate wanna be socialist disaster. Regarding his amateurism, he reminds me of the dojo dictum: always spar with the black belt, not the white, because the former is much less likely to hurt you than the latter. A good fighter is as adept at not harming a friend as he (or she) is at inflicting maximum damage on an enemy. Regardless of Obama’s motives (anti-colonialism, socialism, hostility to whites, etc.), he’s managed to muck things up but good.
One of the muckier mucks, of course, is Afghanistan. At the Watcher of Weasels website, some of the Council members (moi aussi) have weighed in with their opinions about that debacle — one that tragically, involves the spilling of American blood in the pursuit, not of an honorable victory, but rather a craven, unfocused, purposeless withdrawal.
What!? Me gloomy? Nah, I’m always happy on Mondays. In Obama’s America, this is what happiness looks like.
Stick with this one. You’ll like it — I promise:
Special troops are, by definition, small in number. If everyone could do what they do, they would be special. They are made up of men with unusual mental and physical strength. Again, by definition this is a subset of all men. (No disrespect meant to the majority of men who aren’t unusual in both their mental and physical strength.) Once these men are selected, they are subject to rigorous training, training that would be impossible to give to large groups. Special forces go beyond “the few, the proud.” They also fall into the class of “rare and few in number.”
Given their numeric limitations, it makes sense to use special forces sparingly. Once lost (God forbid), each member of a special forces team is very, very hard to replace. Someone needs to tell that to the President, who, flush with SEAL Team Six’s exquisite raid on Osama (a raid that subsequently resulted in the vengeance-driven loss of many members of that same team), is tasking those guys with responsibility for Afghanistan — all of Afghanistan. As Max Boot says:
The kinds of direct-action strikes that these units carry out are an integral part of any comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy–but they cannot substitute for the absence of such a strategy. That was the mistake we made in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 and in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009. Now it seems Obama is making that mistake again, to judge from news reports the White House is planning to lean heavily on the Special Operations Forces as they withdraw regular troops from Afghanistan. This is not a way to defeat the Taliban, the Haqqanis, and other dangerous terrorists on the cheap–it is a way to lose the war while pretending you are doing something to win it.
To which I would add that it’s also a war to squander a special breed by placing them at unreasonable risk, so that they might no longer be there when we really need them.
My post caption is not a joke: According to USA Today, the newest NATO tactic in Afghanistan is, in essence, to pretend there is no enemy:
Military commanders in Afghanistan have stopped making public the number of allied troops killed by Afghan soldiers and police, a measure of the trustworthiness of a force that is to take over security from U.S.-led forces.
The change in policy comes after at least three allied troops have been killed by the Afghan troops they trained in the past month and follows what appears to be the deadliest year of the war for NATO trainers at the hands of their Afghan counterparts.
Since 2005, more than 50 troops had been killed and 48 wounded by Afghan troops, according to data released before the policy changed and USA TODAY research. In 2011, Afghan troops killed at least 13 ISAF troops.
Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said information about the killing of U.S. troops by Afghan troops or police is important because it shows whether the U.S. withdrawal plan is realistic. “It’s not just a matter of the number of ISAF or U.S. troops getting attacked. The real question is will this force be loyal to the government?” he said. “The constant question has to be, ‘Did you rush out to set impossible levels of quantity without addressing the quality of Afghan security forces?’ “
I know I’m nothing but an armchair warrior, but I have to ask, can one really fight a war this way?
It seems to me that you either fight the enemy or you don’t. You don’t just wish the enemy away. I have visions of the guys at NATO waving their little fairy wands around, convinced that that’s the way to win the battle. For me, it’s upsetting. For our troops, it’s a life and death matter. And of course, if the NATO fairies don’t show up, we’re all going to be front line and in very deep doo-doo.
There’s something wrong with a war where we pretend the enemy isn’t doing us any harm, while we make a cause célèbre of four battle-weary Marines who engaged in behavior both antithetical to our military’s ethos and inconsistent with the way in which, 99.99999% of the time, our military conducts what the smart people recognize is an existential war.
A friend sent me a link to an editorial bemoaning the fact that, by abruptly pulling out from Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, the Obama administration is ensuring that we’re leaving a job undone — something that invariably means one has to do it again. If history is going to keep repeating itself, why can’t we just repeat the good parts?
