Friday, June 18, 2010

Afghanistan--do we stay or do we go?

According to the Left, we should high tail it outa there stat. According to the Right, we're honor-bound to bitter end it. The former viewpoint got another of those Vietnam=Afghanistan essays in the Washington Post recently, titled "From Vietnam to Afghanistan: Not winning hearts and minds." My comment:

This article makes the Left's brief for leaving Afghanistan, and in general for the complete hopelessness of us fighting insurgencies anywhere, anywhen--at least by military means.

The problem is that he's built his elaborate exegesis on sand.

That is, ideologues never discuss--except to dismiss--the downside of their side's position, while going on endlessly about the downside of the other side's position.

That's propaganda, not debate.

No sane person thinks we have a bright, shiny, low cost solution to Afghanistan.

Every single option available to us has terrible downsides. The President knows this, and generals like Petraeus know this.

There's no reason to take the opinions of the author and his allies in the Leftosphere seriously until or unless they advance a proposal of their own (criticizing others' plans does not a plan of your own make), along with a comparative discussion of the pros and cons of the contrasting positions.

Otherwise you're just being a Monday morning quarterback.

One example: UAVs (known by the antiquated term "drones" to many). The insurgents have IEDs, which we have yet to counter as effectively as we'd like). We have UAVs, which, like IEDs, strike out of nowhere, and have killed civilians along with our enemies.

That part isn't comparable with IEDs, since Salafist Muslims believe it's OK to kill anyone, any time, anywhere (including in mosques), if they think it advances their overall cause.

So they rejoice in killing civilians, while we regret it and do our best to avoid it.

This distinction is lost on the Left, which instead parrots the Islamofascists' talking points. (Pretty ironic, since the Islamofascists would happily murder every one of these leftists out of hand.)

Of course every weapon is only as effective as its targeting. Mistargeted UAVs don't achieve our goals, exactly like mistargeted anythings don't. But you don't abandon a potent weapon because it has been misused on occasion. You improve the targeting, and we have.

Their use in Pakistan has been the source of many Pakistanis railing against us. They think it's cheating somehow (unlike IEDs and 12 year old suicide bombers, apparently).

Well, news flash. The ones who hate us hated us long before the first armed UAV took off on it maiden flight.

And I'll bet that Al Queda's leadership hiding out in Pakistan's Pashtun country no longer feel safe. I would advise Muslim women not to marry such men if they want to live to a ripe old age.

War always makes many people hate you. Heck, there are many Southerners who are still fighting the Civil War in their minds, and that was a century and a half ago.

That doesn't mean "war is never the answer." It does mean you shouldn't go to war lightly, or wrongly (as we did with Iraq).

Neither of those things is the case in Afghanistan. And the difference between its erstwhile Taliban government and that of Germany when/where 9/11 was being planned, was that Germany's government was not complicit. Afghanistan's was.

BTW yes we could have won in Viet Nam, though not in the way 99% of Right wingers think. For the answer, read "On Strategy: a Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War" by the brilliant military thinker Col. Harry G. Summers, who fought in Vietnam himself.

His book shows how we systematically violated every single principle of war that Von Clausewitz advocated (and most military thinkers agree with), BTW, so conventional right wingers may not draw all that much comfort from it. Summers goes at it from a strictly military viewpoint, not that of a politician.

Unlike the author of this article, Summers' thinking went beyond the fact that he was being shot at.

In the novel "Catch-22" the hero Yossarian concludes that WWII was a plot to kill him, since when he flew over Germany the Germans shot at him, and when he returned the Allies sent him back over Germany.

That's the level of thinking of Leftists in the Oliver Stone school of philosophy. "I went to war. People shot at me. War is bad."

We're in a terrible situation in Afghanistan. It was tough enough to start with. Then possibly the worst Commander in Chief in American history dug us into a hole rivalling the one BP dug in the Gulf.

And time after time Congress allocates money to huge, fabulously expensive military systems even the military doesn't want, while giving short shrift to the recruitment, training, and retention of soldiers (and care of them after their service ends if they've been wounded).

And the Air Force dragged its feet on UAVs for sentimental aging flyboy reasons.

The only thing I can think of that would be even worse than staying in Afghanistan is pulling out.


pigwart said...

Have you ever been in combat? We won the Vietnam war in the 1990 when they became capitalist. The should never have been a Dien Bein Phu, or a Tet '69 as the Vietnamese should have been allowed to declare independence in 1946. The Vichy French gave downed American fliers to the Japs who executed them. Ho's forces got our pilots back to China. We showed our gratitude by letting the frogs have Vietnam back as a colony.

Wade Kane Sp/5 chewchief door gunner Co A 228th ASHB 1st Air Cav June '67 June '68, Tet '68, Battle for Hue, relief of Khe Sahn, and the valley of death the A Shau valley April 1968

Ehkzu said...

pigwart--the closest I ever got to combat was the live fire course in Basic where the only dangers, honestly, were catching a short round, accidentally rolling into a blast pit, or panicking and standing up.

I don't disagree with what you said here, but you really should give Col. Summers' book a shot. His advice concerned what we should have done in the timeframe of the Vietnam war, and what he said actually surprised me.

The other book you might enjoy is "Chicken Hawk" by a Huey pilot from 'Nam. It will take you back, I guarantee it. For better or worse.

Ehkzu said...

Let me add one more thing:

People who haven't been in combat tend to underestimate the price we pay for war--from the tip of the spear to the home front, and everything in between.

But people who have seen combat can overestimate the price.

It's hard to gain perspective regardless of your own background.