Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Why the U.S. will fail in Afghanistan

I can predict the failure in Afghanistan in two important quotes.

First, from SunTzu, the ancient Chinese military philosopher and author of "The Art of War":
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

Second, from General Stanley McChrystal (the U.S. commander in Afghanistan), during Congressional testimony on Tuesday, December 8th (also as quoted by Slate's Fred Kaplan):
There is much in Afghanistan that I do not understand.


William R. Barker said...

Obama and those members of the House and Senate - BOTH REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRAT - who bear responsibility for this "new surge" will however succeed in one respect... they'll succeed in ensuring American lives are lost and that besides the body bags they'll be plenty of lost limbs and psychological casualties suffered by our troops.

Damn Bush to hell for his blunders, but at least Bush sincerely believed the war was not only worth fighting, but was winnable.

You KNOW... you KNOW... YOU KNOW that Obama operates under no such assumption.

This is pure unadulterated politics for America's 44th Commander-In-Chief.

God help this once great nation.


EdMcGon said...

I read somewhere that if you listen to the military, they will ALWAYS recommend more troops when they run into problems.

While I credit Don Rumsfeld for being sceptical when they asked for more troops in Iraq, I also blame him for not recognizing the truth of the situation then. They DID need more troops in Iraq.

On the other hand, the military is recommending more troops in Afghanistan, without a clear plan for winning this war. In Afghanistan, the only way to win is to get bin Laden and get out. You can't turn Afghanistan into a nation, any more than you can cure poverty in the world.

Obama is listening to clueless generals. Welcome to a REAL quagmire.

Justine Valinotti said...

As per Lao Tzu: We don't understand ourselves. At least, those who are making decisions (i.e., the generals and members of Congress) don't understand the troops they're sending to Afghanistan, much less us.

What we have now are enlisted military personnel who are, mostly, poor and from the inner cities or rural areas. When people join for those reasons, how much can building nations from people they've never met and will probably never see again mean to them? How can they ever think that they're fighting a war for the reasons the generals and members of Congress say they are?

And, on top of that, how can you motivate people without a plan for success, a.k.a. victory? Having such a plan is just basic psychology.

Furthermore, what those in power--and many Americans generally--don't understand about ourselves is that we're eminently unsuited to nation- and empire-building. Sure, we have the technology and military might. But we're a country that assimilates cultures. Previous empires, such as the British, Russians and Ottomans (all of whom, by the way, tried to colonize Afghanistan) were not: They, like the French, Spanish, Romans, subjugated (or tried to subjugate) other cultures. In order to build empires and nations, it's necessary to conquer, not to merely invade, that country and its culture.

Of course, I do not see what I've just described as a weakness in Americans: It's precisely the reason why, for all of this country's faults, if I have to be loyal to any country, I would choose America first, and not merely because I was born in it. But it's not the stuff that successful empire-builders are made of.

So...Just imagine what Lao Tzu would say about sending American troops to Afghanistan!

William R. Barker said...

Interestingly enough, Ed, I was rehashing the "not enough troops for the Iraq invasion" with a buddy of mine just this morning.

Basically, the problem wasn't (OBVIOUSLY WASN'T) that we didn't have enough troops to wage and win the war - we did... in a matter of weeks.

Where we didn't have enough troops was in terms of a long term occupation and nation building strategy... WHICH SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE STRATEGY in the first place!!!


Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Colin Powell SecState during this whole period?

Hey... blame Rummy if you must, but he - his department - DID ITS JOB! They fought and won the war! It was Powell's State Department - personified by L. Paul Bremer - who bungled the POST MAJOR COMBAT nation building effort.

Yes... Bush and especially Cheney - AND RUMMY TOO - should have INSISTED upon a complete "post-combat" plan for defeated Iraq PRIOR to the start of the war...


But bottom line, so should have Powell and since such was in his domain HE bears the major responsibility for failure in my book.

Anyway... water under the bridge - kinda like Vietnam which seems more and more to be the model for the Obama administration's Afghanistan strategy.



EdMcGon said...

Interesting point Justine. I suspect most ancient Chinese philosophers would look at our strategy and ask, "What? You have no plans to crush the will of Afghanistan's people? How do you expect to win?" In this case, they'd be right.

But as you point out, that isn't what we are, for good reason.

EdMcGon said...

Bill, I'm not going to rehash the Iraq War. Iraq really has nothing to teach us in Afghanistan.

William R. Barker said...

No need to "rehash" anything, Ed; I was simply correcting you.


Hey... it's what I do!


On a serious note... to reiterate:

Anyway... water under the bridge - kinda like Vietnam which seems more and more to be the model for the Obama administration's Afghanistan strategy.



William R. Barker said...

Justine, let me ask you, did you do any research prior to posting:

What we have now are enlisted military personnel who are, mostly, poor and from the inner cities or rural areas.

You might wanna check out:


* It's funny, Ed; all too often I find that what I considered to be "common knowledge" is... ummm... NOT.


EdMcGon said...

Actually Bill, it was Patraeus who called for the surge in Iraq, not Rumsfeld, who wanted to do the occupation "on the cheap". Also, Powell, for all his flaws, didn't have any say in the number of troops in Iraq.

Just correcting your error. ;)

William R. Barker said...

Who said Rumsfeld wanted to do the Surge...???

Ed. What is it about READING that you find so challenging...???


Seriously... Ed... where do you see my having said Rumsfeld called for the Surge in Iraq?

Rummy was already out of office for well over a year when the surge was decided upon and of the politicians, I have to give credit to (of all people) McCain for having pushed the Surge.

One more time...

Rummy planned for - and got - a quick and decisive victory. That initial victory - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, END OF MAJOR COMBAT - was squandered by Bush and Romney and Powell. I place the main blame on Powell because if any department should have had a plan for "nation building" that department should have been State.

In any case, Iraq descended into chaos due to POLITICAL decisions taken, not because Rummy's military strategy didn't win on the ground - it DID win - it won in three weeks time!

Again, Ed, think of Powell's comment BEFORE the war: "You break it, you've bought it."

Powell was talking about POST-COMBAT Iraq; POST INVASION AND DEFEAT Iraq. So... if he felt rebuilding Iraq would be "our" responsibility, why didn't he and his department properly plan for doing so...? Hmm...???

Again, Ed, Bremer was POWELL's guy.


Anyway... I agree with you that there's no need to rehash Iraq, but jeez, don't misquote me and don't revise history.


* P.S. - Don't try to bs your way out of this, Ed; just say... "Oh... gotchya... you're right, Bill."