World War I ended with a definitive American victory, but a dangerous, un-managed peace, one that pretty much made World War II inevitable. By 1942, my favorite songwriter, Irving Berlin, pretty much summed up the WWII mindset, which was “do it right this time.”
‘Twas not so long ago we sailed to meet the foe
And thought our fighting days were done
We thought ’twas over then but now we’re in again
To win the war that wasn’t won
This time, we will all make certain
That this time is the last time
This time, we will not say “Curtain”
Till we ring it down in their own home town
For this time, we are out to finish
The job we started then
Clean it up for all time this time
So we won’t have to do it again
Dressed up to win
We’re dressed up to win
Dressed up for victory
We are just beginning
And we won’t stop winning
Till the world is free
We’ll fight to the finish this time
And we’ll never have to do it again
Trust old Irving to hit the nail on the head. And, in fact, that’s what the Allies did. First, they destroyed entirely the totalitarian states in Germany, Japan and Italy. Then, in those regions over which they had control (as to those the Soviets held), the Americans carefully rebuilt the nations into democratic allies. It was a tough, long-haul job, but it prevented post-war massacres and ensured that (so far) we haven’t had to “do it again” with Germany, Italy or Japan.
Clearly, we’re a whole lot dumber now than we were in the mid-20th century. In 1991 we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (which is one of the reasons I’ve never liked Colin Powell, whom I’ve always blamed, fairly or not, for being the architect of that foolish retreat). Now, with Obama’s help, we’re doing it all over again, only worse. Does any nation get a third chance to remedy its chronic stupidity? I doubt we will, especially because Obama is also choosing to repeat the disarmament mistakes of the 20s and 30s. Ain’t those fancy Ivy League educations grand? They go in smart and come out stupid.
I’m an armchair warrior (aka a chicken hawk) and I’m disgusted and frustrated. I can only imagine how the troops — the ones who sweated and bled — feel as they watch their Commander in Chief dismantling all of their good work.
Sadie played connect the dots for me:
After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war.
As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.
“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.”
When you think about it, it’s impressive how much damage an administration can do in less than three years.
I like Pete Wehner’s writing a lot. I don’t always agree with him, but I often do, and I always enjoy the way in which he develops his ideas. This column, about the post-Vietnamesque horrors that Obama is cheerily planning for Afghanistan (although I’d say the Taliban will be even more savage than the North Vietnamese) is a perfect example of Wehner at his best.
When I read about Obama’s drawing down troops so that he’d send tens of thousands home right before the election, I said that I didn’t think this would make the troops vote for him. Barry Rubin kindly pointed out that the calculation wasn’t to get troop votes, but to get votes from his antiwar base. Barry’s right, of course. That’s obviously Obama’s calculation.
What I’ve been wondering is how I managed to get it so bass-ackwards. I’m usually at least slightly more astute than that. I think it’s because my instinct is that, when push comes to shove, the anti-war crowd is going to vote for Obama regardless. After all, despite his getting us into a third war, and one that was unnecessary for promoting America’s interests (although withdrawing early from that one will be yet another black eye on America), Obama’s base has not taken to the streets. They may grumble, but they’re not using war as a means to undermine his presidency.
These Leftist voters are going to support the Obama “package” no matter what. While a few may be one issue nutroots, with their issue being the war in Afghanistan, the vast majority are true Progressive believers. They may decry the war, but they’ll still go with the guy who hits all the other sweet spots: Big Government, abortion, climate change, bows to dictators, etc.. There is no way in Hell that they will abandon that package in favor of a conservative candidate. In other words, whether Obama leaves troops in Afghanistan, or withdraws them despite all military advice, his decision will not change what the base does.
As for the non-base, meaning the mushy Democrats and the disengaged Independents, even those who don’t like Afghanistan aren’t going to change their vote based upon a troop draw-down. These people are looking at the economy. If it’s good, they might vote for Obama; if it’s bad, they won’t. The numbers in Afghanistan will be irrelevant to that calculation.
In other words, withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan puts Americans in harm’s way for no good reason. The nutroots will vote for him regardless, and the rest, although not thrilled about Afghanistan, won’t let it affect their votes one way or another.
