Balkinization  

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Bravo for Brian

Sandy Levinson

All of my energies are currently taken up by preparation for a lecture course that I'm giving at Harvard College on the political system constituted by the Constitution. (Most of you can imagine the general themes, though the course in fact is broader than my book. Like the book, though, it focuses almost entirely on structures and not on rights. The right I'll be discussing most extensively, next Monday, will be the Second Amendment, in the context of federalism and the obvious degree to which the ability of subnational units to have de-facto armies of their own makes it easier to threaten (and to carry out) secession.) But that's the reason I've been absent from Balkinization for the past several weeks.

But I want to convey my admiration for Brian's postings on Afghanistan. I had the good fortune to hear Rory Stewart give a presentation at the Harvard Law School on Monday, and I confess I'd be tempted, were I a Brit, to vote for the Conservatives simply to assure his serving in a high position in the British Foreign Office. He compared the tone in Washington to "Yes, we're going to drive over a cliff, but at least we'll be wearing seat belts." I think that Barack Obama is not only going to destroy his presidency, but will set back the United States immeasurably if he does what by all indications he is intending to do. (The only "comfort," and it is cold comfort indeed, is that there's not the slightest reason in the world to believe that Hillary Clinton would be any more willing to appear "weak" before those who are always willing to sacrifice lives in favor of
"standing tall" for ideological delusions, so I'm still glad that Obama is President instead of Clinton.) The talk about nation building in Afghanistan, as Brian has suggested, is delusional fantasy. Stewart compared the current invocation of COIN (Counter Insurgency) to theology, in which people like McCrystal are like old-line Communists invoking the Lessons of Lenin. I myself would quote Marx on "first time [Vietnam] tragedy, second time farce," save that there is nothing farcical about what will happen to people in Afghanistan and our own brave armed forces who are taking part in a contemporary version of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Anyone who believes in the fantasy of nation building in Afghanistan should, at the very least, read about the failure of Reconstruction in the South, where the local insurgency, led by the Ku Klux Klan, prevailed over the Union forces led by now-President Ulysses Grant. The best single book to read is Lou Faulkner Williams The Ku Klux Klan Trials in South Carolina, 1871-1872.

My own view, for what it's worth, is that whoever serves the Karl Rove role within the Obama Administration is, perhaps justifiably, scared to death that if Obama doesn't escalate in Afghanistan, then, should anything "untoward" happen, Gen. Petraeus will see an open field in the current Republican Party and run for the White House against Obama in 2012. That's, of course, what MacArthur wanted to do in 1952, but at that time the Republican Party was still controlled by adults, and we were saved from his particular kind of militarisism. Will we be so lucky next time? (So perhaps it's worth sacrificing untold lives, both Afghan and American, to save us from that fate, but, folks, that's the deepest meaning of the current "dithering," which is taking place because Obama in fact realizes, in substantial measure, that Brian (and Joe Biden, Nick Kristoff, and Tom Friedman) are absolutely right.)

In any event, bravo to Brian for his all too lonely efforts to prevent the catastrophe that seems almost inevitable.



Comments:

Sandy:

My own view, for what it's worth, is that whoever serves the Karl Rove role within the Obama Administration is, perhaps justifiably, scared to death that if Obama doesn't escalate in Afghanistan, then, should anything "untoward" happen, Gen. Petraeus will see an open field in the current Republican Party and run for the White House against Obama in 2012. That's, of course, what MacArthur wanted to do in 1952, but at that time the Republican Party was still controlled by adults, and we were saved from his particular kind of militarisism. Will we be so lucky next time?

I am unsure how the adults in the GOP saved the nation from militarism by declining the nominate McArthur. You may recall that the GOP instead nominated another general by the name of Eisenhower in 1952.

Electing a general did not plunge the nation into an orgy of militarism. Quite the opposite, as Eisenhower reduced the size of the military and counseled against a "military industrial complex." It took the "neo-conservative" progenitor Kennedy to begin rebuilding the military.

Back to the present day, Obama owns the Afghanistan War. Obama campaigned on reinforcing and winning the "good war" in Afghnaistan and withdrawing from the "bad war" in Iraq. Well, Petreaus' victory in Iraq granted Obama exactly what he claimed to want on the campaign trail.

If Obama goes wobbly and loses the Afghanistan War, this will indeed provide yet another opening for the GOP in 2012. However, Petreaus has demonstrated no desire to run for President in 2012 or even shown himself to be a Republican. However, there are elements in the GOP who would like to draft him and Team Obama does have reason to fear a Petreaus candidacy for the contrast it would provide between the general who won Iraq and the President who lost Afghanistan.

Obama's best course of action to head off this threat to his re-election is to actually do his job as CiC and win the Afghanistan War by any means necessary. Whether he will do that job is an open question.
 

Our Backpacker is up to his old tricks of shooting blanks with this:

"Back to the present day, Obama owns the Afghanistan War. Obama campaigned on reinforcing and winning the 'good war' in Afghnaistan and withdrawing from the 'bad war' in Iraq."

Obama used the term "necessary war" in Afghanistan, not "good war." And "necessary" as the song says "ain't necessarily so" with the Afghan corruption.
 

Sandy:

I'm not familiar with the literature on Reconstruction to which you refer.

Are you actually maintaining that Reconstruction should not have been attempted? Or are you saying there was a failure of will in pursuing it following the Civil War?

The former would support your Afghanistan argument, but I'd be surprised if that's your meaning.
 

Ike ran as the most successful general in history, and he had no illusions at all about war. Perhaps he wasn't so pacifistic as Colin Powell (Ike did, apparently, threatend to use nuclear weapons in Korea), but he knew enough to stay the hell away from Dien Bien Phu. Nor did he seem tempted by those who wished a "preemptive strike" against the Soviet Union, and, notably, he was willing to accept the de facto hegemony of the Soviet Union at the time of the tragic uprising in Hungary.

Pinkerd asks the most important question of all: Was the War "worth it"? It's hard to say that ending slavery wasn't worth 600,000 lives, but we should be aware, every single day, that that was literally only the beginning of rectifying the historical injustices, and rectification required signifiant regime change that didn't occur. Indeed, the South ultimately gained political power as a result of losing the war, inasmuch as the formerly 3/5 persons called slaves now became full persons for purposes of calculating the number of representatives the Southern states would get, and, by and large, they still couldn't vote. One can argue that the United States would have developed in a far more progressive direction had it not been saddled with the eleven states of the Confederacy.

But, of course, we really did have a moral responsibility to "reconstruct" the South and to engage in "nation-building," whatever the cost. There is no such responsibliity in Afghanistan, and the costs strike me as enormous in every conceivable way.

Obama ought to ask himself why Republicans are supporting escalation. Some of them may buy into the COIN theology and therefore be "sincere," hoping for Obama's success even if it reassures his election in 2012. Many more see the certain failure their only hope for coming back in 2012, and since that is their highest priority, it's a small price to pay that the United States will drive over a cliff. It won't be their sons and daughters who will pay the cost, after all.
 

Thanks, Sandy.

Brian
 

Sandy Levinson said...

Obama ought to ask himself why Republicans are supporting escalation. Some of them may buy into the COIN theology and therefore be "sincere," hoping for Obama's success even if it reassures his election in 2012. Many more see the certain failure their only hope for coming back in 2012, and since that is their highest priority, it's a small price to pay that the United States will drive over a cliff. It won't be their sons and daughters who will pay the cost, after all.

Sandy, your insinuations are disgusting and false.

1) We conservatives supported the Surge in Iraq and likewise support a Surge in Afghanistan. Our objective each time was to win the war and not to win at the polls. If we believed the Surge would fail and our concern was the polls, conservatives would have joined liberals in calling for surrender in Iraq to save our electoral asses in 2008.

In sharp and telling contrast, Mr. Obama and the left called for surrender in Iraq and a Surge in Afghanistan to win the "necessary war" (to use Shag's preferred term). They did this to make themselves look tough on al Qaeda while simultaneously calling for surrender in Iraq. However, once they won election, the Dem left - including all of its members without exception here - bailed on a Surge in Afghanistan and are now calling for surrender there as they did in Iraq.

Who again is playing politics with our troops???

2) It won't be their sons and daughters who will pay the cost, after all? What the hell are you talking about? By and large it is conservatives and not liberals who volunteer and go to fight our post Vietnam Wars. It is precisely because it is our family members (in my case my brother) who are serving and sacrificing in Iraq and Afghanistan that we demand that our CiC do everything in his power to win and not make our families' service and sacrifices be in vain. Because the left generally has no personal stake in our wars, you are the ones who feel free to first call for winning the war in Afghanistan and then for cutting and running.
 

Our Backpacker includes in his diatribe response to Sandy:

" ... the 'necessary war' (to use Shag's preferred term)."

That was the term Pres. Obama used. Our Backpacker's preferred term is "good war," something Pres. Obama did NOT use. As for my preferred term, it may have been the "necessary war" at the beginning but Bush/Cheney botched it so badly that now "it ain't necessarily so."

Sandy may respond for himself to our Backpacker's screed, but I fully support Sandy's analysis on the politics of the neo-conservatives. Obviously our Backpacker has been inhaling his DUI clients' fumes too long.

Regarding Reconstruction, Sandy stated in a response to a commenter:

"But, of course, we really did have a moral responsibility to 'reconstruct' the South and to engage in 'nation-building,' whatever the cost."

Indeed; the South was part of the US and mutual healing of the nation was appropriate. But consider how long it took to learn the lessons of the Civil War. I was finishing up law school when Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, some 90 years after the Civil War. And consider how long it took after Brown to get to where we are today. But neanderthal neocons like our Backpacker can't stand the fact that Obama is President and they want to destroy his presidency by any means.

Here in the US the post-Civil War nation building continues. It has been a long time. Imagine how long it would take in Afghanistan.
 

Military historians refer to the concept of the "Unforgiving Minute" -- the point in a military operation in which action has to be taken, because the particular confluence of events that exists at that point in time will never exist again. If action isn't taken then, then the moment to affect the outcome is lost, perhaps irretrievably.

The "Unforgiving Minute" in Afghanistan was in 2002. The Bush Administration failed to pursue the Enemy -- the people actually responsible for 9/11 -- and instead wasted American lives and treasure (not to mention Iraqi lives and treasure) on their little Imperialist Adventure in Iraq.

Whatever chance there was to "fix things" in Afghanistan (and there wasn't much of a chance of that ever happening) was squandered in 2002 -2003 when 150, 000 troops which should have been located along the Afghan - Pakistan border were instead sent to Iraq.

American forces have actually been involved in a (moderately) successful COIN operation in the last 50 years, and the comparsions between it and Vietnam then and Iraq/Afghanistan now are . . . not good.

Specifically, US Army units stationed on the DMZ in South Korea in the late '60's found themselves in the middle of what came to be known in obscure military journals as the "Second Korean War" (and among the Koreans as "The Quiet War") -- an attempt by NK "guerillas"/Special Forces and agents to foment a Vietnam - style uprising in the South.

The attempted NK insurgency in South Korea failed while at the same time it was suceeding in Vietnam then and Iraq/Afghanistan now. One similarity, and some of the differences, between Korea and the three comparators:

First, the similarity -- the South Korean government at the time was as corrupt and as much a dictatorship as anything to be found in RVN/Iraq/Afghanistan: It was a military dictatorship, the head of which was assassinated in 1979.

Now, some of the differences:

1. The South Koreans had a clear sense of national identity; the same could not be said for either RVN or Iraq; Afghanistan isn't a nation at all;

2. As per COIN doctrine, American forces were to support the indiginous forces, letting them do most of the heavy lifting. However, unlike RVN, Iraq and Afghanistan, this actually took place in South Korea.
The ROK Army was professional, tough and ruthless -- it successfully carried out COIN operations by itself and only occasionally called on the American units who were supporting it for help;

3. South Korean society was relatively homogenous in terms of ethinicity and religion -- can't say that about any of the other three comparators;

4. The Americans had a small "footprint" in South Korea compared to the American forces in
the other three countries, consisting of two understrength infantry divisions in and around the DMZ a long way from any population centers;

5. Perhaps most importantly was the Koreans' lack of a colonial history -- unlike the three comparators, South Korea was never the colony of a northern European/North American country. Rather, its colonial experience is with the Japanese -- and the Koreans REALLY don't like the Japanese.

And even with all these differences, the Koreans only tolerated the presence of American forces -- because no one, NO ONE, likes to be occupied by another country, regardless of the reason.

We will be leaving Iraq when the Iraqis decide it is in their interest for us to leave. As for Afghanistan, "nation building" (whatever that means) is a fool's errand.
 

I know I said I would restrain myself and ignore the provocateur/troll. But...

You should shut your trap, Bart. How dare you come to someone's blog and insult them for posting as they see fit?

And in case you did not get the details - as so often seems to be true - Prof. Levinson, who is not your first name pal, was speaking of Republican politicians, not conservatives and not nonpoliticians.

Finally, as to your typically self-promoting claim about how 'conservatives' are the most likely to serve their country, is it even within the realm of possibility that you have any evidence for this other than your own family history?
 

Certainly, Rory Stewart's account in The Prince of the Marshes: And other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq which documents his experiences as Deputy Governor of Maysan and Senior Governor of Di Quar, during the Neoconservative designed "Coalition Provisional Authority" is one of a number of accounts demonstrating conclusively the idiocy of allowing one's foreign policy to be designed by the likes of the Project for the New American Century or the Heritage Foundation.

Equally, his Turquoise Mountain Foundation and its Crafts School in Kabul is an initiative which has attracted a lot of attention. Incidentally, one of its co-patrons is the Prince of Wales and it is not so well known that Rory Stewart was a summer tutor to both of the Prince's sons while at Oxford.

Now that Stewart has taken up post as Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Practice and Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, I can well imagine the sort of talk he gave on Monday - and those who did not have the advantage Professor Levinson had of being present may be able to get the flavour of Rory Stewart in full flood from this article published in the London Review of Books The Irresistible Illusion

I would hope Professor Stewart would be one of the Carr Center people the Obama Administration might consult when forming Afghanistan policy as well as Michael Semple whose video presentation Talking Helmand:" The Political Officer's advice for armies campaigning in the Pashtoon heartland I mentioned on a previous post.
 

