Obama’s Strategy for Afghanistan Is Doomed To Fail
President Obama’s strategy, announced in his West Point address on Tuesday, Dec.1, is doomed to fail. This failure is not Obama’s alone, but rests also in the laps of his Generals, and in the actions of the Bush administration. The failure is rooted in a confidence in a limited war strategy and a fundamental misunderstanding of the religious and historical roots of this war. In this article I will critique the President’s speech and express my reasons for believing the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause.
First of all, however, let me present my credentials. I am a lifetime conservative, have always voted Republican, was a US Army Infantry Officer during the Cold War and am the father of an active duty Infantryman in the Army. I have always been known as a “hawk”. I supported President Bush’s response to 9/11 and his invasion of Iraq, yet thought that his responses were too limited, too constrained and insufficient.
That is who I am, now allow me to critique Obama’s speech and strategy and offer my alternatives.
“To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services,” the first problem was the venue. Did Obama have the right to speak at the USMA at West Point? Certainly, he is the Commander in Chief. However, in making his speech there was he politically using the cadets, instructors and support staff as a prop? Chris Matthews even baldly stated that Obama was “going into the enemy’s camp” to give the speech.
It is a common perception among the military and amongst conservatives that Pres. Obama, and most other liberal politicians, is “anti-military”. This is seen in everything from the DOD budget to replacing the USMC band playing “Hail To The Chief” in favor of some piano player playing jazz when the President enters. So, yes, it would seem that the West Point crowd would be expected to be somewhat skeptical of the President’s speech. Numerous commentators noted the less than enthusiastic response to the President and his speech.
“to bring this war to a successful conclusion”- this is as close he gets to using the words “Victory” or “Win”. Like all good one-worlders, he cannot think in terms of winning wars. Everybody loses when you fight a war in his mind. It is a zero sum game.
“it’s important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight.” He goes into a decent explanation for the beginning of the war, and he at least calls it a war.
“a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents.” It is here that the single largest failure of Obama, Bush and the Generals comes in. On the one hand, you can say that Islam is one of the world’s great religions, but, if you actually study what Islam teaches, how they treat their women, and what Islam has done in history, there is NO WAY you can call it a great religion. 1) Islam has, from the very beginning, been spread by the sword. It is a barbaric and bloodthirsty religion of conquest. Islam’s stated goals are to either convert everyone in the world (a goal shared by Christianity) or kill them (not a goal shared by Christianity) or enslave them (not a goal shared by Christianity). 2) Islam has always been authoritarian, despotic and corrupt in every country it has ruled. It is anti-democratic. Do Islamic lands have equal rights for women? Do Islamic nations have real free speech, real religious liberty, real free press? Are Islamic countries actually tolerant?
By any objective standard, the history and teachings of Islam, compared with the history and teachings of Christianity demonstrates that Islam is an abysmal religion. Despite all the failings of Christianity and individual Christians, the bottom line is that Christianity has a God who sent his Son to die for us, while Islam has a god who tells you to send your son to die for him. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” and Muhammad says, “Off with their heads,” while he “marries” a 6 yr old girl (but doesn’t have sex with her til she is 9).
The failure of George Bush, BArack Obama and all the Generals is the failure to recognize that this is in fact A RELIGIOUS WAR AS DETERMINED BY OUR ENEMIES. TO FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE ENEMY’S THINKING IS A CLASSIC MISTAKE IN STRATEGY. TO FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF THE WAR IS A GROSS INEPTITUDE. As the 9/11 commission itself said, “They were at war with us, we were not at war with them.”
In past American wars we successfully adapted to the mode of warfare our enemies understood. In King Phillips’ War in 1675-76, the English colonists had to deal with an enemy who did not march out to war in formation. The Indians attacked at night, raided villages and killed or captured everyone. They used torture and hid behind trees, conducted hit and run raids. The colonists had to learn a whole new way of fighting. This was later used to good effect against the English in the Revolutionary War. In the wars with the Indians in the 19th century villages were razed, whole herds of buffalo were killed off, and the Indians starved. In WW2 in the Pacific Theater we learned that the fanatical Japanese who worshiped their Emperor, mixing religion with politics, war and honor, would fight to the last man, not surrendering in order to spare precious lives, but in order to extract honor for themselves and their emperor and kill as many of us as possible even for a losing cause. That led us to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A proper response I might add. With the London blitz using night bombers and then the V-1 and V-2 rockets, the Nazis brought in the idea of punishing the civilian population. So we bombed Dresden.
But now, we are too civilized for all that. A bunch of towel heads learn to fly jet liners in our schools (but not to land) and we want to wage a limited war with rules of engagement that would make any civilian police department proud. Our Marines and Soldiers cannot fire if civilians are in the area. WE cannot do night raids and take people in for questioning. WE have to read the Miranda warning now. This is not waging war to win. Give me William Tecumseh Sherman and Unconditional Surrender Grant. Give me ol’ Blood and Guts George S. Patton. Firebomb their cities like they did New York.
Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere. He is stating that Al Qaeda and the Taliban took over because America and friends had turned our attention elsewhere. Even though we helped oust the Soviets from Afghanistan these people turned against us. They allowed their country to turn into a TAliban cesspool. Should we have intervened earlier in A-stan? If we did, the demoncrats would have caused a ruckus. Why would we want to intervene in a country like A-stan? We cannot prevent every national disaster in every country. But we can respond properly when a country attacks us. What happened in A-stan was not our fault. A people generally get the type of government they deserve (which explains much about Amerika today).
Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them — an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to nothing. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. This is the equivalent to a declaration of war because the Constitution does not specify what terminology to use in declaring war. Notice the great degree of agreement on this then. But since then, in the political waters of today, how unified are we? Where are the demoncrats on this issue now?
For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 — the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network and to protect our common security. The NATO response has been underwhelming. The British have helped us the most, but they, too, have slashed defense spending in the last 15 years. One would think the Canadians would have helped us more. After our 60 years of defending Europe, and this is the thanks we get?!
Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention — and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.- Obama can’t help himself, he MUST criticize the Bush/Cheney administration. While I did support the invasion of Iraq, it, like the invasion of A-stan, was conducted under Don Rumsfeld’s minimal force policy rather than the Powell doctrine of Overwhelming Force. While certainly that policy worked as far as defeating Sadaam Hussein and his military, it utterly failed to prevent the chaos after the war which led to the civil war in Iraq and the consequent disaster.
Limited War, minimal force, a small footprint, all seem to guarantee failure. The last war we actually won was WW2 where we went full out, whole hog, requiring Unconditional Surrender by our enemies. Korea- a draw and now the North has nukes. How did that Truman policy work for ya? Viet-Nam, a limited war, and a loss. Gulf War 1- we accomplished our limited objectives but in the long term, it failed because we had to go back to finish the job…oh wait…we are finished yet. Afghanistan… small footprint…now our longest war. If you are going to fight a war, then fight like hell to win, all or nothing. No holding back.
Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end– Not “winning” nor “victory”. Bush had a limited war so now we cannot be said to win, and Obama does not like to win anyway.
But while we’ve achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe haven there.– True, the Bush administration did not fight seriously in A-stan because Iraq had become such a problem. Why is that? Other than what I have already said, I would say it is because of the “Peace Dividend” proclaimed by Pres. George HW Bush and the cuts by Pres. Bill Clinton that HALVED our military. Despite going to war in 2001 Bush never increased the size of our military by more than about 10%. The US Army is seriously overworked and is beginning to suffer long term ill effects of the continuous deployments as we lose mid grade officers and NCOs. The Army needs to be DOUBLED IN SIZE to meet the current ops tempo and mission requirements. So too with the Navy, Marines and Air Force.
There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners.– This is all BS. He is a war time Commander in Chief whose first priority was destroying the American Health Care system and nationalizing the Car industry. This reinforcement of A-stan should have been taken care of by April. This is inexcuseable dereliction of duty.
This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.– The General requested between 40,000 and 80,000 troops and he is getting 30,000. This is a cagey way to appear to be supporting the generals but instead assuring failure so that the blame can be shifted to the military.
Here is where I go radical. I absolutely disagree with the generals on this. Arrogant of me, I know, as I was but a lowly Captain. But to do the job right, would require at least 500,000 if not 1 million. Here is the problem:
A-stan is a landlocked country and all of our air routes are going over not-too-friendly countries like former Soviet republics and Pakistan. The one land route through Pakistan is fraught with perils and is inherently unreliable. By any standard of military history, if you put a field army in a place that is impossible to quickly and reliably resupply, you are being foolhardy.
WHAT IF RUSSIA or CHINA exert enough pressure on Kyrghizistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to cancel all of our overflights and bases or potential bases?
The bottom line is we do not have a reliable means of supplying our troops in A-stan and to increase the size of our army there places more troops in harm’s way. If we had fought this war in the WW2 manner we would have invaded Iran first, (the real source of most of the Islamic trouble anyway, since 1979) and established a secure ground route through that country to Afghanistan.
After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. – This is the most stupid thing he could have said. He is attempting to reassure the American people that we will bring the troops home, and give hope to the troops, but he is also challenging the Karzai government to “get your act together or else…”. However, he is also telling the Taliban and al qaeda to hold on for 18 months then we will leave. This is incredibly foolish. No more stark contrast can be drawn between Bush and Obamasky. Bush said we will stay until the job gets done, Obamasky says, we are outta here in 18 months! Incredibly naive. This is the deal breaker and ensures defeat.
Because this is an international effort, I’ve asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. – Good luck with that .
Well, I could go on and on here, but let me leave it with this. I think that the idealistic American way of conducting limited wars for noble causes is bunk. If you have to fight, go in with everything you’ve got, kill off enough of the enemy to change their culture, move in, occupy and westernize them, take some reparations to pay off our war debt, then get out. Limited war does not work, it is costly in lives and treasure, and does not accomplish the goals. We must recognize that our enemy is in fact Islam and has been since the 7th century. We are trying to fight these muslims on our terms instead of theirs, and that is a losing proposition. Bush did some things right, but did some things wrong and now Obama is compounding the wrong things.
We need to either get out of A-stan or do it right.