Peter Wehner writes about Obama’s decision to draw down troops in Afghanistan, something that (just coincidentally, of course) will take place right before Obama’s reelection bid. Wehner is appalled, and he explains that this gross political calculation isn’t the way it needs to be:
I have the advantage of having served a president during wartime. And whatever faults one might be tempted to lay at the feet of George W. Bush, he never allowed politics of the Obama kind to infect his decisions. I know of what I speak. In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching and the war of Iraq floundering, Senator Mitch McConnell, then the Republic whip, asked to see the president alone in the Oval Office. “Mr. President,” McConnell said, “your unpopularity is going to cost us control of Congress.” When President Bush asked McConnell what to do about it, McConnell said, “Bring some troops home from Iraq.”
Four months later, Senator McConnell got his reply. President Bush – who faced far more ferocious political opposition to the war than Obama ever has – not only did not withdraw troops; he increased them while embracing a strategy that came to be known as the “surge.” And he blocked every attempt at a premature withdrawal.
There are many factors that explain why the Iraq war turned around, but the fortitude of President Bush surely ranks high among them. That quality looked impressive then; it looks even more impressive now.
Apropos that not so coincidental timing, the conventional wisdom is that the troops, grateful to return home, will cast their votes for the Democrat who made it so. I wonder if that’s true.
Obama has consistently proven himself profoundly ignorant of the military mindset, something that’s true for most Leftists. Leftists are feral fighters, not principled fighters. While feral fighters will fight quite ferociously if threatened (which is why Leftist leadership works mightily to keep its followers in a blind panic, as with global warming), what Leftists really want is for the threat to stop affecting them personally.
Principled fighters, however, are willing to take ultimate risks for a cause greater than themselves. It’s a much more altruistic approach to war, and one that sees people willing to make great sacrifices for a final goal that may not even benefit them directly.
Because Dems are feral fighters, they assume all wars are Vietnam. Back then, the draft and the upheaval in America meant that way too many Vietnam troops didn’t believe in their mission, and were desperate to have a political change that would get them home. These are the kind of troops Dems recognize.
I don’t think we have a Vietnam military today. Instead, our military is made made up of volunteers, who either embrace fighting generally (the adrenalin junkies) or embrace the larger existential battle raging throughout the world, a war that burns especially hot in Afghanistan. Rather than thanking Obama for bringing them home, these principled or professional warriors may resent the way Obama is dragging them away from the good fight, destroying their hard won gains, and handing victory to an exceptionally brutal enemy who will reengage us both at home and abroad.
UPDATE: Barry Rubin, after reading what I wrote, thinks there’s something different going on: “Obama is NOT doing this to win votes in the military. He has no illusions about that. He’s doing it to win votes from average Americans to whom he can say: I brought the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. And it will work UNLESS those situations visibly collapse and even then it will gain votes for him.” As Barry sums it up, “Obama is making a good political calculation at the cost of a strategic miscalculation.”
Barry is so much more astute and well-informed than I am, that I don’t doubt that he’s right about Obama’s calculation. However, I do wonder how the Average American (or the Progressive voter) will view Obama’s involvement in Libya when making a balancing of interests. I also wonder if the ultimate pass will always be abortion. Since the anti-War protests stopped when Bush left, even though the wars continued and even escalated, I suspect that, while war is a real concern to the Democrat base, it’s abortion that will always be the kicker for his core constituency. And really, when one thinks about it, that’s a pretty strange issue to use as the final determiner when deciding the person for whom to vote.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
Does the administration’s decision to arm the Libyan rebels remind you of anything? It does me. It reminds me of the Reagan administration’s decision to arm the rebels in Afghanistan.
Back then, the rebels were not our enemy, and they were fighting a sworn enemy against whom we’d been engaged in myriad proxy wars for decades. This time, the rebels are our enemy, killing our civilians and soldiers all over the world, and they’re fighting a government that hasn’t does us any active harm in recent years.
Somehow, despite our pure and fairly reasonable thinking back in 1980s, I seem to recall that our decision to arm and train radical Islamists proved to have bad and lasting consequences for us. (Hint: the Taliban.) This time around, we don’t even have the excuse of ignorance. The Libyan rebels we’re arming, comprised of useful idiots, Al Qaeda operatives, and Muslim brotherhood members, were our active enemy yesterday; they’re our active enemy today; and tomorrow, pumped up with our weapons and supplies, they’ll still be our active enemy, only more dangerous.