Professor Levinson wrote:-

"But, of course, we really did have a moral responsibility to "reconstruct" the South and to engage in "nation-building," whatever the cost. There is no such responsiblity in Afghanistan, and the costs strike me as enormous in every conceivable way."

I must respectfully disagree with that assertion. The origins of the presently horrific state of Afghanistan are in both the Soviet invasion and in the proxy war with the Soviets initiated by the US on the proposal of Zbigniewz Brzezinski and massively escalated under the Reagan Administration.

Of course the same Neoconservative advocates of what Bart De Palma is pleased to term a "muscular" foreign policy have compounded all that with their Enduring Freedom™ invasion.

A sovereign nation is a continuing entity and the United States cannot shrug off its responsibilities for the harm done in Afghanistan under previous administrations just because there has been another election.

Under the principles of the ICJ decision in Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua. v. United States), the USA could arguably be held liable in reparations for its actions in Afghanistan. How many billions might be appropriate? The reality is, of course, that the International Court of Justice lacks a means of enforcing a decision.

But the moral responsibility remains. Of course, this responsibility extends to other states as well. Would it be appropriate for the USA to renege on that responsibility?

One of the reasons why the Arab world in general does not trust the word of the USA, is the famous commitment Roosevelt personally gave to the King of Saudi Arabia not to take any step which would prejudice the status of Palestine, a commitment Truman held not to be binding on him with the consequences we now know.

In fact it might now be said that the only country which ought to feel entirely safe about even the most solemn undertaking of the USA is probably the State of Israel.

Certainly the NATO states have felt less sure of the nuclear umbrella from the time when Reagan started a policy of a "graduated response" to a Soviet invasion of Europe and the UK learned a hard lesson about how fickle the USA can be when in 1982 Jeane Kirkpatrick sided with the odious Argentinian Junta to the fury of Margaret Thatcher.
 

Professor Stewart has indeed been asked to brief a number of senior U.S officials, including General Petraeus. Unfortunately, just because you brief someone does not mean that they have any intention of following your advice, as Stewart will be the first to tell you. He is a great speaker and a wonderful dinner guest (a few of us had dinner with him several weeks ago). It is unfortunate that he will almost certainly be leaving the Carr Center to be a MP.
 

Some recent Afghanistan articles:-

Robert Fisk: America is performing its familiar role of propping up a dictator

Killed by the enemy within

Patrick Cockburn: Deaths bring whole Afghan strategy into question

Major-General Julian Thompson: We must not rush the training of police

Leading article: The case for withdrawal from Afghanistan is not yet made

Hail of fire raises a chilling question: who is the enemy in Afghanistan?

It's time to pull out of Afghanistan and take the fight to Bin Laden in Britain

The last opinion piece by Kim Howells MP is worrying. He is influential. He is a longstanding MP (1989), a former chairman, of Labour Friends of Israel. In May 2005, Howells was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with responsibility for the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia, counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, UN and UN reform. He was reshuffled out of Government on 6 October 2008 but he took over as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, a Committee of Parliamentarians that oversees the work of our intelligence and security agencies.
 

I am unsure how the adults in the GOP saved the nation from militarism by declining the nominate McArthur.

You freely confess seeing negligible difference between Eisenhower and MacArthur? Let the casual reader beware: maybe a reliable source you aren't.

When Bart wrote at VC that, "I am aware that I have a decided black and white world view with very little tolerance for grays" he made a candid admission of his incompetence to consider or discuss complex matters.

OTOH, David Kilcullen is a fine example of competence with complexity, as for example, the problems we face in Afghanistan, not to mention Iraq.

Bart's childish and provocative references to Republican "victories" and Democratic "surrenders" get to essence of his purpose here which was described nicely by Steve H on the aforementioned VC thread:

More importantly, however, it’s simply not your place to haunt Balkinization and repeatedly try to get them to reconsider and stop such advocacy. The first time or two, hey maybe you’ll really convince someone. But after you do the same thing over and over, yet Balkin and Lederman and the others persist in [advocating their views], you surely have to realize that you aren’t shaming anyone into doing anything, you are merely making an ass of yourself.
http://volokh.com/2009/01/29/developing-a-comment-culture/
 

I must object as a liberal to the insinuations here as well. It seems whenever an issue divides progressives -- and the Afghanistan question does that, one side must inevitably associate the other's position with Karl Rove. It's nauseating.

I'll provide a reminder of recent history since apparently some have forgotten: in 2000, George W. Bush ran on a platform of foreign-policy humility, against nation-building and intervention. After 9/11 he invadied Afghanistan and toppled its government (yes, we do thereby incur a responsibility to leave the country in a reasonably decent condition) with near-consensus support from Americans desiring a military response to what felt like an act of war. Subsequently, a false case for a new war was conconctedin a story we all know by heart. This was promoted quietly in the White House by Karl Rove, who saw that "war worked" politically for the president. All this occurred before any national election measuring how the country's views might have changed from Bush's rejection of foreign adventures in his campaign after 9/11 could take place. Effectively, the American public was dealt out of that decision entirely, and when they were given a chance to speak on that in the fall of 2002, the administration had successfully leveraged their advocacy of war in Iraq around 9/11 to be able to cast support for that case as a necessary part of the president's strategy to prevent more attacks. Disaster in Iraq and drift in Afghanistan ensued, but not before a weak camoaign to unseat the president whose political aparachik orchestrated this travesty failed miserably.

By the time the 2007/8 presidential race came around, a predictable state of affairs obtained: Iraq looked like a lost cause and the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan had deteriorated in to a critical state. The latter had rightly been cast by most Democrats as the conflict that needed new attention; every serious candidate in the Democratic primary agreed on that. From those one of the more vocal hawks on the question emerged the victor and then went on to win a convincing national victory. He promised to sufficiently resource this 'right war' and end the distraction in Iraq. The country explicitly endorsed this proposal with its votes.

Now, following through on that campaign position may well be the wrong thing for the president to do now, whether because of changed conditions or because it was a wrong position from the get-go. But one thing it does not compare to is the machinations of a predatory political operative who saw the use of war as a winning divisive political tactic in contravention of the positions taken by his principal in the most recent national election in which the nations views on such questions could be judged.

I'm all for a robust debate on the question of what should be done on this question, and am far from convinced escalation is the correct course. But is there any reason we need to assert that political rather than interest-based considerations are the main thing being considered in absence of such evidence, to say nothing of making extremely poorly chosen analogies to recent situations that are in essential ways not comparable?
 

Bart wrote:-

"Obama's best course of action to head off this threat to his re-election is to actually do his job as CiC and win the Afghanistan War by any means necessary. Whether he will do that job is an open question."

As regular readers may know, I am in favour of an increased international effort in Afghanistan more plainly under UN auspices; with wider international participation; a greater military and police participation - especially from Muslims and from Muslim women in particular; for greater aid and reconstruction efforts and for an end to the go-it-alone Enduring Freedom™ operation and integration of the forces into the NATO/ISAF operation.

That still seems to me the least worst option in an international effort that is presently teetering on the brink of disaster.

But, the attitude betrayed by references to "the Afghanistan War" and speaks of winning ""by any means necessary", is precisely what the situation does not need.

We have a duty and a right to be there, not to "win a war" but to assist in countering a threat to international security, to assist with "peace enforcement", with developing the Afghan army and police up to the point where they can manage their own security, to assist with reintegrating insurgents into their own society. That effort is in our interests as well as that of the Afghan peoples.

It is precisely Bart's kind of attitude which has got both Enduring Freedom™ and the international reputation of the USA into terrible trouble - is it thought that all has been well at US detention facilities in Afganistan - or is that part of "any means necessary"?

The cleaner the break the Obama Administration can make with the failures of past policy the greater the prospects of eventual success - but it will still be a very long haul.
 

Just some thoughts from the past to consider as we think our way through this:

Some thoughts on War and Strategy

"War is too important to be left to the generals."
Georges Clemenceau (28 September 1841 – 24 November 1929), French journalist, physician and statesman. Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909 and from 1917 to 1920 (during WW I).

"The military don't start wars. Politicians start wars."
General William Westmoreland

"My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military."
General Smedley Butler (USMC, Ret.)

"What political leaders decide, intelligence services tend to seek to justify."
Henry Kissinger

"Unless a variety of opinions are laid before us, we have no opportunity of selection, but are bound of necessity to adopt the particular view which may have been brought forward."
Herodotus, 5th century BC, Greek historian

"The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject."
Marcus Aurelius

"I never held a council of war in my life. I heard what men had to say--the stream of talk at headquarters,--but I made up my own mind, and from my written orders my staff got their first knowledge of what was to be done. No living man knew of plans until they matured and decided."
Ulysses S. Grant

"All delays are dangerous in war."
John Dryden (1631-1700)

"There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."
Sun Tzu

"The expert in battle seeks his victory from strategic advantage and does not demand it from his men."
Sun Tzu

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."
Sun Tzu

"The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and as often as you can, and keep moving on."
Ulysses S. Grant

"The only way to win a war is to prevent it."
Secretary of State George C. Marshall

"The quickest way to end a war is to lose it."
George Orwell

"When you appeal to force, there's one thing you must never do - lose."--
Dwight D. Eisenhower

"One more such victory and we are undone."
Pyrrhus of Epirus

"If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the army."
Frederick the Great

"Haha.. you fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is: Never get involved in a land war in Asia."
Vizzini, in "The Princess Bride," just before being tricked into killing himself by an adversary immune to the poison he had placed in his drink

"We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."
Petronius Arbiter, 210 B.C. (some say this is falsely attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter and that the quote is actually from Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (1911-1998), in Harper's Magazine, "Merrill's Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure" (Jan 1957)
 

Mourad makes sense with this:

"As regular readers may know, I am in favour of an increased international effort in Afghanistan more plainly under UN auspices; with wider international participation; a greater military and police participation - especially from Muslims and from Muslim women in particular; for greater aid and reconstruction efforts and for an end to the go-it-alone Enduring Freedom™ operation and integration of the forces into the NATO/ISAF operation.

"That still seems to me the least worst option in an international effort that is presently teetering on the brink of disaster."

The key is "increased international effort." But can this come about? I have stressed that this is basically an Asian issue calling for China, Russia, India and other Asian nation states (including the somewhat corrupt other 'Stans), and the traditional Middle East Arab Muslim nation states. Recall the failures of EU nation states with respect to the former Yugoslavia that Clinton felt compelled to address.

But it seems that internationally the approach of many, perhaps most, nation states is the zero sum political game. And then we have the variations on "The Mouse That Roared" theme to attract the attention, primarily, of the US.

Yes, Mourad makes sense but will the international community that has problems with addressing climate change sense the need for increased international effort? Are China, Russia and India prepared to lead the way for this Asian problem?
 

I wonder what "victory" Bart refers to? Where? When? What did we win/accomplish? At what cost? How long will this so called victory last?

Define winning in Afghanistan if you would.
 

Michael's post is altogether fair (and courteously expressed). It's certainly true that Obama ran as a "hawk" on Afghanistan, so those of us who believe that's a disastrous policy (and contributed heftily to Obama's campaign before voting for him) can hardly claim to be surprised. Do I believe that Obama is making truly cynical calculations? No. I still think well of the person I supported. But do I believe that such caluculatons are totally absent in the White House and among members of Congress who are acquiescing in Obama's escalation in a way they most certainly didn't with regard to Bush's "surge." The answer is also no. Professional political operatives are paid to think of reasonably predictable political eventualities. One of them today is that the Republican Party has no one who is remotely on the inside track for the nomination in 2012. Remarkably enough, Newt Gingrich is now the "moderate" candidate inasmuch as he didn't drink the Hoffman koolaid in the 23rd congressional district. If I were David Petraeus, I'd see an open field, with an electorate that might indeed be open to a "stab-in-the-back" campaign, and that argument would be much more difficult if Obama submits to his generals. (Recall, incidentally, that he campaigned under the apparent assumption that there was a functioning government in Kabul that needed, and deserved, our support. To put it mildly, no rational person can believe this today, thus the emphasis on fantasies of nation-building and defacto regime change without actually changing the regime in power.

But I still take Michael's point seriously. It was Obama who chose to make the disastrous speech to the VFW pronouncing Afghanistan a "necessary" war, and there is no reason to believe that he was being guided by any crassly political considerations. Alas.
 

jme:

I wonder what "victory" Bart refers to? Where? When? What did we win/accomplish? At what cost? How long will this so called victory last?

Easy. As long as we don't pack up and go home. That is to say, as long as we keep fighting. No charge for the translation.

Cheers,
 

To go back to the Reconstruction analogy for the moment, I think there are lessons there and they may cut both ways:

1. The terrorism was successful; the terrorists won.

2. That was true despite (a) the proximity of the South to the North; and (b) the lack of any outside support.

3. The terrorists' victory certainly could be attributed to lack of will (lack of even trying, in the case of the SCOTUS).

4. The issue of "will" can be and often is a cheap shot. It depends on the cost. The North had just fought a massive war, with 350,000 dead. Fighting a guerilla war in the South would have required immense sums of money, a lot of time, and probably behavior that we would, in retrospect, regret.

To me, #4 is an important factor in evaluating any "COIN" situation. The fact that the factors in #2 are the exact opposite today than they were then adds to the problem.

My own view is that in Afghanistan, as with the Laws of Thermodynamics, you can't win and you can't tie. The only difference is that we don't have to play the game.
 

There are no good answers for Afghanistan, so I find it difficult to be too critical.

My own inclination is to get out, but even then, "getting out" involves Predator attacks, commando operations, and covert activities against al-Qaeda and its affilate-allies. We can't simply pack up and go home; that's what we tried last time, and there's a big hole in Manhattan to show what resulted.

I think part of the problem is treating Afghanistan as a nation-state in the first place. It isn't one. To paraphrase Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, "There's no fucking sovereign here."

In reality, Afghanistan is real estate that's not worth the effort of outsiders to hold (Brits? Russians?). But we can't ignore it either. Hence our understandable efforts to "build" a sovereign state, so that we have an entity we think we know how to work with.
 

