October 28, 2009

Blood For Politics

To the extent Ralph Peters is saying in the piece below, that in Afghanistan our military should be focused on killing the enemy, rather than serving as social workers.... then we agree.

To the extent Peters is saying that even the best of strategies - like our counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) - is never a one size fits all, but rather a strategy to be used only in places where it makes sense to use (i.e., Afghanistan not being of them).... then we agree.

And to the extent Peters is saying that our leaders in Washington should stop running the war in Afghanistan the way they run their business in Washington...then we agree.

President Obama would do well to remember that he was elected to serve as Commander-in-Chief, not Politician-in-Chief.

New York Post  |  October 28, 2009

Blood For Nothing
GIs die while Taliban thrives

By Ralph Peters

AFGHANISTAN isn't completely hopeless, just use less. It's a strategic joke with a bloody punch line.

Even if everything went perfectly in Afghanistan -- which it won't -- the results would be virtually meaningless: Our mortal enemies (above all, al Qaeda) have dug in elsewhere, from Pakistan to Somalia.

Now we are warned that, unless we send another 40,000 US troops to convince Afghans we're their friends, unspecified woes will fall upon us like biblical plagues.

Apart from the curious notion that sending more Infantrymen is the way to win hearts and minds, the hearts and minds of Afghans not only can't be won, but aren't worth winning.

Our soldiers are dying for a fad, not for a strategy. Our vaunted counter- insurgency doctrine is the military equivalent of hula hoops, pet rocks and Beanie Babies: an oddity that caught the Zeitgeist.

The embrace of this suicidal fad by ambitious senior generals has created the most profound rift between frontline soldiers on one side and top generals on the other that I've encountered in 22 years of military service and another 11 years covering our troops.

There have always been disgruntled privates, but the sheer disgust was never this intense. And the top generals seem oblivious. (You can't just fly in, say, "How's it going, lieutenant?" and fly back to headquarters.)

From line doggies up to bird colonels (and even a few junior generals), there's a powerful sense that we're throwing away soldiers' lives for theories that just don't work. We enforce rules of engagement that kill our own troops to avoid alienating villagers who actively support the Taliban and celebrate our deaths.

The generals refuse to recognize that, from the local viewpoint, the Taliban are the patriots. We're the Redcoats. Our counterinsurgency (COIN) theory -- hatched by military pseudo-intellectuals and opportunists -- has no serious historical basis. It ignores the uncomfortable lessons of 3,000 years of fighting insurgencies and terrorists. Its authors claim Vietnam and Algeria as success stories.

But COIN theory is the perfect politically correct gimmick for the times: It posits that development is the answer to every problem (2,000 years of tribal hatred? Just dig 'em a well).

But what if the locals don't want our kind of development? In Afghanistan, our "COIN" doctrine downplays the vitality of tradition and tribal culture, while resolutely ignoring the inconvenient religious fanaticism driving the hardcore Taliban.

COIN theory also insists that success depends on establishing "government legitimacy." Well, the Kabul government we're protecting is about as legit as a Mexican drug gang. Afghans won't defend it. So our troops have to.

Now Afghans face a presidential runoff election. The challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, can't win. Were he to accept an invitation to join a coalition government, he'd lose all credibility.

So our troops hold their fire and die to protect Afghan villagers who back the Taliban and to protect an Afghan government the people despise. How, exactly, does this advance our national security?

We've lost our way. No American soldier should die because senior generals lack the integrity to admit they were just plain wrong.

As for the claim that COIN worked in Iraq, it's nonsense. First, Iraq ain't exactly out of the woods. Second, what turned the tide against al Qaeda was . . . al Qaeda. The troop surge helped, but wasn't decisive. We were blessed with enemies so monstrous they alienated the Iraqis they claimed to champion -- and the Iraqis turned against the foreign terrorists.

The Taliban are different. Within the dominant Pashtun population, the Taliban are homegrown heroes. We rationalize away the evidence.

In Washington, this has degenerated into another partisan issue. That's despicable. Decisions about Afghanistan can't be made to score political points. We must rise above party bickering and do what's best for our security and our troops.

This time around, Vice President Joe Biden happens to be right: We have to focus on destroying our true enemies -- al Qaeda -- and not on naive efforts to turn Afghanistan into Montclair, NJ. Republicans need to stop and smell the ruins of 9/11.

Iraq made sense to me. The stakes there were (and are) enormous. But Afghanistan's a strategic vacuum that sucks in resources and lives to no sensible purpose. By propping up President Karzai's government of thieves and attempting to force our vision on Afghanistan we've rescued a defeated Taliban from oblivion. So much for COIN theory.

Killing our nation's enemies always makes sense. Sacrificing our troops for the Pentagon's equivalent of Beanie Babies is despicable. Won't a single four-star general stand up and be counted?

Ralph Peters' latest book is "The War After Armageddon."

Original article here.


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