Years ago, in another life, I dated a man who had worked for Rolling Stone and personally knew Jann Wenner. (My ex-boyfriend claimed that a well-known Rolling Stone photographer was the one who introduced him to and got him hooked on cocaine. I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not, but it made for a good story.)
My old boyfriend had cleaned up his act by the time I met him, and was decently reticent about his past, but it was pretty clear from the few stories he told that (a) Rolling Stone personnel, at least at one time, had embraced the drug culture with gusto and (b) that it was a sleazy, counter-culture magazine. Today, all you need to do to know that it is still a sleazy, counter-culture (read: anti-American) magazine is to buy a copy at the store — or, better yet, leaf through one and then abandon it without bothering to buy it. As for the drug issues that were once a part of the magazine’s culture, perhaps the drugs’ legacy lives on and helps explain the shoddy, vicious journalism that routinely emanates from that saggy, flabby, 1960s era hangover.
Don’t believe me about shoddy, vicious journalism? I understand that. My old boyfriend’s stories about the magazine’s past are pure hearsay. But right now, today, Michael Yon has actual percipient witness journalism on his side when it comes to challenging Rolling Stone’s most recent smear piece about our troops in Afghanistan. Read Yon and your blood will boil.
Huge kudos to Yon, not only for his own journalism, but for his willingness to take on one of the old media’s sacred cows.
Will Democrats once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Here’s a very encouraging report about the latest NATO (mostly American forces) offensive in Helmand province, one of the last redoubts of the Taliban. I don’t know how much play this will get in the Mass Media, as they generally don’t like to talk about American victories.
I am still seething about the Vietnam War, which helped to define my generation. It was a war we won militarily at great sacrifice and lost politically, when we betrayed our treaty obligations to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I believe that the point at which the Vietnam war was lost was when CBS’s Walter Cronkite pronounced the Tet Offensive as an American defeat (it was quite the opposite).
So, here is my question: will the Democrats and MainStream Media repeat history and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or will they play this to a conclusive victory?
Peter Wehner describes the conduct, but I think, when you behave as Obama as, the word “contemptible” can apply, with equal aptness, to the man himself (emphasis mine):
I have praised President Obama in the past for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. New facts have come to light since then. And, arguably, I should have better understood the true nature of the man in the Oval Office. Either way, the president, rather than distancing himself from the July 2011 draw-down date, has doubled down on it. He has said things in meetings and on the record that underscore his equivocation, his doubt, and his lack of fortitude when it comes to this war. And so it is fair, I think, to render a judgment I much rather would not: What President Obama is now doing – both escalating and undermining a war at the very same time — is not only unwise; it is contemptible. He has a constitutional duty and a moral obligation to choose one path or the other – to prosecute the war with commitment and resolve or to leave.
The president still has time, but not much.
Phibian, who is one one of my oldest blog friends, explains at Big Peace how the President’s entirely artificial time line for withdrawing from Afghanistan not only emboldens the Taliban (and makes a negotiated peace impossible), but also destroys all good efforts at future planning in that theater.
If you like Phibian’s writing (and who wouldn’t?) you can check him out at CDR Salamander, his own cite.
My (conservative) book club read Victor Davis Hanson’s A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. One of the points Hanson makes in the book is that Pericles embarked upon a new type of warfare:
Periclean strategy . . . defined the new war as battle not between hoplites or even sailors but rather soldiers against the property of everyday folks. . . . Sherman, Lord Kitchener, and Curtis LeMay . . . all argued that battle is ultimately powered by civilians and thus only extinguished when they cannot or will not pledge their labor and capital to those on the battlefield.
Hanson goes on to comment that many Athenians thought this new civilian focused warfare was immoral. Our group discussed whether including civilians as part of the battlefield was, or was not, immoral.
Our conclusion was that it is absolutely true that civilians finance war through their labor, direct (munitions factories) or indirect (economic infrastructure). If you are fighting a war to win — and you’d better be sure you believe in your cause — one of the most effective ways to win assuming equality on the battlefield is to destroy the labor/economic infrastructure. If this means pulling a Sherman by destroying the depot that not only supplies arms to the troops but also food to the civilians, you’re going to do it. The same thing goes for bombing a munitions factory, even if you know civilian employees work there.