I am sure that many serious thinkers are working their way through this in all sorts of ways. I hope, however that the questions being asked to start are these:

What is the national interest or interests at stake? Are they existential, vital, important, or something less?

What is the political objective? Put another way: We are successful if [x] occurs (e.g. We are successful if Afghanistan can no longer be used as a base from which Al Qaeda attacks can be launched against the U.S. mainland; or, We are successful if Afghanistan becomes a functioning democratic, stable nation state containing U.S. military bases that are not under frequent attack).

What is our strategy? In other words, Who are we attempting to act upon, and what do we want them to do? If we do [x] they will do [y].

What resources do we have available, and to what degree do we wish to expend them?

What has changed?

What are our assumptions? Are they accurate and can we test them?

I would suggest that, while all may not agree on the answers to these questions, the process of analyzing them is critical to the development of any rational policy.

My sense is that a lot of the debate swirls around with the answers to these various questions assumed by those in argument, but without explicitly exposing them. If you think there are existential interests at stake, you will surely come up with a different policy than if you do not.....
 

Shag kindly said that the approach to Afghanistan which I advocate makes sense to him and then he went on to say: "The key is "increased international effort." But can this come about? and I agree.

Firstly, it is worth having a look at an extract from the latest NATO/ISAF Tactical Directive Tactical Directive Extract 6 July 2009 as well as the latest counter-insurgency guidance for the mission ISAF Comander's Counterinsurgency Guidance You will note that it is signed off by General McChrystal wearing his NATO/ISAF hat and by his Command Sergeant-Major.

Both documents represent a very welcome change from a "war" approach to a "peace enforcement" approach - and about time too.

For me, this guidance is impeccable, but to make it work, requires a very great deal of intensive training for the men (and women) who are to put the policy into effect. Months not weeks. In effect, a very great deal of that training involves cultural sensitivity and an appreciation of the restraints under which operations are to be conducted. An end to the "Gung Ho" approach.

So the first point to note is that one cannot simply take contingents from here, there and everywhere and drop them in at the deep end. That would do more harm than good. This is work for highly trained and very professional soldiers and the sad facts are (i) these do not grow on trees; (ii) comparatively few nations have units with that sort of training.

Further, part of the effort is directed at training and mentoring both the Afghan army and the Afghan police and, in fact, the best mentors for police units are other policemen. I would hope that a real effort could be made to recruit more police volunteers for a very difficult task. While the range of countries with the requisite military experience is quite limited, there are many more countries where there are police forces who know what they are about.

There is a lot of noise coming out from NATO about a lack of consultation by the US. It is a sad but true fact that that the Obama Administration has an awful lot on its plate at the moment both in domestic and international terms: Health Care; Climate Change; the Financial Crisis; Israel-Palestine etc and there are only so many hours in the day.

The fourth point is both the USA and the EU have markers out with other countries and it about time we cashed in some of them. There are many countries which have resources they could contribute and not all of them have to be in terms of manpower. For example, the Gulf Arab states could contribute development funds for the rebuilding of mosques, schools, provision of clean water, primary care clinics, medicines: if you want to get village elders on side, those are tangible benefits which matter. If you wish to encourage recruitment of national police improve their conditions of life. If you need to get volunteers from police forces elsewhere, provide additional field pay for their time in Afghanistan.

There is also a huge Afghan refugee population outside the country and they could be recruited if not for actual return to the country just yet, for the myriad tasks that go into winning over the population - broadcasting, tape cassettes and the like.

In other words, it is time to start thinking "outside the box" and being creative rather than thinking solely about how many troops to send and where they are going to come from.

And fundamental to all that is what to do about the civil administration we are supposed to be there to assist. Kharzai & Co - the cuckoos in the nest.
 

Mourad:

Both documents represent a very welcome change from a "war" approach to a "peace enforcement" approach - and about time too... An end to the "Gung Ho" approach.

I am pleased that you approve of the Petreaus/McChrystal counter insurgency strategy. It is interesting that you refer to the use of force to separate the Taliban from the population and then provide ongoing security to the population as "waging peace," when in fact the military will have to massively escalate combat operations to remove the Taliban from the population centers as it did removing al Qaeda from the Sunni Triangle during the Iraq Surge. However, I am sure we will conduct these combat operations in an appropriately non-gung ho manner.

There is a lot of noise coming out from NATO about a lack of consultation by the US.

The Guardian published an piece discussing how our feckless allies are falling into complete disarray without Bush's leadership while Obama avoids making a decision on Afghanistan while he attends to really important business like fundraising, campaigning for Corzine, inventing imaginary numbers of jobs he has saved, golfing and playing pickup games of basketball:

After Hamid Karzai's flawed re-election, Sarkozy joined other western governments in biting the bullet and offering "full support". But foreign minister Bernard Kouchner gave a glimpse of underlying turmoil this week. Beyond the evident need to "legitimise" the "corrupt" Karzai, he said, bigger questions loomed. "What is the goal [in Afghanistan]? What is the road? And in the name of what?" he asked. "Where are the Americans? It begins to be a problem … We need to talk to each other as allies."

Translation: We need the United States to tell us what to do. Unfortunately, Obama is a fellow soft power advocate and is waiting for someone to tell him what to do. Our President is learning that being the leader of the free world involves exercising actual leadership.
 

Ah yes, nobody had a singleminded focus on Afghanistan quite like George W. Bush!
 

What a joy to fire up my computer with my morning coffee and cigarette to find another post from poor dear Bart!

Bush's "Leadership"
On 5th November 2003, as is customary bonfires were lit through our land, but that year, instead of Guy Fawkes, a common effigy on the nation's fires was George W. Bush - our way saying to America that we didn't like your President, we didn't like his policies and we didn't him here!

The Bush State Visit to the UK later in the month was, predictably, a disaster with 70% of the population opposing it.

Even the State Banquet. The Queen was wearing what we know very much as her "public duties face" a sort of "Thank God he leaves on Friday morning and we can have his suite fumigated" expression.

Unsurprising. The problem was that the Bush entourage was so fearful of the sight on US TV of the protesters in London that they demanded the Mall which is the ceremonial way to the Palace be cordoned off to protect Bush from the wrath of the people. He had to be brought in by helicopters directly onto the Palace lawns which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

In June 2004 GMI produced the results of a poll of the G8 countries. Outside the USA, Bush did best in Canada where he polled at 25%. In the UK at 21%. In China, Japan and Russia, Bush polled at 15%, but in France and Germany, Bush didn't make it past the 5% mark so even the French "National Front" did better. The main findings of the poll were that -- by a large margin -- Bush was not an effective global leader; people were opposed to the US policy on Iraq; did not view the maltreatment of prisoners at Al Ghraib prison by U.S. military as an isolated event; did not believe in the efficacy of the United States' approach to fighting global terrorism.

There was incredulity when he was re-elected. The consensus view was to wounder how the American people could have been that stupid.

"Feckless Allies"
I shall remember that expression of dear Bart's later today when I visit the Royal British Legion Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey.

As of 5th November 2009 British Forces forces have sustained in Afghanistan a total of 230 war dead, 290, very seriously or seriously wounded, 3,034 field hospital admissions and 2693 Aeromed evacuations. The surgeons at the principal field hospital at Camp Bastion treat more major trauma cases every day than the totality of all civilian hospitals in the UK.

Yes, indeed, there is frustration that the Obama Administration needs time to make a decision: see this article in the Independent Frustration mounts over Obama's fatal indecision which rather mirrors that of the Guardian to which dear Bart refers. But if one talks to defence sources rather than political commentators, the frustration arises principally from the 8 years of failed Bush policy, strategy and tactics, and the politicians fear the turning tide of public opinion resulting from those failures.

Only someone living in Νεφελοκοκκυγία could still believe that the Toxic Texan was a successful president or world leader. No wonder Obama's election was so well received around the world: Anybody But Bush!
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Our Backpacker closes with:

"Our President is learning that being the leader of the free world involves exercising actual leadership."

Let's consider the actual leadership exercised by Bush/Cheney from 1/20/01 - 1/20/09. Reckless? Feckless? The Pied Piper was a leader. Stalin was a leader. Hitler was a leader.

Yes, Pres. Obama has to lead us out of the maze of Bush/Cheney mistakes. Those who supported the Bush/Cheney mistakes obviously want Pres. Obama to fail rather than admit these mistakes.

Our Backpacker derides "soft power," preferring the Viagra-power of the neocons who are obviously suffering from the 4+ hour side effects of Bush/Cheney - let these neocons stick it to each other (but not procreate).
 

The Lehrer News Hour last night included a report on the tragic Fort Hood slaughter. A guest (I don't remember his name and I don't recall seeing him earlier) commented on the problems of the military that have been developing. He stated that the all volunteer military was not designed to fight two wars at the same time over such prolonged periods of time; that this has resulted in extended, repeated tours of duty for the troops, impacting them and their families severely. He tried to make the point that in cases such as these prolonged wars, the all volunteer military was to be augmented as required by a draft. Perhaps the military was confident that a draft would not be required. But how does the all volunteer military address the current situation? Politically, a draft seems out of the question. But can the all volunteer military provide sufficient troops for the current situation - and at the same time be prepared for other potential conflicts that may arise? (I'm thinking back to Rumsfeld's military approach in Iraq that turned out to be a mistake.)
 

John J. Mearsheimer's Foreign Policy article "Hollow Victory" (11/2/09) on Afghanistan is available at:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/node/68820?page=0,0

His conclusion is that like LBJ, Pres. Obama's decision will be a political decision. Sad.
 

In fairness to the professor, (s)he (? -sorry!) nowhere explicitly compares this policy process to that leading to the Iraq war - that was an extrapolation onmypart not supported by the post. Also, by no means do I mean to suggest that political considerations are absent from the deliberations -- indeed they must and rightly should bear on decisions about war. There seems to me little evidence at this point to show that if Obama does not perform the reversal now advocated by many who presumably voted for him, that that owes primarily to political considerations. It may, but I don't believe the evidence shows it at this time.
 

Today's (11/05/09) TomDispatch features Nick Turse's article "2014 or Bust - The Pentagon's Building Boom in Afghanistan Indicates a Long War Ahead."

The military-industrial complex lives on - at least through the project to be completed in 2014.
 

To paraphrase Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, "There's no fucking sovereign here."

Yeah well, WTF do you think you're fighting over, future President Bartlett?
 

Recall that the US during the Cold War took steps that encouraged the Soviets to expand and expend to the point of economic (and superpower) collapse of its empire. Are China and Russia sitting on their duffs with respect to the Asian problem that is Afghanistan to encourage America to expand and expend such that China and Russia may benefit not only economically but politically? Do I hear "zero sum game"?
 

Major "stay the course" speech from UK PM Brown today - full text here which includes this passage on the Kharzai issue:-

"Better governance - is the second strand of our Afghanisation strategy. Sadly, the government of Afghanistan has become a by-word for corruption. And I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm's way for a government that does not stand up against corruption.

President Karzai agreed with me yesterday that the first priority of his new government would be to take decisive action against corruption. I proposed that there be a new anti-corruption law, that a new anti-corruption commission be formed with powers of investigation and prosecution, that the commission appoint an international adviser of substance, and there be new rules for the more transparent award of contracts.

But good governance is more than the absence of corruption. It is about having properly qualified men and women in the key jobs. The world will be monitoring the new government's appointments - cabinet ministers and provincial governors - to ensure they are based on merit. Cronies and warlords should have no place in the future of Afghanistan.


We shall see.
 

When we went in back in '01, I don't recall all the hard questions being asked here being covered too deeply by our leaders. Seemed the idea was that we went in on the cheap, Bin Laden got away (no big deal), and it was time to invade Iraq.

Now, in cow leaving the barn fashion, we are dealing with the tough questions. I appreciate this though am not overly optimistic we can do the grand things ("limited" as they might be) that Mourad and company spell out.

Yes, Obama gave fair warning to the electorate of his stance on Afghanistan. I and others were wary but there being no other option (McCain and Clinton, e.g., not disagreeing on core issues there), we were stuck with it. Though some seem to think SL et. al. are just partisan hacks, we still can oppose Obama on some things and support him on others.

Finally, though I'm more familiar with the work of Eric Foner, Reconstruction also comes to mind. Many did not support succession or realized the attempt failed, but equality and a true major overhaul of Southern (and to some real extent national) culture was not as supported. The response to military in their backyard is selectively honored by regions of the country who are quite willing to invade other lands.

It seems to me to miss the point to say "well, does this mean it wasn't worth it?" No. Is reconstruction and equality of our own people on the same level and level of difficulty as half a world away? The point is that as Mark Field notes even given that we were dealing with our own country, we failed in many ways.

It also suggests the need for limited ends. The end of slavery and some civil rights (e.g., blacks could marry, have their own churches, own property, have some sort of education, etc.) was a major change. But, it took loads of effort and manpower, and years of work to even provide a short lived semblance of true democracy and equality in the region.

And, economic and other pressures led even that to effort to go into recession. This after hundred of thousands of lives ended in part to promote equality and truly end a 'way of life' that led to that conflict.

Oh, and they had lots of crooked elections too. The difference I guess is the cash drug cop, tobacco, was legal.
 

Mourad:

Leadership has nothing to do with being liked or even making correct decisions. Leadership is about making decisions and convincing others to to follow.

Bush was not liked and made his share of bad decisions, but he was a leader nonetheless. Bush made decisions and our Dems and your EU generally followed or got the hell out of the way. You never saw articles from the EU where foreign ministers were pleading for US guidance.

It matters not whether Obama is liked by the EU or whether he supports policies you prefer if he does not or cannot make decisions to implement those policies and convince others to follow.

Obama has already demonstrated he has no influence over foreign leaders. The EU except the Brits blew off his requests for more assistance in Afghanistan and the Russians bullied him into reneging on our promises to eastern Europe to deploy ABM units there. No one respects or fears Obama and his dithering on Afghanistan merely reinforces their belief Obama is impotent.
 

The short answer to Shaq's question is that in lieu of either a draft or an augmented volunteer armed force, more and more is being contracted out to private organizations, whose motives, I suggest, are standard-form economic rather than "patriotic" (whatever that term means in the context of contempary foreign military ventures). Recall that the four men murdered in Falluja were private contractors. There will be much more of that, including heartfelt pleas from the families for the United States to rescue our counrymen, etc.

