Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Insufficient Will

Mike Hendrix at Cold Fury cites this somber yet irrefutable assessment of America's engagement in Afghanistan:

Two days before the U.S. military mission in Iraq formally ended in 2011, I left with the last convoy of Americans from Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, south of Baghdad. Safely crossing the border into Kuwait meant that we had accomplished our most important mission: getting out of the country alive, without any strategic blunders. If the U.S. troops in Afghanistan also can attain this goal, which will not be easy, they will have achieved the best we can hope for in that country.

Now, as in the last days of Iraq, U.S. hopes are muted. Previous aspirations for democracy and freedom have shrunk, and most of us will be happy if the United States can extricate itself quietly without further damage or embarrassment. The cornerstone of the plan to exit Iraq was the training of Iraqi police and military forces, enabling them to create a safe environment during and after our departure. It’s the centerpiece of operations in Afghanistan, as well.

As the months march toward the end of the major U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the stresses on units will grow. Life becomes increasingly austere at the end: creature comforts vanish, food quality worsens, mail stops. Tactically, the focus alters. Yesterday’s top priorities — defeating the enemy, building up the indigenous forces — become less important than leaving with each soldier safe. It becomes clearer by the day that, barring some deus ex machina, the U.S. endeavor will make no strategically significant gains, though the potential for significant losses increases by the week.

Please read the whole thing.

As matters stand, the Taliban is set for a swift return to power in Afghanistan. It will be buttressed in its resurgence by support, both material and moral, from Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and other militant Islamic organizations. It will resume its oppressions and depredations upon the Afghan people as if they'd never paused. The American legacy in Afghanistan will be approximately nil.

We won't even be able to say "at least we tried." We didn't.

American families that lost sons in Afghanistan will ask themselves why their children had to bleed and die. American veterans who returned from that theater maimed, physically or emotionally, will demand to know why as well. And all of us will be left to wonder why we were mulcted for so many billions of dollars to no discernible purpose.

How many celebrated commanders have told us never to enter a war without the ironclad determination to win it? Was Vietnam so long ago that we can no longer remember it? Did we go into the field unwilling to be sufficiently violent, sufficiently bloodthirsty, and sufficiently thorough yet again? Did we deliberately empower an administration that would pull America's punches against the Taliban and its affiliates, or were we deceived into a hopeless quest to impose freedom on a people incapable of appreciating it, much less sustaining it?

How did the mightiest nation in human history, twice the savior of the world, winner of the Cold War, possessor of a military equal in power to all the militaries of Europe and Asia combined, lose its will to win?

Perhaps the largest ingredient in this recipe for an expensive catastrophe was our unwillingness to recognize the enemy for what he is. Americans were told that our adversary was the Taliban: Mullah Omar and his boys, a relatively well-defined group that had imposed itself upon the rest of the Afghan people. That made it possible to believe in a short war: defeat that one, relatively primitive group, declare victory, and go home.

We were not told that our forces would be used in yet another "nation-building" scheme. I don't know whether President Bush had that in mind from the beginning of the expedition, or whether he was talked into it after we had displaced the Taliban from power. In hindsight, it appears that "nation-building" displaced the extermination of Islamist opposition rather early in the game. Finding and destroying the tyrant and all his supporters gave way to winning hearts and minds. That formula worked no better than it had in Vietnam.

We were told that we had won long before any such evaluation was possible or prudent. We went on to treat Afghanistan as if it were another Japan. But the aftermath of a war that thoroughly won doesn't produce casualties to the victor an order of magnitude greater than those that occurred during combat.

Our enemy was never the Taliban alone. The Taliban is an outcropping of a far larger and more dangerous enemy: the worldwide militant-Islamist movement. We can see it in motion in Egypt, Syria, and a dozen other places today. Indeed, it stirs everywhere there are Muslims, for militancy and an unending drive for absolute power over all persons, places, and things are inherent in core Islamic doctrine.

Militant Islam is a Hydra. Cutting off a head can only slow it briefly. Refusing to admit its breadth and acknowledge its unrelenting hostility to all things outside Islam is a guarantee of defeat.

There are Muslims who are not militants. They are irrelevant to this struggle, for while they have not taken up the sword against us, neither will they side with us against the militants. They see their co-religionists as the more deadly to them. Worse, many of them secretly approve of the jihadists' aims. Some of those even approve of the militants' methods; they're merely uninterested in sharing the associated costs and risks.

There is only one way to win a war against a religiously motivated foe. We applied it in Germany. Nothing else will suffice to defeat militant Islam.

Our men in Afghanistan will soon be brought home. We can pray for their safety until then. Given Washington's many missteps to date, we can do nothing more...for them.

For us? Mike Hendrix has a suggestion:

We probably ought to consider not fighting any more wars for any reason, unless and until we decide that “victory” will no longer mean “overextending our stay so as to be able to present barbarian savages a pre-cooked democracy that they are neither capable nor inclined to appreciate on a silver platter, and hoping to civilize a country that isn’t remotely civilized and only barely qualifies as a country.”

I concur.


Mark Alger said...

The reason: at least 50% of our governing elites are traitors -- in fact, if not in law.

And that one-party rule thing? They'll never be prosecuted for it. Them or their little dogs.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the problem is entirely a lack of will to win. I think we have forgotten how to win and forgotten what it means to win and forgotten why we should fight.

What we want now is to be loved. We go to war expecting civilians to throw rose pedals before our liberating troops. We want countries to line up with our values as the European & Asian countries of WW2.

In every conflict that we can arguably say we "won" our opponent was utterly and completely destroyed. They watched as their "superior" civilization was ripped to shreds by a truly superior civilization.

We then enforced our will upon them unabashedly. We were not afraid to destroy our enemies and we were believers in our own civilization.

How can we win wars when we are afraid to kill our enemies? How can we win the aftermath to wars if we hate who we are? Can we blame our enemies for turning against a People and a civilization that will elect a government that constantly apologizes for who it is?

We don't need a will to win; we need a backbone to be who we are (or, were). We can't use a will to win if we refuse to project our civilization.

We have become worse than the Lennon song: We no longer have nothing to fight for; we are fighting for our own destruction.

The last war we will fight will be on our own land and we will welcome our conquerors because they will destroy that which we hate the most: our country.

How mind-bogglingly sad it is to be in such a state; how proud it is to be a part of a minority that stands for what was once great.

Brad Ervin