What we all had a problem with is targeting civilians simply to slaughter them, which is a Nazi and a Muslim tactic. This tactic is not meant to destroy the war’s infrastructure and end the war but is, simply, meant to kill the enemy because you hate them, want to terrorize them, and don’t think they are worthy of life. Unsurprisingly, when an army resorts to these tactics, the slaughter is usually distinguished by the utmost cruelty. At the end of the day, a dead child is a dead child, but I still think there’s something morally different between a child killed when a bomb explodes at the IED factory next door versus a child killed when the soldiers personally toss it in the air and use it for target practice.
What do you think?
Please keep in mind as you grapple with the question that right now, today, this is not a hypothetical question. Our troops in Afghanistan have already died in unnecessary numbers because of Rules of Engagement that value the civilian population over the lives of our own troops.
If you want to see how this can result in a massive f*ck-up for Americans, just read Marcus Luttrell’s tragic Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. There, the fear of running afoul of political rules that elevate Afghani lives over American lives (and that have the power to destroy a SEAL’s career) led the SEALS to release an “innocent” shepherd, who promptly reported the SEALS’ position to the Taliban. As a result, more SEALS died on that day than on any other day in SEAL history.
Right now, General Petraeus is trying to change these ludicrous rules that emanated from the halls of academia, rather than the real world of battle. Even as he goes forward with that effort, though, the administration is pushing an award (posthumous, obviously) for “Courageous Restraint.”
It seems to me that either we raised our boys right, or we didn’t. Either they have a moral compass or they don’t. And either we have a decent military infrastructure that, after the fact, can distinguish between legitimate battle necessity and brutal sadism — and, after the fact, can punish the behavior accordingly, thereby setting the correct example for other, future troops.
Certainly it makes sense to have baseline rules to protect prisoners of war, such as the Geneva convention. However, to send our troops out with the instruction “Thou shalt not kill unless you’re absolutely sure you’re killing some who is from a properly identified military unit and who manifestly intents to shoot you . . . right . . . about . . . NOW” is insane and, in itself, immoral.
UPDATE: I just want to throw into the mix the peculiar war between Israel and the Palestinians. It is asymmetrical, because Israel has the big guns. Israel, however, allows her morality to restrain her from using those big guns. She is blamed continuously for anything she does, despite her herculean efforts to strike at only true military targets.
The Palestinians do not have big guns. Both tactically and for obvious pleasure, they deliberately target civilians. They aim their rockets and their suicide bombers at schools, hospitals and buses. When they get their hands on individuals, they subject them to horrific torture before murdering them (and this includes people they class as “traitors” in their own midst.) They are applauded continuously for their committed heroism.
This is asymmetrical warfare with a sick international audience that prefers the snuff film to the movie that has a moral to the story.
UPDATE II: And apropos Israel, an essay suggesting that she get tougher, or more serious, in her pursuit of this existential war — since it is her existence that is at stake.
UPDATE III: Caroline Glick on another facet of civilians in war, and on the will to win. (H/t: Sadie)
I feel I should say something, so I will. Being me, of course, what I say will be discursive.
Re McChrystal: An excellent general who didn’t hit it off with Obama from the git-go (blame lies, I believe, with Obama), and who failed utterly in the diplomatic discretion category — something that’s true whether you regard the revelations in Rolling Stone as big deals or little ones. Was the latter a firing offense? I don’t know. It depends on how the Commander in Chief chooses to handle it. Which leads me to Obama….
Re Obama: As I noted earlier, Obama is either apathetic or agitated. One of the things about which he’s never been sufficiently agitated is the war in Afghanistan. Sure, he didn’t pull out immediately, but his initial decisions to announce a withdrawal time table and to refuse to meet with McChrystal until McChrystal was forced to use the media against Obama (something that probably created a bad precedent in terms of McChrystal’s ideas about using the military to achieve his goals) show that he never gave a flying whatsit about American troops trying to win against Muslim jihadists.