And, for the record, I'm male.
 

(1) Yeah well, WTF do you think you're fighting over, future President Bartlett?

Anyone wanna translate this into English for me?

(2) Re: Shag on the draft, I have come to think that *any* war should require implementation of the draft. If we as a country are not serious enough for conscription, then we're not serious enough to be fighting the damn war.

But it's appalling that we've fought these wars on the backs of the Reserves and their families ... and that (what seems to've been) an obviously incipient nutcase like Major Hasan wasn't flagged for discharge before he started shooting 40 people.
 

If you join a state militia, you are required to swear an oath to the feds as well. Thus, sign up to be called up for state emergencies and so forth, you "volunteered" to ship off to Afghanistan. This is a draft by indirection.

Since membership in the militia is fundamental to a free state, and not voluntary any more than jury service is, 2A supporters should support this move. It surely is better than private mercenaries, traditionally deemed to be dangerous to the public weal.

It can be argued that the militia has limited functions and should not be commandeered into foreign conflicts. But, that ship sailed a long time ago during WWI, if not the War of 1812 [Canada].
 

@Anderson at 11.24 am

Whether conscription is needed or not, depends on what meant by "a war". I believed that the USA used to plan on the basis that it would always have sufficient recorces to manage simultaneously at least two conflict situations anywhere in the world. However, the planners (just like ours) have always erred on spending far too much on very flash high technology and far too little on human resources. Result - acres and acres of expensive parking lots for main battle tanks, high tech aircraft etc, mostly useless in Afghanistan or indeed in any insurgency (unless one counts the sort of use to which tanks were put in Tian'anmen Square in 1989). But it is trite doctrine that procurement is always based on the last conflict but two, and never succeeds in anticipating the future needs.

There is also the fact that the US forces move with a far larger logistics train than any army in history. As long ago as WW2, we Brits marvelled at the impedimenta the D-Day forces brought with them to the UK. Look around for reports on the logistical nightmare of withdrawal from Iraq such as this one: Iraq Withdrawal, Logistical Nightmare? That overloaded train requires a huge logistics team to administer.

There is absolutely no doubt that human resources are being pushed to the limit in both the USA and the UK and, further, there are unnecessary shortages of the right kind of equipment.

As for the very sad case of Major Hasan, it seems to me that if the BBC Account is to be believed Profile: Major Nidal Malik Hasan, someone somewhere ought to have seen this coming.
 

Mourad:

Expending munitions rather than lives has been the American way of war since the advent of the industrial revolution and our Civil War. The large "tail to tooth" ratio might be a problem if the US military did not have the best logistical system in the history of the world. No other nation on Earth could transport a modern army across the world and conquer a medium power like Iraq in less than a year.

The reason the US Army and Marines can send company size units into the middle of nowhere Afghanistan and destroy far larger Taliban units with comparatively miniscule losses is not because our troops are braver or even that much better trained in small unit tactics than the Taliban. It is because our military can deploy a tremendous amount of firepower across the country in a matter of minutes. That requires a massive amount of munitions and the logistical support to get them to the battlefield.

As to your criticism of modern armor, while I doubt that M1A3 main battle tanks would be of much use in Afghanistan, I would love to have a platoon of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles around as a infantry company commander in a firefight with the Taliban. The Bradleys had limited utility in Iraqi urban terrain, but would be in their element in rural Afghanistan. Their thermal imaging devices could see the Taliban through the thickest sand storm (as mine did during the Desert Storm sand storm) and their main chain guns can elevate to fire at targets in cliffs or buildings above (something the Soviet BMPs could not). It is an outstanding weapons system.

If I have a criticism of the Petreaus/McChrystal counter insurgency approach, it would be that they are allowing their light infantry prejudices control their deployment considerations to the exclusion of heavy forces.
 

Can someone out there convert Sandy's:

"The short answer to Shaq's question is that in lieu of either a draft or an augmented volunteer armed force, more and more is being contracted out to private organizations, ...."

into the equivalent number of troops resulting from this privatization of a portion of America's military function? In other words, how many troops are being replaced by such private organizations? Might the conversion numbers be alarming? And what are the comparative costs (as well as effectiveness) of private organizations versus military? Also, does this privatization create morale problems for the military?
 

Sayeth Bart: "No other nation on Earth could transport a modern army across the world and conquer a medium power like Iraq in less than a year."

I think I can speak for all the small-to-medium sized nations in the world when I say that, until the USA descended into rabid militarism, this was a good thing.

The Bradley is not armored sufficiently against even primitive IEDs. Bart advocates an incredibly stupid, nay, insane, strategy.

Based only on this last comment, I think we can put to rest permanently any remaining vestiges of Bart's (largely imaginary) authority as a military tactician. As you'd expect of a junior officer whose experience is 20 years out of date.
 

Here's our Backpacker's description of Iraq pre-invasion:

" ... a medium power like Iraq ...."

Did Bush/Cheney consult a "medium" concerning the existence of WMD and Al Queda in Iraq before the invasion? There was no McChrystal's ball back then. But Cheney had his vision that we would be greeted as liberators. OOPS! No batteries.

As for our Backpacker's military expertise, I can hear Bob Hope singing "Tanks [Bradleys] for the Memories" as Backpacker backpacked though the Gulf War for his glory days with his "criticism of the Petreaus/McChrystal counter insurgency approach" that will be heeded by absolutely no one, except troops charges with DUI with the Bradleys,
 

C2H50H said... The Bradley is not armored sufficiently against even primitive IEDs.

As opposed to far less armored Humvees, trucks and human beings on foot? It takes a massive IED to knock out a Bradley with side supplemental armor. I believe we only lost 2-3 during the entire Iraq War.

As a point of comparison, my platoon took four barrages of 120mm mortars on the third day of the ground campaign while engaging the Republican Guard Medina Division. The artillery blew off some gear and antennas, but everyone inside was fine.

However, what would I know? I only trained with and commanded them in combat for 3 years.
 

Joe,

Clearly a supporter of the president can oppose him on this or any other matter. The problem is that opposition didn't take much of a form at all in the election. Obviously, we have no idea what you or others were thinking or saying at the time. But it's not accurate to say there was no alternative. Dennis Kucinich favored withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The other question I have about all of this is what it is opponents of engagement think should have been the course of action in 2001 and onward. In my mind, those who opposed invasion of Afghanistan are compltetely off the hook on this question. but for those who supported that action and now support withdrawal under fire, it would seem that many of the arguments being used about why the situation cannot be resolved by us would have applied just as much in 2001 as today. What is the course the United States should have taken with regard to Afghanistan after it invaded? or should we never have toppled the Taliban?
 

Michael asks:

"What is the course the United States should have taken with regard to Afghanistan after it invaded? or should we never have toppled the Taliban?"

Answering questions with questions may seem evasive and not very polite, but:

Was the Taliban toppled? Was the Taliban the primary reason for invading Afghanistan or was it Al Queda? Did the Afghan mission change after the initial and effective strikes on Al Queda?
 

Mourad, my argument for the draft is at least as much political as military. If American citizens are going to war, they need to be willing to support that decision by risking the lives of their friends and relatives, and even their own.

Being able to send the Army off to Iraq or Afghanistan, secure in the knowledge that Other People are going to make the sacrifices, is a recipe for bad judgment and unnecessary wars.
 

Michael ... Given the importance of moving on from the Bush years, the focus was on getting Obama in office. So, yes, many supporters of Obama did not push hard on why he was a bad choice in certain ways. [Some had 2000 flashbacks on that front.] This is fairly typical in general elections.

OTOH, there were some complaints about the limits of Obama. But, let's be serious. Dennis Kucinich was not a credible choice for nomination. So, he was not a true "alternative" to Obama. Dean in '04 was a longshot. DK, love him or not,* made Dean look like a frontrunner. Many did vote for some else during the primaries, of course.

As to the second half, I was never gung ho about Afghanistan, never thought it as much of a slam dunk as many that opposed the invasion of Iraq. And, when we did invade, my understanding at the time was that it was for a limited reason, not nation building.

But, putting that aside, if we stuck with Afghanistan instead of going to Iraq, I think the situation probably would be different in many ways. What might have been is a long held tedious state of affairs in our relations in the Middle East and beyond.

---

* And, I fully respect him, even if he came off like some sort of overexcited sprite at times. Didn't have a chance to vote for him since he wasn't on my ballot [Edwards was though he had no delegates], but more power to him.
 

Bart,

I worked for FMC at one time. On the Bradley. Its armor was designed for protection from small arms fire. Adding reactive armor gave it some protection from side and from overhead, but not underneath.

Yes, other vehicles are more susceptible to IEDs -- but they don't carry as many people, typically.

I think almost any military strategist would have a fit at the suggestion to use heavy cavalry for insurgent suppression. Remember, these guys aren't going to sleep in the vehicle. When they're stationary, they're no more useful than and just as vulnerable as infantry. When they move, they're slow and they take a lot of fuel, and, if you need them to get somewhere at any speed, that means roads and bridges, and that means IEDs.
 

Just to keep things in perspective:

An estimated 25 times as many Afghan citizens die every year as a result of hunger and poverty than from violence, according to a United Nations Security Council report. And as winter descends on the country, experts say, the death rate is bound to shoot up even further. ....

The severe poverty is one of the reasons people go to fight for the Taliban, where they can earn the relatively large sum of $100 a month, Levitt said. The same pressure motivates farmers to grow opium, which earns them four times what they would earn growing wheat.


More here. Related concerns provide support for other organizations that use violence against people we support.
 

C2H50H wrote:-

"I think we can put to rest permanently any remaining vestiges of Bart's (largely imaginary) authority as a military tactician. As you'd expect of a junior officer whose experience is 20 years out of date."

In a post on a previous thread, dear Bart said that he had resigned his commission because he felt that "his troops" were not receiving the training "he thought" was necessary. That may give us a clue as to where he is coming from. He thought he knew better than the Army how the army should train its (not his) men.

Likewise, he seems wish US policy and strategy for Afghanistan to be one of war, with the tasks of the US military and the NATO/ISAF forces to be that of waging unrestricted warfare against "the Taliban" by "all necessary means".

The problem is that this is not, as I understand it, US policy. Neither the USA, nor any of the NATO/ISAF nations, are at war with Afghanistan. We are in that country with the authority of the the United Nations and the consent of the Afghan state given by a government we recognise. Therefore there is no war in the legal sense. Afghanistan is the "host nation" in which we are supplying what we British used to call "aid to the civil power".

The Taliban are Afghan citizens. It follows that, although some are insurgents, the aim is to disarm them and re-integrate them into their society - not to exterminate them. If Bart does not like the constraints inherent in such a mission, so far as I am concerned, that's just too bad.

Bart ought to be familiar with the Department of the Army - FMI 3-07.22 - Counterinsurgency Operations which sets out the US official thinking on such operations as far as yet developed.

The UK has also had some relevant experience, and a paper which may be of interest was given in Washington by the then Director of the UK Defence Academy, Lt-General Sir John Kiszley, KCB, MC Counter-Insurgency in the 21st Century - Creating a Comprehensive Approach, A British View

There are many other papers of interest on the Royal United Services Institute Counter-Insurgency Page

[Incidentally, General Sir John Kiszley retired in 2008 but is still a busy man since he is President of the Royal British Legion and will tonight be hosting the Royal Family at the Legion's Annual Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall.]
 

C2H50H said...

I think almost any military strategist would have a fit at the suggestion to use heavy cavalry for insurgent suppression.

You do not use heavy equipment for general counter insurgency work. You do use it to defeat conventional attacks launched by the Taliban against isolated towns and villages. I imagine the poor bastards in the platoon overrun by the Taliban last month would have loved to have even one Bradley in support.

A Bradley can fire over 20 high explosive 25mm rounds a minute. Imagine a slow machine gun firing grenades. During the war, my Brad and my wing vehicle killed between 50-75 Iraqis coming up on our rear at night in about a minute. Being a former ground pounder in the 82d Airborne, the ease with which my Brads massacred a properly dispersed enemy company was some truly scary sh_t to behold.

Bart, I worked for FMC at one time. On the Bradley. Its armor was designed for protection from small arms fire. Adding reactive armor gave it some protection from side and from overhead, but not underneath.

Most vehicles are vulnerable underneath. Indeed, I believe it took an enormous buried IED to take out the last Bradley we lost in Iraq. However, burying large IEDs without anyone noticing is difficult and depends on knowing that the vehicle would go over that particular patch of road. One of the nice things about tracked vehicles is that they run off road rather nicely.

Remember, these guys aren't going to sleep in the vehicle. When they're stationary, they're no more useful than and just as vulnerable as infantry.

You have no idea about what you post. Unless the Brad is in a protected vehicle park, it will ALWAYS be crewed while in the field. And yes you can and do sleep in the vehicle. The crew takes shifts manning the vehicle while the Infantry patrols around it.

When they move, they're slow and they take a lot of fuel, and, if you need them to get somewhere at any speed, that means roads and bridges, and that means IEDs.

You can run a Brad up to 45 mph cross country across flat terrain. When we were on patrol in Iraq during the ceasefire, we has some fun chasing camels across the desert.

Furthermore, you can easily run tracked vehicles off road for long distances. During Desert Storm, we covered around 400 miles in less than three days. Unless there are ravines canalizing the Brads across a bridge, there is no reason to take the roads or bridges.
 

Mourad said...

In a post on a previous thread, dear Bart said that he had resigned his commission because he felt that "his troops" were not receiving the training "he thought" was necessary. That may give us a clue as to where he is coming from. He thought he knew better than the Army how the army should train its (not his) men.

You really should avoid speaking concerning things about which you have no knowledge unless you have an overwhelming urge to look continuously foolish. After the Cold War and during the 90s drawdowns in Germany, the Germans significantly cut back on the training they would allow and the Army was using money formerly spent on training drawing down the units and bases. I was training on computers and my troops are not receiving their usual field training.

The Army substantially ramped training back up in preparation for Iraq because our troops were simply not up to wartime standards. If the sh_t had gone down in Korea and we did not have the luxury to spend months preparing for war, men would have died from lack of proper training.

The Taliban are Afghan citizens. It follows that, although some are insurgents, the aim is to disarm them and re-integrate them into their society - not to exterminate them.

Are you sure you actually served in the British Army because British NCOs usually are not this frigging stupid? How precisely do you suggest disarming and reintegrating the Taliban into Afghan society? Perhaps you will send UN representatives to convince them of the folly of their ways. Oh, I forgot, the UN is shagging ass out of Afghanistan the way they did Iraq when the Taliban like al Qaeda in Iraq tried to kill them.

The way we "disarmed and reintegrated" al Qaeda in Iraq was to engage them in combat, kill most of them, capture those who would surrender or were too wounded to fight, permanently detain the foreign al Qaeda and gradually reintegrate the Iraq foot soldiers we captured back to their tribes. That is how it will be done in Afghanistan, if our President and your PM do not go wobbly as your inimitable PM Thatcher used to say. The rest of NATO will not have anything to say about it because they have no intention of allowing their troops into combat.
 

Bart,

So how many days at a time did you and your squad sleep in a Bradley? I've been in one, and I'd sooner sleep in a coffin.

Perhaps you should look at the topographical map of Afghanistan. Notice those mountains? See all those little villages, tucked away in those mountains?

The Bradley, like all mechanized equipment, needs a long supply train, which is a crippling problem in Afghanistan, and you imagine that you are going to put a Bradley in all those little villages? The logistics alone will kill you.

The IEDs they're using in Afghanistan are, indeed, massive, yet the Taliban seems to have little trouble planting them.

A Bradley in Afghanistan is not going to find the dug-in infantry, identifiable enemy groups, or tanks that you found in Iraq. All the Bradley's firepower will produce is more civilian casualties.

I'm sure anybody stuck out in a village in the hinterland and under fire would like a Bradley, but I bet they'd prefer even more not to be stuck out there.

Now, if the problem in Afghanistan was old Soviet-era tanks, or Taleban units dug in and stationary, your strategy might make sense.
 

C2H50H:-

You see the problem? Bart's approach is that of "don't confuse me with facts".

Not for the first time, it appears that Bart is geographically challenged. As it happens, I spent some considerable part of my service time on the North German plain, and my first encounter with Bart's ignorance was on a previous thread on this blog where he suggested that the cold war Soviet plans for an eventual invasion of Europe involved driving their tanks to the Channel ports via the Pyrenees!

I am well aware that as the reality of the cold war threat receded there was increasing resistance from German farmers to allowing the "cavalry" to play with their tanks over agricultural land - but that had a great deal to do with the fact that the DM had appreciated against the US$ and UK£ to such an extent that the compensation offered was no longer sufficient.

Now poor dear Bart suggests cruising around Afghanistan in a Bradley! He's obviously forgotten the Hindu Kush (link to topograpic map here). Perhaps he would care to examine the terrain on Google Maps. US Special Forces have been using horses and donkeys to go where vehicles cannot.

And incidentally, when Enduring Freedom™ was launched, the bulk of the real Al Quaida simply tabbed across the Durand Line into the Pakistani FATA which to me suggests that some of the planners in the Rumsfeld Pentagon were just as geographically challenged as poor dear Bart!

I'm afraid that Bart is a good example of the kind of chap NCO instructors of 2nd Lieutenants (which I was) refer to as "chinless wonders" - a danger to themselves and their men. Perhaps that's why he now sports a beard. But chinless or not, I am entirely unsurprised that when Bart volunteered to resume his commission, the powers that be decided that the US Army could scrub along without him. That decision probably saved a few lives.
 

This is our Backpacker's solution to Afghanistan:

"The way we 'disarmed and reintegrated' al Qaeda in Iraq was to engage them in combat, kill most of them, capture those who would surrender or were too wounded to fight, permanently detain the foreign al Qaeda and gradually reintegrate the Iraq foot soldiers we captured back to their tribes. That is how it will be done in Afghanistan, if our President and your PM do not go wobbly as your inimitable PM Thatcher used to say. The rest of NATO will not have anything to say about it because they have no intention of allowing their troops into combat."

I wonder if Gen. McChrystal's ball is picking up on our Backpacker's static. I wonder if, as our Backpacker suggests, the US would go it alone without NATO. I wonder why our Backpacker's solution makes no specific reference to the Taliban. I wonder why our Backpacker's solution makes no reference to Pakistan where Al Queda seems to be huddled in small numbers. I wonder what would a breathalyzer read on our Backpacker as he spouts his solution so we can understand how wobbly he is. I wonder if our Backpacker still plays video games.
 

From this NPR interview with David Kilcullen:

Kilcullen says some important lessons from Iraq can be applied in Afghanistan, such as finding militants who can be reconciled. He says 90 percent of the people considered to be Taliban are actually fighting for local, tribal or nationalistic reasons and would be reconcilable under some circumstances.

"At the same time, there is a very small number of radical extremists who are just not amenable to logic, and just have to be shot in the head," Kilcullen says. "And, unfortunately, the kill or capture of those extremists has to continue at the same time as reconciling with those who can reconcile."


Bart, who as far as we know has no counter-insurgency expertise whatsoever, is unable to shut up and go away in spite of his pathetic batting average here. Bart never saw a pretext for the use of deadly force he didn't like:

How precisely do you suggest disarming and reintegrating the Taliban into Afghan society?

If you had done even the most rudimentary study of the Afghan situation you wouldn't be asking such a clueless question. In fact, the answer is so bleeding obvious I'm inclined not to provide it.

Why don't you see what you can scratch up on your own, Bart? (Hint: Kilcullen, an architect of the surge in Iraq who knows several orders-of-magnitude more about it's successes and limitations than you, is not nearly so sanguine about the utility of either conventional warfare or conventional COIN. Whereas you, Bart, come across as an emotionally stunted adult with an adolescent fervor for armaments and destruction.)
 

In the spirit of generosity, here's an extra special gift for our special friend, Bart DePalma. It's OT, so for that I apologize.
 

I don't think this is OT. I just saw a rerun of Bill Moyers Report "The Good Soldier." Just Google to get it. I've lived through wars beginning in my early/mid teens with WW II without actually being in a war. I did serve as a draftee for two years post-Korea and pre-Vietnam and the most danger I faced was crawling through the infiltration course where I learned the meaning of the common phrase "scared shit."

Moyers' presentation of this documentary is in recognition of November 11.
 

Ot appears as if our decisive President is flip flopping once again on Afghanistan, this time to doing the right thing...eventually. The latest trial balloon from Team Obama is that the President will approve the deployment of between 30,000 and 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, but only after the consults with our allies and makes and Asia trip over the next few months.

One cheer for the dithering CiC, if he actually carries through. Meanwhile, soldiers are dying in Afghanistan waiting for reinforcements to finish the job.
 

C2H50H said...

Bart, So how many days at a time did you and your squad sleep in a Bradley? I've been in one, and I'd sooner sleep in a coffin.

The entire time we were deployed in Iraq and Kuwait. As for the less than comfortable accommodations, welcome to the Army.

Perhaps you should look at the topographical map of Afghanistan. Notice those mountains? See all those little villages, tucked away in those mountains? The Bradley, like all mechanized equipment, needs a long supply train, which is a crippling problem in Afghanistan, and you imagine that you are going to put a Bradley in all those little villages? The logistics alone will kill you.

Hardly. We engaged in three major firefights with large Iraqi formations without reloading ammunition. The vehicle can also go over 300 miles cross country without refueling. In Afghanistan, we would not have to engage in any long range maneuvers and the size of the enemy forces would be far smaller than in Iraq.

A Bradley in Afghanistan is not going to find the dug-in infantry, identifiable enemy groups, or tanks that you found in Iraq. All the Bradley's firepower will produce is more civilian casualties.

Nonsense. The Taliban are light infantry moving cross country. A Bradley's thermal imaging devices can see light infantry and the arms they are carrying over a mile away through sandstorms and most underbrush. It is far easier to identify the enemy with thermal imaging devices than with the naked eye.

Furthermore, you can fire single shots with the main gun, turning it into a bad ass sniper rifle with a nearly two mile range. My gunner got bored with the pop up targets on a firing range in Germany and took down a deer a mile and a half away with a single armor piercing shot. I chewed his ass for that stunt, but the shot was damn impressive. If the Taliban have a mortar position out of small arms range, a Brad can take them out.

I'm sure anybody stuck out in a village in the hinterland and under fire would like a Bradley, but I bet they'd prefer even more not to be stuck out there.

Infantry are hunters whose job is to find the enemy and kill them. They prefer to be on patrol out in the boonies than being stuck on a base bored off their asses. The last comment shows why you are a civilian and they are not.
 

Mourad:

We are back to the red herrings which you do so enjoy. No one is talking about sending Brads into the mountains where no vehicles can go. I clearly posted that a platoon of Brads would be welcome support for troops protecting towns where the Taliban is active.

BTW, the US Army and Marines have a solution to your fat, chinless Lieutenants and NCOs. It called leading their troops in physical training. US Infantry officers no not graduate officer basic training until they were experts in all their weapons systems and are in the upper 10% of physical fitness. A chinless LT would wash out. I cautioned you that making assumptions about the US military based based on your apparently sorry military experience would only make you look foolish.
 

Bart,

I notice that you carefully did not include your time in Saudi Arabia. Your lack of an honest, clear answer is noted.

As for why I'm a civilian, it's because I got my honorable discharge long ago, jerk. And as for patrolling, oh, yeah, infantrymen really prefer to be out patrolling some godforsaken hole, sleeping in a Bradley, rather than back in base. If you imagine that, you clearly were the kind of officer who had no concept of how the EM's felt.

300 miles? So a Bradley couldn't make it from Kabul to Kandahar and back without fuel, let alone reach any of the more remote areas without staging. Spoken like the typical motor-monkey, to whom resupply is somebody else's problem.

Your prescription for the problem would, as Mourad pointed out, dramatically increase the casualties among the locals -- in all likelihood without doing anything to damp the Taleban, even in the short term, and make things vastly worse in the long term.

The lack of candor in your replies has turned me off this thread. Carry on without me. If Bart is typical of the quality of officer in today's "all volunteer army", god help us.
 

So "chinless wonder" Bart is also linguistically challenged. The English term "chinless wonder" has nothing whatsoever do do with obesity.

Historically it derives from the fact that the upper upper classes in England were inbred - often manifested by a receding chin. In service slang, it relates to the sort of twits who arrive from officer training thinking they know it all and have to be put straight by their NCO's (who have been there and done that).
 

C2H50H said...

Bart, I notice that you carefully did not include your time in Saudi Arabia. Your lack of an honest, clear answer is noted.

In Saudi, we were initially staged a couple hundred miles south of the Kuwaiti border with a scout screen in front of us. This was considered to be rear echelon and we had the luxury of cots and tents without having to man the Brads 24 hours.

And as for patrolling, oh, yeah, infantrymen really prefer to be out patrolling some godforsaken hole, sleeping in a Bradley, rather than back in base. If you imagine that, you clearly were the kind of officer who had no concept of how the EM's felt.

I was enlisted for a tour before earning my commission. When I served as an infantry officer, I led all the platoon's patrols. So please spare me the REMF whine about officers getting special treatment at the expense of the enlisted.

As for wanting to be on patrol, my guys wanted every patrol we could get in Iraq to escape the monotony of providing security in front of a Shia town in the south. You obviously were not infantry and certainly not in the 1/7.

Of course, the Brads would need occasional resupply. No one claimed they would not. You were simply incorrect in claiming that they were slow and needed constant resupply.

Neither you or Mourad have backed up your claims that the presence of Brads would make life worse for anyone in Iraq apart from the Taliban.

Mourad:

Thanks for the correction concerning the British meaning for the term "chinless." Sorry, we do not have upper, upper classes in the United States Army officer corps. Indeed, a wag once compared the Navy to Old Money, the Air Force to New Money and the Army to working class stiffs. The comparisons are apt.
 

Is the Pentagon paying attention to our Backpacker's endorsement of Brads for Afghanistan? Is anyone?

BTB*, I've been checking Publishers Weekly for updates on our Backpacker's announced at this Blog work of fiction on Obama without success. Does anyone have a clue on when it will be published? Perhaps its will have a chapter on military strateregy that will laud Brads for Afghanistan. (Who remembers the "Big Little Blue Books of the late 1930s? That might be a potential publisher.)

*By the Bybee
 

Check out the 11/08/09 TomDispatch.com post introducing "Where Will They Get the Troops? Preparing Undeployables for the Afghan Front" by Dahr Jamail and Sarah Lazare. (For convenience, link to the "printer-friendly.") In his intro to this article Tom makes reference to "a Shineski moment." Is a draft still out of the question?
 

Well, the gang may have moved on, but I have a few comments.

Anderson:
Re: Shag on the draft, I have come to think that *any* war should require implementation of the draft. If we as a country are not serious enough for conscription, then we're not serious enough to be fighting the damn war.

But it's appalling that we've fought these wars on the backs of the Reserves and their families………
….If American citizens are going to war, they need to be willing to support that decision by risking the lives of their friends and relatives, and even their own.

Being able to send the Army off to Iraq or Afghanistan, secure in the knowledge that Other People are going to make the sacrifices, is a recipe for bad judgment and unnecessary wars.


I agree, completely. There is no moral advance in moving from old men declaring wars that young men must fight to elites safe from danger declaring wars that the disadvantaged are stooged into fighting.

Michael:
The other question I have about all of this is what it is opponents of engagement think should have been the course of action in 2001 and onward. In my mind, those who opposed invasion of Afghanistan are completely off the hook on this question. but for those who supported that action and now support withdrawal under fire, it would seem that many of the arguments being used about why the situation cannot be resolved by us would have applied just as much in 2001 as today. What is the course the United States should have taken with regard to Afghanistan after it invaded? or should we never have toppled the Taliban?