On the other side of the scale, the things that do agitate Obama include the Joos; attempts to stop potential new Democratic party voters from sneaky in over the border and sparking crime waves; and offenses to his dignity. McChrystal committed the latter crime. Obama could have glossed the whole thing over, downplaying McChrystal’s errors (as he’s done with every one of his other appointees) or he could have done what he did, which is to fire McChrystal for having hurt his feelings. The only way to come out smelling like a rose from letting his ego lead was for Obama to have appointed someone better than McChrystal. Which leads me to Petraeus….
Re Petraeus: When Obama was a Senator, he denigrated Petraeus’ task and, by his behavior, Petraeus himself. Petraeus, however, is the real deal when it comes to counterinsurgency, and I can’t think of a better person to try his hand at Afghanistan. Peter Wehner spells out Petraeus’ virtues:
General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.
Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.
What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.
I wish Petraeus every bit of luck available to him. Combine that luck with his skills and intellect, apply all those to the best military in the world, and there might be a good outcome here (including Obama being able to back down from his withdrawal timetable while still saving face).
Conclusion: Obama first seeded the lemons, starting with his long-ago refusal to take either General McChrystal or the Afghanistan war serious. He harvested the lemons when he elected to let his ego lead in what could have been a down-played, and therefore negligible, situation. And he managed to create lemonade by replace McChrystal with only the best general out there. Let’s hope the best general chews up Afghanistan, rather than vice versa.
(Just FYI, The Anchoress has a stellar round-up of responses to the whole saga.)
UPDATE: Bruce Kesler, who understands more about what’s going on than I ever could, is pleased okay with Petraeus’ appointment, but would have preferred General Mattis. Blackfive thinks the timing of this whole thing is more than a little suspicious. (The first story will make you happy sanguine; the second, angry.)
UPDATE II: Was Obama just trying to keep Petraeus out of the 2012 race? I doubt it. For one thing, that’s two years ahead, and a lot can change between now and then. For another thing, I have it on good authority that Petraeus is saying right now, with a straight face, that he’s not running. If this is preemptive action, it’s really preemptive. Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.
My sense is that Petraeus genuinely doesn’t want to run. It’s a lousy job, and Petraeus isn’t an egotist. He is, however, a patriot. If he feels that America truly needs his unique skills, Afghanistan will be the smallest part of the U.S.’s problems, and he’ll run regardless.
[I'll keep this at the top through Memorial Day. Scroll down for lots of new posts.]
Several years ago, as part of a 9/11 commemoration, I wrote the following words as part of a post I did about Lt. Brian Ahearn, one of the New York fire fighters who perished on that day:
My son, who is seven, is obsessed with superheroes. His current favorite is Superman. After all, when you’re a little boy, battling your way through the world, what could be more exciting than the possibility of being “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” I’m bombarded daily with questions about Superman’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures, his flying speeds, his ballistic capabilities and, most importantly, his bravery. It’s here that my son and I run into a conceptual problem. My son thinks Superman is brave because he gets involved in situations that involve guns, and flames, and bad guys. I argue — and how can you argue this with a seven year old? — that the fictional Superman, while good, is not brave, because he takes no risks. Superman’s indestructibility means that his heart never speeds up, his gut never clenches, and he never pauses for even a moment to question whether the potential benefit from acting is worth the risk. In other words, if facing a gun is as easy as sniffing a rose, there is no bravery involved.
The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation. The attacks against America on September 11, 2001, revealed the true superheroes among us — those New York firefighters who pushed themselves past those second thoughts, those all-too-human hesitations, and sacrificed themselves in the hopes of saving others. Lt. Brian G. Ahearn was one of those superheroes.
I’ve been thinking today about that moment of insight I had about courage and heroism, because I’m finally reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. I say “finally,” because the book came out in 2007, and it took me three years to gather my own courage just to read it — and I did so only because of the possibility that I may soon meet the mother of one of those “lost heroes.” Considering what her son did for my country, forcing myself to read a book about great heroism seemed like the least I could do.
Funnily enough, the book isn’t as painful as I thought it would be. This is partly because Luttrell, with novelist Patrick Robinson’s able assistance, has a wonderful voice. His is not a ponderous tome but is, instead, a human story of an East Texas boy who, buoyed up by patriotism and sheer grit, made his way through the insanity of SEAL training, and then found himself in Afghanistan, working to protect American interests and freedoms.