This is a serious question. I did support our initial invasion of Afghanistan to pursue Bin Laden and other AQ operatives. I think that our failure to capture BL and other top level AQ operatives should have signaled the time for the UN to take over. To be sure, I detest the Taliban, but I do not think it is any nation’s place to invade another country simply on grounds of disputes about the best governance. Our intervention in Kosovo (etc.) was a necessary humanitarian intervention. Bush and Co. transformed the justified search for BL and other AQ operatives into a humanitarian intervention, after they dropped the ball and failed to achieve the primary end.
Now…I do not know what we ought to do, all things considered. I do think we are doing more harm than good. We should let the UN take the lead and behave as UN supporters, rather than as independent national actors.
 

By the way, thanks to all for ignoring my ... explosion.
 

CTS:-

If I may comment on your comments:-

Re: Anderson - The Draft
I concede there is a "citizenship" argument for conscription, if it is conceded (and I think this is important) that conscription of only 2 years' duration is not a sufficient length of time to train a soldier/sailor/airman in all the complex activities of modern warfare.

This is well-recognised, particularly in relation to certain specialities where the services train people over years to a level which then creates a retention problem as civilian employers compete to entice them back into civilian life.

Even in my time [a longish time ago], we thought ordinary infantry recruits did not begin to give the army "value for money" until they had a minimum of 3 years' service. Until then, they had to be mixed in with more experienced soldiers and very carefully mentored.

Re: Michael - 2001 Invasion
I agree that intervention in Afghanistan was needed. I do not agree that the US should have elected to do so unilaterally. The unilateral Enduring Freedom™ was the mistake.

There was a UN mandate under Chapter VII on offer from the UN Security Council post 9-11. If the Bush Administration had taken up that offer, it is conceivable that there would have been far greater international support for the initial intervention and the prospect of very many more "boots on the ground". There was a vital need to secure the Afghan-Pak border and had there been sufficient numbers to do that, it might have been possible to prevent Al Quaida elements from simply relocating from Afghanistan to the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Given the topography of Afghanistan, the initial intervention numbers were far too low.

Matters were then compounded by the unnecessary Enterprise of Iraq™ As is now very well known, General Shinseki, now President Obama's Secretary of Veterans Affairs, was right about the numbers required for Iraq. Even the arch neocon Douglas Feith acknowledges that.

The consequence of running both interventions simultaneously has been to put unbearable strain on the manpower capabilities of the US army (and it was also a challenge for UK forces until we stood down in Iraq).
 

CTS:-

What you describe as "your explosion" was, to my thinking, entirely understandable. Our chinless wonder troll deliberately posts in provocative terms - but he doesn't like it when people question his qualification to pontificate as he does on military issues largely for the political end of denigrating the approach of the Obama Administration.

Bart posted:-

"If I have a criticism of the Petreaus/McChrystal counter insurgency approach, it would be that they are allowing their light infantry prejudices control their deployment considerations to the exclusion of heavy forces." and he went on to advocate bringing in the Bradley which is unsuitable for the terrain.

Light infantry are the backbone of any force operating in mountainous areas. That has been true since Wellington proved the point in the Penninsular Wars.

As everyone knows, the "roadside bomb" or "improvised explosive device" is the No 1 killer and serious casualty agent in Afghanistan. The statistics are grim. IED incidents have increased this year by 114 per cent compared to the same period last year. The UK figures are that of those killed in action, 73 per cent of the fatalities are caused by IEDs. See this July 2009 UK Ministry of Defence briefing Countering the IED threat. which emphasises that the strategy cannot simply be more armour - but requires a strategy which goes after the bomb-making networks.

The IEDs being used in Afghanistan are less sophisticated than those used in Iraq and more resemble those used by PIRA in Northern Ireland when I was there which were largely produced from agricultural fertiliser (the compound produced was known as "Paxo" after the well-known UK brand of turkey stuffing). The nature of the device is that provided the charge is big enough, there is no vehicle yet designed which will give absolute protection.

Last week a US Stryker was hit by a 1,000 lb Paxo-type IUD and 7 US soldiers were killed. Even the new M-ATV from Oshkosh Corp which been specially designed for off-road operations in Afghanistan will not provide complete protection. On Nov 4th, the Pentagon Press Secretary pointed that out when he announced that Secretary Gates was going to Wisconsin to thank the Oshkosh workers for their flat-out efforts on the M-ATV:-

“There's not an armored vehicle you could build that would likely protect you against a thousand-pound fertilizer bomb,” Morrell said. “Even if it doesn't penetrate the hull, those inside of it are going to suffer a concussive blast that is clearly going to be a real danger to them.”

The McChrystal strategy accords perfectly with UK doctrine which has been developed since Malaya and has the best prospects of success in the long term.
 

Take a look at Max Boot's 11/10/09 article in the LATimes titled/subtitled:

"The U.S. needs to teach Hamid Karzai a thing or two. The Afghan leader needs to learn how to act as a wartime leader. Perhaps George W. Bush could offer some pointers."

Here's Boot's closing paragraph:

"Note that Bush is now unemployed except for the usual post-presidential activities of speech-giving and memoir-writing. Maybe it's time for Obama to summon his predecessor -- as Bush himself summoned his own father and Clinton on several occasions -- and ask him to undertake a special mission: Give Karzai some pointers on how to be a leader in wartime. The ultimate success or failure of our war effort could turn on whether Karzai can don that mantle as successfully as he does his trademark chapan cape and karakul hat."

It's hard to tell if Max has his boot in his mouth or its tongue in his cheek.

BTB*, just how did George W. Bush perform as a wartime leader in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11/01 to his departure on 1/20/09? OOPS!

*By the Bybee (forget me not)
 

Can somewhat out there tell me if Richard Cohen was overloaded on Bombay (my gin of choice) when he wrote his 11/10/09 OpEd titled "Why 'Surge Light' won't work" in today's WaPo? He goes back to the failure of the British in the Middle East as a lesson for the U.S. Cohen doesn't seem to come to a conclusion.

BTB*, put a backpack on Cohen and who does he look like?

*By the Bybee (gone but not forgotten)
 

Mourad: I think this needs more details:

"The McChrystal strategy accords perfectly with UK doctrine which has been developed since Malaya and has the best prospects of success in the long term."

What is this UK doctrine?

Details on Malaya that brought about development of this UK doctrine?

The length of the long term for prospects of success, including the means and expense?
 

Mourad:

The successful Malasia campaign is indeed a source of all competent counter insurgency doctrines, including Petreaus' manual.

Likewise light infantry is the basis for mountain operations, as it was during Wellington's Spain campaign. However, as in Spain, small light infantry operations sometimes turn into pitched conventional battles and it is helpful to have heavy vehicles as Wellington had cannon.

Finally, the fact that we lost a single Stryker hardly means that we should not use Strykers any more than losing helicopters or troops mean we should not use those.
 

Brian Tamanaha has another book review up, though this time the comments are closed as of now.

I want to thank him all the same for recommending "Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Places" ... have begun reading it, and the first few chapters alone make it worth checking out.

Since BT is modest, I'd add that the author dedicates the book to him. Oh, and Sandy Levinson's book "Wrestling with Diversity" also looks good, if only from the excerpt I found online.

The "undemocratic constitution" is not his only hobbyhorse you know!
 

Perhaps I was premature in passing along the media trial balloons that Obama had made a decision to send about 3/4 of McChrystal's requested troops. The NSA is now disavowing all knowledge of these reports and claims that our dithering President is still considering not less than five plans for Afghanistan.
 

You raise an interesting problem: I concede there is a "citizenship" argument for conscription, if it is conceded (and I think this is important) that conscription of only 2 years' duration is not a sufficient length of time to train a soldier/sailor/airman in all the complex activities of modern warfare.

I do not know how long the Israeli term of service is, but I suspect we might look to that nation as an example.
Of course, we might also arrange matters so that an initial service term of 2-3 years provides incentives for longer service. It certainly is not clear to me that the U.S., at this point, offers much by way of incentives to any but those pre-destined for the ‘top brass.’
National service should include education in subsidiary fields that are important for security and that promise post-service rewards: medicine, technology, communications, management, etc. I knew a number of Coast Guarders (‘Coasties’) who signed up for many years of service in order to gain a good undergraduate education and professional training in law and medicine.
Given the complex tasks that our contemporary military personnel have to undertake, we could appeal to many young people who do not want to go into combat, as well as to those who are willing to do so. Why not have a National Service program for people with existing interests in ‘nation building,’ engineering, foreign languages, etc.?
But, all of these people must be paid well, housed well, and given all the educational opportunities they want.
Particularly at this unhappy time for all economies, we might be able to start a program of NS that could become the cornerstone of a real patriotism – one not limited to the have-nots.

I do want to note that my ruminations on this are imperfectly formed and tentative.
 

The 10/19/09 edition of the The Nation features "An Open Letter to President Obama" by William R. Polk concerning Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir, at:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091019/polk

It's long but expands the concerns that need to be addressed by the U.S. It does not paint a pretty picture.
 

CTS:-

On the "national service" issue, I think that if you do some research, you will find that those countries which have "all volunteer" militaries do a very great deal by way of training of both officers and other ranks so that when their term of service expires they have qualifications which will make them very employable in civilian life. The problem for such nations becomes one of retention - having invested so heavily, one prefers to see personnel extend their service beyond their first engagement. Those developed countries which retain the concept of compulsory "national service" increasingly provide non military alternatives to military service. Yet others have a concept of a short initial period of formation in the armed forces coupled with a lengthy period of reserve service during which they have to attend training for a number of weeks every year and be prepared to be called up at short notice. Switzerland is an example of this approach which is very close to the concept of a militia.

Shag:-

1. You can read up on the Malaya emergency on-line. It officially lasted from 1948 to 1960 and was a guerrilla insurgency masterminded by the Malayan Communist Party. Today, Malaysia is a Federation of States, with the monarch rotating between the heads of the different states of the federation and a parliamentary democracy modelled on the British system. It is has a rapidly developing economy, is in the Commonwealth and has quite good inter-communal relations between its ethnic and religious groups, though there are periodic hiccups.

2. For the development of UK counter-insurgency and "nation-building" doctrine see the links given in a post above. Essentially the UK has learned quite a bit from its experiences during decolonisation followed by peacekeeping and peace enforcement interventions in various countries. Part of the US problem in developing its doctrine was that the trauma of Vietnam brought about a situation where the US was very unwilling to participate in such operations, so when it was decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq there were very few commanders around with "hands-on" experience.

3. Hence the Neocon myth that all one had to do was go in, depose the existing régime, impose a constitution, install a pro-US government, and rich commercial pickings would follow the flag protected by long-term garrisons of US forces. Bush's Betty Crocker-style - Instant Democracy™ - just add water and an egg. There is quite a lot of evidence that many in the military and the foreign service were utterly opposed to the Bush Administration's vision of how things would go and time has proven them right.

4. As for the term for prospects of success, a very great deal depends on sorting out Kharzai, but I would have thought a further 5-10 years (given the time wasted over the last 8) but with substantial reductions in the level of forces after about 3 years (assuming that the Afghan military and police can develop reasonable competence in that time). The problem may be that that doesn't fit too well with the brief election cycles of US politics.

5. Cost - I've no idea. But the world is now too small for failed states to be left to fester. Whatever the cost, it will cheaper than living with the consequences of giving up and then having to do it all over again later on.
 

The National Interest On Line 11/04/09 article "Get Out of Afghanistan" by Charles V. Pena includes this:

"Counterinsurgency also takes patience—years, in fact. The British spent seven years in Kenya fighting the Mau Mau insurgents and more than twenty years in Malaysia battling the Malayan National Liberation Army. The United States has been in Afghanistan eight years now, and with domestic support for the war waning (a recent CNN poll showed 58 percent opposed to the mission), an open-ended time commitment is doubtful."

I have read Mourad's response to my questions and will respond with more questions, particularly on the time it may take in Afghanistan to "win" (whatever that means) and the obligations of the world of responsible nation states to address failed states, of which Afghanistan is only one. The U.S. cannot, should not, do this alone.

And perhaps one has to look back upon the British Empire and ask whether it was all worth it - not to England but to the civilized world. For example, what did colonization accomplish for Africa, for the Middle East?
 

TomDispatch.com 11/10/09 features Tom Englehardt's "Drone Race to a Known Future - Why Military Dreams Fail - and Why It Doesn't Matter." It includes a phrase new to me:

"the military-industrial-drone-robotics complex in formation"

that might replace the mere "military-industrial complex" as we venture further into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Will this be riskless or reckless? Are drones the answer to failed states? And who will be the Queen Bee?
 

And perhaps one has to look back upon the British Empire and ask whether it was all worth it - not to England but to the civilized world. For example, what did colonization accomplish for Africa, for the Middle East?

In recent years I've read (don't ask me where) that something of a consensus has emerged that colonization was not profitable for the colonizers over the long term. OTOH, it does appear to have brought tangible benefits to the colonies in terms of infrastructure and general modernization. Sounds credible to me.
 

Shag:-

I absolutely agree with you that the USA should not be alone in Afghanistan. In an earlier post on this thread I said:-

"As regular readers may know, I am in favour of an increased international effort in Afghanistan more plainly under UN auspices; with wider international participation; a greater military and police participation - especially from Muslims and from Muslim women in particular; for greater aid and reconstruction efforts and for an end to the go-it-alone Enduring Freedom™ operation and integration of the forces into the NATO/ISAF operation. That still seems to me the least worst option in an international effort that is presently teetering on the brink of disaster."

I do mean it when I say that Enduring Freedom™ should be closed down.

Ideally, all troops in Afghanistan should be in UN blue berets so as to emphasise that the mission is peace. We in the UK are quite used to wearing them.

I would like to see far greater involvement of other Muslim states. Algeria - Indonesia - Turkey - Malaysia all spring to mind, if only because I think it is essential in a Muslim country to have troops who can integrate with the local population. When the observant pray communally or in their own homes 5 times a day - then full integration dictates that at least a proportion of the mentoring forces do the same. Just as the ability of the forces and NGO's to work on the development of (for example) primary medical care is an important part of the exercise, bringing in other Muslims with other mind-sets is to my mind just as important.

A UN blue beret designation would hake it a lot easier for non-aligned states unwilling to contribute via ISAF to get involved.

And by making this a UN rather than a NATO exercise, then there is a very good case for rattling the collection plate.