Luttrell’s upbringing, so different from my girly, urban, intellectual childhood is a story in itself. As for his descriptions of what men push themselves to do to become SEALS — well, I’d heard about it academically, but I’d never understood it viscerally.
To be completely honest, I still don’t understand it. As a card-carrying wuss, as someone who has always respected her personal comfort zones, and avoided challenging herself, I really don’t “get” what would drive young men, men in their 20s and 30s, to push themselves as hard as these men do. And the rewarded isn’t a glamorous job, a la Hollywood or Manhattan, with fame, wealth and women. Being a SEAL is the toughest job in the world, because SEALs end up doing the most dangerous jobs in the world, under the worst, scariest circumstances imaginable.
If you lack physical and mental will, not to mention the overwhelming training SEALs receive, you’re simply a statistic waiting to happen. But if you do have that stamina, one that resides as much in the mind as it does in the body (perhaps even more in the mind than the body), and if you have this amazing commitment to your team and your country, you can move mountains.
Or sometimes, as SEAL Team 10 so sadly demonstrated, the mountains turn on you. I am not giving away anything about the book, of course, when I tell you that Luttrell was the sole survivor of a firefight in the Afghan mountain ranges that ended up being the single deadliest day in SEAL history. Reading about the fight and the deaths of Luttrell’s team member, not to mention his own story of survival, is harrowing. I don’t want to say I cried, but I’ll admit that my eyes were leaking prodigiously. Knowing that this would be my inevitable reaction is part of why I avoided Luttrell’s book for so long. (To excuse myself a little bit, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to get too close to understanding what my father experienced during WWII, as he fought in some of the worst battles around the Mediterranean, including Crete and el Alamein. Sometimes, empathy can be too painful.)
But really, I shouldn’t have avoided the book. Yes, the deaths of LT Michael P. Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz, as well as 16 SEALs and Nightstalkers, whose helicopter was shot down during the rescue mission, is heart wrenching, but the overall tone of the book is still uplifting. Luttrell’s deep patriotism, his belief in the mission (not any specific mission, but the SEALs’ overarching mission to protect and defend), his abiding love for the SEALs, and the message that there are those who are willing to protect us, often from ourselves, ranks right up there with the most cheerful “feel good” book you can find.
So many people live pointless lives and die meaningless deaths. One of the tragedies of the 6 million is that they were herded to death like cattle in an abattoir. I don’t blame them. They were ordinary people, living ordinary lives, when suddenly they were ripped out of normalcy, and without warning or preparation, sent straight to Hell on earth. Had I had the misfortune to be a Jew in Poland in 1942, instead of a Jew in America at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, that would have been me. Not just a short life that made no difference, but one that ended with a death that didn’t make a dent in the hide of my murderers.
Some people, however, seem to have bred in the bone and the heart the belief that they will not be ordinary in life or in death. Mercifully, these are people who don’t need the tawdry fame of Hollywood. They don’t need the quick fixes of drink and drugs. They don’t need to become bullies who control others, whether their control is exercised over a country or an office. Instead, they prepare themselves to serve causes greater than their own egos. Their lives have purpose and their deaths are never pointless.
Because the genesis of my post is Luttrell’s book, I’ve written this as an homage to the SEALs. Everything I’ve said though, can be applied equally to the men and women who have fought and, sometimes, died for America, beginning back in 1774. The fact that they didn’t do it at the level of pain and training one sees in the SEALs does nothing to minimize their courage, their patriotism and their sacrifices. They are the backbone of our country, the defenders of our freedom: “The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation.”
(Luttrell, the sole survivor of the SEALS pictured here, is third from the right.)
Other Memorial Day posts:
Blackfive (yes, again)
Florence American Military Cemetery (slow-loading, so don’t worry if nothing happens right away)
As I’ve mentioned just a few times, I just read, and was very moved by, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. A liberal I know flipped through the book’s first few pages and had a very different reaction. The following passages bugged the liberal:
My name is Marcus. Marcus Luttrell. I’m a United States Navy SEAL, Team Leader, SDV Team 1, Alfa Platoon. Like every other SEAL, I’m trained in weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat. I’m a sniper, and I’m the platoon medic. But most of all, I’m an American. And when the bell sounds, I will come out fighting for my country and for my teammates. If necessary, to the death.