For example, the Kuwaiti, Saudi and UAE Defence Forces have some of the finest military hospitals oil riches can buy.

Why could they not step up and provide the same for the Afghan Army and Police? I can think of few better ways to encourage recruitment.
 

Mourad:

Thanks for your response. Here are my comments and questions, using your numbering:

1. I have not checked on Malaya on the Internet in detail but it seems that the emergency “unofficially” may have lasted more than 20 years. While there seems to have been a good result for Malaya, I think “periodic hiccups” may be putting it a tad too mildly. But exactly what did the Brits learn from the emergency and when? And were the lessons learned implemented in the eventual resolution of the Malaya emergency or were the lessons learned used in subsequent emergencies elsewhere?

2. With British colonization for decades (centuries), it really wasn’t until after WW II that the Brits, then economically a basket case, seriously addressed decolonization. Yes, the Brits have had long experience. Let me repeat this from my earlier comment: “And perhaps one has to look back upon the British Empire and ask whether it was all worth it - not to England but to the civilized world. For example, what did colonization accomplish for Africa, for the Middle East?” And just how are the Brits’ learning experiences transferable to address the current situation in Afghanistan? What worked in South Africa and in Northern Ireland doesn’t seem to work for Israel/Palestinians. The U.S. has unofficially engaged in colonization and decolonization in its history, often not too well. But where was Tony Blair to pass on to George W. Bush the lessons the Brits had learned; after all, the Brits were the U.S.’s chief supporters for both Afghanistan and Iraq. Take a look at the continuing issues in the former Yugoslavia. One size does not fit all emergencies.

3. I agree with this.

4. This seems to be at best a guess. Did the Brits think at the beginning that Malaya would take as long as it did? And consider how long it took to resolve the situation in Northern Ireland. And the Middle East continues with its problems following the departure of the Brits. As to the “brief election cycles of US politics,” that’s not going to change; and perhaps it should not change.

5. Let me repeat from my earlier comment: “I have read Mourad's response to my questions and will respond with more questions, particularly on the time it may take in Afghanistan to ‘win’ (whatever that means) and the obligations of the world of responsible nation states to address failed states, of which Afghanistan is only one. The U.S. cannot, should not, do this alone.” You and I have on earlier occasions on this thread discussed the international role with respect to Afghanistan. It doesn’t seem to be catching on, whether for economic or political or military reasons. I suspect a zero sum game political approach by so called responsible nation states. Cost is important to the U.S. and other nation states. So far, the world you describe as too small for failed states has yet to effectively address climate change and its problems. Even more distant is such small world from addressing failed- and about to fail- states.


Perhaps there are new lessons to be learned. As earlier noted, one size does not fit all emergencies, as “enemies” also learn and come up with their new lessons that then have to be addressed by the U.S. and its allies. The UK counter-insurgency and nation-building doctrine may not be the answer in Afghanistan.
 

Mourad:

My preceding comment was in response to your earlier response to me and NOT your subsequent comment that I noted AFTER posting my preceding comment.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Shag wrote:-

"And perhaps one has to look back upon the British Empire and ask whether it was all worth it - not to England but to the civilized world. For example, what did colonization accomplish for Africa, for the Middle East?"

A legitimate question - indeed Shag might well have added the USA to his list.

My first read this morning was (via Scotusblog) the transcripts of the oral arguments in Graham v. Sullivan and Sullivan v. Florida.

I was aware that the United States and Somalia were the only two states in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but I was, until now, not completely aware of the full barbarity of the criminal justice systems of some US states: 117 cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole of which 77 in Florida alone!

I am, of course, acutely aware that our criminal justice system was every bit as barbaric at the time of the separation of the 13 original colonies - but what was it that made it possible for the originalist heresy to take root and become almost respectable so that the question whether sentencing any juvenile to life without parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is even worthy of debate?

We must have let you down somehow if all we could transmit to you by way of civilisation has so quickly become so warped.
 

Mourad says:

"A legitimate question - indeed Shag might well have added the USA to his list. "

Fortunately, for the USA, it was in a position to revolt and successfully break the binds. Africa and the Middle East were not. But the US made mistakes, particularly with the unwritten slavery in its Constitution continuing the practice of slavery that had long existed in the American Colonies. England and other western European nations had outlawed slavery and the slave trade by, I recall, 1837; such may have come about not so much on humanitarian principles but economics. In any event, this was the decent thing to do. The US was way behind the curve.

English law continued to have great influence in the US as it developed. The pre-Revolution decision of Lord Mansfield in Somerset's Case was applied in even many slave states to free non-fugitive slaves becoming free by sojourning in free states. After Dred Scott, perhaps but for the Civil War the Supreme Court under CJ Taney would have challenged Somerset's Case as unconstitutional if the Lemmon Case from NY had reached the Court.

The US has not been perfect as a democracy but there have been significant advances. But in the area of juvenile punishment as in the Sullivan cases, the debate will continue even if SCOTUS rules against the defendants. The debate over the death penalty continues despite the reversal of progress over the last half of the 20th century.

The American colonists by revolting were in a much better situation than subjects of colonization in Africa and the Middle East to establish a democracy, albeit originally limited to adult propertied white males. The US is still a work in process and progress, sometimes two steps forward, one step back (except for the Bush/Cheney years).

I assume Mourad's "we" with his closing note:

"We must have let you down somehow if all we could transmit to you by way of civilisation has so quickly become so warped."

refers to England following the Revolution (or perhaps the War of 1812). The US has, like Paul Anka's song, done it its way and with progress over time; its been fairly good. But I don't think Empire - including in the form of neocolonialism - is appropriate for America. Of course, we could speculate on what might have resulted if there had been no Revolution, including whether England would have decolonized.

Now back to Afghanistan. What are the chances of a UN blue beret force getting involved?

PS I like Mourad's phrase "originalist heresy." I look forward to new posts on originalism at this Blog to utilize this phrase in comments, perhaps in a different context than Mourad.
 

Shag:-

The Emergency Powers invoked in Malaya lasted from 1948 to 1960 which is 12 years. As General Kizley points out in the paper to which I linked above, the first lesson learned was "no progress while there is injustice on the streets" - and therefore it is vital to have impartial and disciplined policing - a lesson forgotten time and time again.

I observe that this was a lesson forgotten in both Cyprus and more recently in Northern Ireland where under devolved administration the protestant majority systematically oppressed the catholic minority and one of the instruments of oppression was the police - especially the notorious 'B' Specials of the RUC. A useful starting point for those interested in this issue might be the 1969 Cameron Report. My old battalion deployed to Northern Ireland (in "aid of the civil power") during this time. We were actually first tasked with protecting the residents of catholic areas - and made very welcome - People came up to us and thanked us for our presence, women brought cups of tea to posts and there were other signs that people were glad to see us.

Since the battalion then recruited (and still recruits) in the North of England it has always had quite a high proportion of catholics and I can say that they were very shocked by the evident signs of discrimination (not to say oppression) we encountered and which were by that time unthinkable in England.

Nevertheless, within a week or two of deployment, the word went out on the streets from the IRA that we were to be regarded as "occupiers" and soon enough we were and were targeted accordingly - a situation which continued on the two tours I did.

I would add that the progress Turkey has made in resolving the Kurdish insurgency has been greatly advanced by attention to human rights issues in the last 10 years - driven in large measure by Turkey subscribing to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Another lesson, first learned in Malaya (but replicated elsewhere) is that there has to be an overall vision and plans which are confined to security measures and military operations will fail. One has to address all the political, social, economic, administrative, police and other issues which impact on the insurgency.

Experience has shown that each insurgency or civil emergency is different, there is no "one size fits all" solution.

For the final observation I quote directly from General Kizley's paper referenced in a post above above:-

"Three points that history would suggest about the process of winning hearts and minds deserve attention here. First, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to do this without being perceived to occupy the moral high ground and to possess legitimacy. And I underline `being perceived`. It is too easy to believe that we ourselves occupy the moral high ground and possess legitimacy, while forgetting that this is immaterial if we do not do so in the eyes of those we are trying to win over to our argument. The ideological dimension is too often overlooked. Second, that the focus on hearts and minds can present difficulties for militaries where success is traditionally measured with attritional, warfighting metrics such as the number of enemy you kill. But counter-insurgencies are not won primarily by killing insurgents. The change required in military culture is easy to under-estimate.

Not least, it requires the military to fully understand the culture of the local population – this is a matter of education, not pre-deployment training - and to comprehend the mind of the insurgent, and to do this requires at least some degree of empathy. As Harper Lee writes in `To Kill A Mockingbird`, the only way to understand another person is `to climb into their skin and walk around in it.` Third, the implications of having to win hearts and minds on a global scale, are of course huge, not least in terms of resources and time.

 

Shag:-

I hope others do not find this dialogue too boring. In your last post you assumed "we" referred to England post US independence. No. Your Founding Fathers were (i) British Subjects, (ii) in a very substantial number products of the European Enlightenment and (iii) many were lawyers.

What I meant therefore was what precisely was the defect we implanted in British North America which, when we unwillingly departed and you cut yourselves off to go your own way, led to the separate US culture (if, indeed, "culture" is the right word for it) which has (for example) allowed a criminal "justice" system of such barbarity to survive for so long. As another example, how come the doctrine of "sovereign immunity" protecting official misconduct survives? We dumped that concept with the Crown Proceedings Act 1947.

As a person who likes to think he has some knowledge of history and the law, I like to think that the germ which has produced the European Convention on Human Rights was implicit in our Bill of Rights and genius of the common law. You were left with both and the later US Bill of Rights lifted large portions of its text from ours and made improvements in other parts.

My question was directed to finding out what has stopped the process of progress towards a fairer and more just society? Is is the consequence of some inherent vice we left behind, or is it the consequence of something else?

After all, the Loyalists who went up to Canada don't seem to have suffered quite the same atrophy.
 

"what has stopped the process of progress towards a fairer and more just society"

When did this process stop?

In recent years, our Supreme Court (whose power of judicial review was adopted and cited with approval by other nations in recent years, including in Canada with its own twist on the system) declared unconstitutional the death penalty in various cases.

States now are beginning the process of truly protecting the rights of homosexuals, including the right to marry equally. The federal government just passed a hate crime law in part protecting the LGBT community. The barrier in respect to the military is clearly on its way out.

Our Congress, imperfectly to be sure, is reforming health care.

And so on. A lot of criticism is warranted, though some suggest the U.S. is freer in various respects than certain Western nations (e.g., in regard to the press or free exercise of religion as compared to UK and France respectively), and the progress might be too slow.

But it never stopped. The increase of voting rights in the 19th Century underlines how long this progress has continually been in place.

BTW, Happy Veteran's Day to Bart and all our vets.
 

Even though the Founding Fathers were British subjects, lawyers, etc, they were independent, becoming more so with the successful Revolution. Morton Horwitz's "The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860" demonstrates changes that took place. Horwitz followed with his sequel "The Transformation of American Law, 1870-1960: The Crisis of Legal Orthodoxy." America was not a tight little island as it expanded confined with the limitations, perhaps, present in England. There were growing pains. Note the gap between 1860-1870 in Horwitz's books, a troubling time. Horwitz also wrote on the Warren Court. I graduated from law school and passed the bar the same year that Brown v. Board of Education came down, the first of many major decisions by the then "new" Warren Court that built upon the work, usually dissents, of prior progressive Supreme Court Justices. The Warren Court delivered long delayed justice. What took so long? But then gradually the situation changed. Still, much of the progress with justice continued. Post Bush/Cheney, perhaps it's back on track. As I noted in an earlier comment, the US did it its way, some good, some bad.

Perhaps the question should be reversed to focus upon the direction the British Empire took post-Revolution to determine what lessons were learned from the rebelling of the American colonies with respect to its other colonies. Surely histories of these other colonies may reveal that the lessons learned were to lean harder on their peoples to keep them from revolting.

As for Canada, the case could be made that American influence over the long haul has been greater than that of the Brits; that the Brits provided more leeway to Canada than other colonies because of its proximity to the US and possible statehood.

But democracies should benefit from each other. Surely England, Canada and the US have learned and shared lessons over the years, and will continue to do so. As for human rights, yes, America can learn from the progress in Europe just as Europe may have learned from the US in the process of decolonization.

And we don't blame the Brits for planting an evil virus with the Founding Fathers. Besides, with the immigration that took place over the years here in America, many good genes were added to overcome any such virus.

But back to Afghanistan, will justice come to its peoples with the current occupation? The US and NATO nations know quite a bit about justice. But how can they pass this on without destroying Afghanistan?
 

I sympathize with Mourad's dismay over these facts:

the doctrine of "sovereign immunity" protecting official misconduct

and

the question whether sentencing any juvenile to life without parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is even worthy of debate?

In all fairness, I do not think we in the U.S. can lay the blame at the feet of the Brits. This is our own madness, not something we inherited.
 

Joe, Shag, CTS:-

Thank you for your comments. Upon reflection, I agree with much of what you say. Thinking back, I agree with Shag about the Warren Court. Many of its decisions were and still are cited with approval by our House of Lords (now retitled "Supreme Court") in landmark human rights cases.

Still the fact remains that something seems to have gone wrong, otherwise why would the USA still be struggling on basic matters such as (i) the death penalty; (ii) the rights of children; (iii) sentencing generally; (iv) GLBT issues; (v) the abuse of executive power, etc ? I would not agree with Joe that freedom of religion or the press are better protected in the USA than in the UK, although the balances are struck differently for example, we do not have have the same problems about state funding of confessional schools: Jewish, Christian or Muslim or other.

Thinking about it overnight, I think the problem the US has developed seems to have been the consequence of the deliberate attempt starting with the 1971 Powell Memorandum and the enthusiastic promotion of its idea of shifting America to the right by the various far right foundations coupled with the rise of the "originalist heresy" peddled by Bork and others in academia and now almost respectable given the number of devotees appointed to the bench since Reagan started the process. It remains to be seen what the Obama Administration can achieve by its appointments to the Federal bench.

I agree with Shag that common law jurisdictions in particular should learn from one another and in that context I look forward to the day when it will again be possible to cite new US Supreme Court decisions to the English Courts as persuasive precedent in favour of human rights.
 