And that’s not just because the SEALs trained me to do so; it’s because I’m willing to do so. I’m a patriot, and I fight with the Lone Star of Texas on my right arm and another Texas flag over my heart. For me, defeat is unthinkable. (pp. 6-7)
[As they're taking off from Bahrain to Afghanistan:] There were no other passengers on board, just the flight crew and, in the rear, us, headed out to do God’s work on behalf of the U.S. government and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush. (p. 12.)
[Of the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan:] This was where bin Laden’s fighters found a home training base. Let’s face it, al Qaeda means “the base,” and in return for the Saudi fanatic bin Laden’s money, the Taliban made it all possible. right now these very same guys, the remnants of the Taliban and the last few tribal warriors of al Qaeda, were preparing to start over, trying to fight their way through the mountain passes, intent on setting up new training camps and military headquarters and, eventually, their own government in place of the democratically elected one.
They may not have been the precise same guys who planned 9/11. But they were most certainly their descendants, their heirs, their followers. They were part of the same crowd who knocked down the North and South Towers in the Big Apple on the infamous Tuesday morning in 2001. And our coming task was to stop them, right there in those mountains, by whatever means necessary. (pp. 13-14)
The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking. The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal, who also thought it was just plain stupid to seek revenge against guys who weren’t actually the ones who plotted 9/11. My less than clever riposte was, “so I guess you would only kill Nazis who actually worked in the gas chambers?” Frankly, given the differences in our world views, I’m not sure there is a clever comeback or, which would be more helpful, a comeback that actually causes the liberal to reexamine those liberal principles.
UPDATE: Here’s an apt quotation, written by John Stuart Mill, in 1862, as a comment upon the American Civil War:
A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me: many, many, many congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory. I never doubted that they would win, but I certainly understood that each Marine and Afghan soldier faced the risk that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for that victory.
Naturally, the Times, rather than celebrating a great military feat, is already trying to set up new (and in Times-land, almost certainly insurmountable) hurdles for our troops. I have no doubt that our troops will do just fine.
For a reminder about what out-of-control, murderous troops really look like, read this story of the way in which Soviet soldiers raped the women who found themselves in the soldiers’ path during WWII. There are no, and I mean no, stories like that about our American troops, whether one is looking at WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. (Indeed, I bet I could say the same for American troops going back to the Revolutionary War.) Sure, there are always renegade men who go off and do bad things, but these same men appear periodically in our cities and towns too. Bad guys exist, but American troops have proven definitively that they are part of a good institution, one that does not use rape as a weapon.
Drifting a little further afield, the fact that American men are not rapists even when they have the power of the military behind them, is also a useful reminder about what a misanthropic religion Islam is. (And no, I didn’t get confused and substitute misanthropic for misogynistic.) While it’s certainly true that one of Islam’s most glaring deficiencies is its desperate desire to subjugate women out of fear of their sexuality, it’s quite obvious that the Islamists hide from feminine sexuality because they believe men to be inherently weak. In the Islamic world, the theory goes, any man, upon seeing a woman, will be incapable of refraining from raping her. That is a scathing indictment of men.
In stark contrast, American men are civilized creatures. Sure, they might leave the toilet seats up, scratch their crotches in public, and belch at inappropriate times, but when push comes to shove, they are models of self-control.
So, in thinking it through, congratulations are due to our Marines, not only for being great warriors, but also for being great human beings.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
A friend sent me this powerful (non-exclusive) image from Michael Yon:
Yon describes it as follows:
A crew from the United States Air Force spent Saturday night and Sunday morning airlifting different groups of wounded soldiers from Kandahar to Camp Bastion to Bagram, back to Kandahar, then back to Bagram, and back to Kandahar. These patients were from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Here, an Air Force nurse caresses the head of a wounded, unconscious Canadian soldier while whispering into his ear.
I don’t have a comment here. I just think this story is interesting:
An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.
In one instance, a group of local male interpreters had contracted gonorrhea anally but refused to believe they could have contracted it sexually — “because they were not homosexuals.”
Apparently, according to the report, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man — but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”
The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant.
The report said: “When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, ‘How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.’”
Hat tip: Neptunus Lex