Back to Afghanistan:

I was interested to see this BBC Report US envoy urges no troop increase also covered in the NYT U.S. Envoy Urges Caution on Forces for Afghanistan and also in this NYT piece In Leaning on Karzai, U.S. Has Limited Leverage

In previous posts on the previous threads, I pointed out the murky background to the choice of Karzai in the first place and in particular the dubious role of arch neocon Zalmay Khalilzad. This is one of the problems the Obama Administration has inherited and it is fundamental to the success of the Afghanistan mission.

There is no point in seeking to prop us a corrupt government - that too is a fundamental tenet of counter-insurgency and national building. Many think it was the fundamental problem in Vietnam.

I am very pleased to see that by all reports your President is taking his time about his decision. While our tame "chinless wonder" speaks of the President "dithering", doubtless echoing others of his persuasion, I am pleased to see a US President taking time to analyse and arrive at a sound decision rather than a fast one.

"Festina lente" remains a sound maxim.
 

More on Afghanistan:-

(i) an assessment of the time needed to train the Afghan Police here: Afghan police need three years of training

(ii) a criticism of the UN here: Peter Galbraith: The UN is losing credibility by keeping Karzai in power. Galbraith is, of course, the UN former deputy special representative in Afghanistan who was fired when his disagreements about the flawed election process became public knowledge.

(iii) an account of progress from a UK commander: Afghanistan: Our soldiers' sacrifice will be worth it

I am still of the view that progress is being made in the right direction and that the key issue remains what to do about the Karzai government.
 

"A picture is worth a thousand words." And a political cartoon can be worth even more. Take a look at Tom Toles' political cartoon in today's (11/12/09) WaPo. (Sorry, I'm not good at linking.) Tom depicts a mountainous area with AFGHANISTAN embossed over a large mountain. Uncle Sam is in a valley, holding a "plan," with a GI at his side, looking up at the mountains, and says: "Make it into a molehill." In a sort of footnote Uncle Sam adds: "without making them mad at us."

I think of Vietnam and the US's departure, following which there has been eventual recovery for the Vietnamese people. Afghans have suffered over a much longer period of time, with little rest between invasions, with more occupation to come. No pun intended, shouldn't the civilized world make efforts to comfort the Afghans?
 

Shag:-

Herewith the link Tom Toles Cartoon WP 12 Nov and I offer readers these two:-
Martin Rowson Cartoon - Guardian 7 Nov
Steve Bell Cartoon - Guardian 10 Nov

In relation to the latter, the Sun newspaper is, of course, the flagship gutter press tabloid of the Murdoch Empire's UK Branch.

Readers may also care to look at some of the many photographs of the UK's Remembrance Day Commemorations.

If the link works, I would invite some consideration of the symbolism of the ceremonies at the Cenotaph at which the Sovereign, her family - her Prime Minister and her Leader of the Opposition as well as all her former Prime Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff of her Armed Forces as well as representatives of all the Commonwealth countries join together with the parade of veterans which follows.

There is some advantage to having a head of state above politics on such occasions.
 

Mourad:

Thanks for the links to the cartoons. I noted the poppies in the Sun cartoon.

I well remember when Nov. 11th was America's Armistice Day. The change to Veterans Day in 1954 perhaps was in recognition that there had been a WW II that was bigger than the war to end all wars that had led to establishing Armistice Day.

I have been troubled with the status and veneration of veterans. I served as a draftee post Korea and pre Vietnam. Some years later, due to pressures brought to bear (not by me), the term "veteran" was extended to the likes of my peacetime service, including a very minor GI Bill that I took advantage of in getting an LLM. But I never considered myself a veteran in a sense to be honored by Veterans Day. My older brother was a WW II veteran with full GI Bill benefits even though his service began early in 1946. He declined over the years to emphasize his being a veteran.

Many veterans of wartime (declared and undeclared) were not in harms way in the sense of battlefields. Yet the designation of veteran does not make a distinction between those that were and those that were not. Yes, those that were not did make some sacrifices but not at the costs of those that were. Granted, those that were not included many who made valuable contributions.

But I find it difficult automatically recognizing a veteran without knowing how he served, how he sacrificed. I met many WW II veterans while in college and law school. For the most part they did not talk of their sacrifices. And this perhaps was true of most WW II veterans.

I don't mean to denigrate veterans, but there are veterans and there are veterans. One size does not fit all.
 

Shag:

The vast majority of the military does not serve in combat, but are nevertheless vital to any war effort and better yet avoiding war through through deterrence. As a combat grunt, I have no problem with Veterans Day recognizing all honorably discharged service members. I could not have done my work without them.
 

Shag:

In terms of casualties suffered by the British armed services, WW1 far outstripped WW2. Some 1.225 million for the British Empire in WW1 as opposed to the much smaller losses in WW2. That will not relate to the US situation because the USA stayed neutral in WW1 until 1917.
 

Take a look at juancole.com's 11/13/09 guest editorial by Deepak Tripathi:

"Tripathi: Afghanistan and Presidential Dilemmas"

that reflects upon the US Ambassador's recent comments to Pres. Obama on what not to do in Afghanistan.
 

TomDispatch.com/ 11/12/09 features "Wecome Home, War! How America's Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties" by Alfred W. McCoy that opens with this:

" In his approach to National Security Agency surveillance, as well as CIA renditions, drone assassinations, and military detention, President Obama has to a surprising extent embraced the expanded executive powers championed by his conservative predecessor, George W. Bush. This bipartisan affirmation of the imperial executive could 'reverberate for generations,' warns Jack Balkin, a specialist on First Amendment freedoms at Yale Law School. And consider these but some of the early fruits from the hybrid seeds that the Global War on Terror has planted on American soil. Yet surprisingly few Americans seem aware of the toll that this already endless war has taken on our civil liberties."

The article closes with this:

" By the time the Global War on Terror is declared over in 2020, if then, our American world may be unrecognizable -- or rather recognizable only as the stuff of dystopian science fiction. What we are proving today is that, however detached from the wars being fought in their name most Americans may seem, war itself never stays far from home for long. It's already returning in the form of new security technologies that could one day make a digital surveillance state a reality, changing fundamentally the character of American democracy."

In between there's a lot of scary stuff. Perhaps Jack Balkin may provide a follow up post on this subject that might be titled:

"War, What Is It Good For? Domestic Surveillance!"
 

McCoy does play the paranoid innuendo rather well. Lots of what ifs, but no evidence. Essentially, McCoy is arguing that we should not wage war because what our military does to foreign enemies, the military will inevitably do to us.

I was especially amused at the horror McCoy expressed when surveillance of Israeli spies ended up intercepting a call between Dem Intelligence Committee Chair Jane Harman and the spies where the spies promised to help Harman keep her intelligence committee assignment and Harman promised to intervene the Justice Department for reduced charges against two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of espionage. Is McCoy really suggesting that the US should not be doing this kind of surveillance?
 

Surely our Backpacker is not making claim that he is the real McCoy as he is "amused" by mischaracterizing as "horror" what Alfred W. McCoy said about Cong. Jane Harmon. Apparently with the cold weather our Backpacker doesn't have access to enough flies to pull the wings off to "amuse" himself back in Colorado. Perhaps the rest of the real McCoy's article that our Backpacker fails to challenge is not "amusing" as the truth often is not, especially after 8 years of supporting Bush/Cheney.

BTB*, the editorial "we" are awaiting the publication date for our Backpacker's work of fiction earlier announced at this Blog as being well in progress.

*By the Bybee (and Bolton is revoltin')
 

Dahlia Lithwick reports on Canadian Supreme Court action on Omar Khadr.

Seems the prime minister is looking the other way in respect to the protection of minors there too.
 

More here.
 

Shag:

I am touched by your enthusiasm for my book project. FWIW, I have completed the research, the outline and about a third of the text. I have shifted gears to drafting the query letter and book proposal. Time to do the heavy lifting of trying to pitch a conservative political book by a first time author.
 

Baghdad, definitely keep us posted. Watching you crash and burn has become one of my favorite pastimes.
 

Our ill/literate (oxymoronic?) Backpacker announces:

" FWIW, I have completed the research, the outline and about a third of the text."

Here we are, short of a year into Pres. Obama's term, and our Backpacker's research has been completed! By the time the remaining two-thirds of this work of friction [sick!] is completed and the book is published (and simultaneously reaches remainder bins), much will have happened that presumably would not be covered, which proves that this will indeed be a work of friction [sick! sicker! sickest!]. All this suggests a limited theme by a first time conservative author, perhaps along the lines of his post Bush/Cheney screed at this and his own blog. Query whether our Backpacker's "query letter and book proposal" will even draw flies, let alone a literary agent or publisher?

I am so enthused about this project that I'll be submitting proposed titles to our Backpacker from time to time. Here's my first:

"OBAMALYPSE NOW!"

And I'll offer my blurb:

SHAG FROM BROOKLINE SAYS:

"Yes, from our Backpacker's lips to .... IS ANYONE OUT THERE?"
 

Before this thread completes its descent below the horizon, I would like to put in another word on the Afghanistan decisions still confronting your President.

A reference point is a confidential but unclassified document which has been posted on the Politico web site US Government Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan for Support to Afghanistan which it appears was produced in Kabul on 10th August 2009 and it therefore must have been approved both by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and by General McChrystal.

If one reads this document, one sees just how much depends on effective collaboration with the civil power we are supposed to be assisting and that puts the caution sounded by Ambassador Eikenberry into context. There is not much point in pouring in more troops and aid, if the corrupt central government and its representatives will nullify that effort.

Ambassador Eikenberry's viewpoint gets support from a perhaps unlikely source - see this Patrick Cockburn article in the Independent Patrick Cockburn: The general is right. Liam Fox is wrong in which he argues:-

" (i) Mr Eikenberry knows what he is talking about because he has long experience of Afghanistan...a retired three-star general, he was responsible for training the Afghan security forces from 2002 to 2003 and was top US commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007....(ii) There is a dangerous misunderstanding outside Afghanistan about what "corruption and mismanagement" mean in an Afghan context and a potentially lethal underestimation of how these impact on American and British forces.... (iii)Mr Fox claims the US and Britain will not be in Afghanistan in defence of the Afghan government, but if we are not doing that, then we become an occupation force. A growing belief that this is already the case is enabling Taliban fighters, who used to be unpopular even among the Pashtun, to present themselves as battling for Afghan independence....(iv) Mr Eikenberry is rightly sceptical about the dispatch of reinforcements to prop up a regime which is more of a racket than an administration. The troops may kill more Taliban, but they will also be their recruiting sergeants. As for the Afghan government, its ill-paid forces will not be eager to fight harder if they can get the Americans and the British to do their fighting for them."

The Guardian reports UK pressing Karzai to negotiate with Taliban, says leaked memo As the report mentions, Gordon Brown is now speaking of efforts to obtain commitments of a further 5,000 troops for the NATO/ISAF contribution. On the former issue, I believe that there is an ongoing effort to divide and reconcile sections of the Taliban - I'm not sure that overtures to the irreconcilables are part of that, but the corrupt Karzai regime is certainly perceived as an obstacle at local level. As to the size of potential contributions to the NATO/ISAF effort, I have no idea why Brown thinks he will get another 4,500 troops over and above the offered UK additional contribution of 500. But this does suggest that both the USA and the UK have the begging bowl out.

I suspect that the Obama Administration deliberations are quite deliberately being dragged out to put pressure on a Kabul régime hand crafted by the Bush Administration and part of the poisoned challenge left to Obama - a régime now seen as inimical to ultimate success.

I wonder if there is "faux outrage" about the leak of the Eikenberry memo and whether it may have really been part of a US-UK effort to pressure Karzai into accepting reforms that he does not want to implement.
 

Today's (11/14/09) WaPo presents its Sun., 11/15/09 cornholing columnists duo of Jackson Diehl ("Obama's reluctant choice") and David Broder ("Enough Afghan debate"), while at the same time continuing its quest for "America's Next Great Pundit?," on Obama's dithering. I guess it's okay for the WaPo to dither on its search for "America's Next Great Pundit?" but first the WaPo might inform us as to whom it considers in its current stable to be Great Pundits. Surely the WaPo can find a pony some place in there.
 

Mourad's illuminating comment reminds me more and more that Karzai is reworking his variation on "The Mouse That Roared" theme. To repeat a past comment, "Never trust a man who wears a cape - or a backpack." Karzai is gaming the US and the UK. I doubt that Obama and Brown can "pressure Karzai into accepting reforms that he does not want to implement."
 

Shag:

My research on past events is completed. Obviously, future events applying to the subject will be added as they occur. These would include setting policy and salaries at the quasi nationalized TARP banks, any further policy changes at government motors, the progress of the green blue alliance program of instituting cap & tax to pay for government created "green jobs," and the attempted Obamacare government takeover of the health insurance industry. However, I am certainly not waiting for Obama to be kicked out of office in 2012 before completing the research and the book. A book reporting on the socialism which will get him kicked out would tend to sell better before the election.
 

Mourad said...

Ambassador Eikenberry's viewpoint gets support from a perhaps unlikely source - see this Patrick Cockburn article in the Independent Patrick Cockburn: The general is right. Liam Fox is wrong in which he argues:-

" (i) Mr Eikenberry knows what he is talking about because he has long experience of Afghanistan...a retired three-star general, he was responsible for training the Afghan security forces from 2002 to 2003 and was top US commander in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007....


Let's stop right there.

If we are supposedly losing the Afghanistan War because the previous military strategy and execution was inadequate, why precisely should anyone assume that the previous commander and now ambassador in any way "knows what he is talking about?" This is similar to deferring to Gen. George Casey on Iraq strategy after Gen. Petreaus was sent in to fix the mess Casey left.
 

Our ill/literate (oxymoronic?) Backpacker's goal is to prevent Pres. Obama from being reelected in 2012. I wonder how many neocons have the same idea? Deforestation may result, worsening global warming.

I'm pleased our Backpacker has pointed out that:

"My research on past events is completed."

For a while, I thought our Backpacker had the power to research future events - or just make it up as he does on this Blog.

Our Backpacker's minoring in economics is reflected with:

"A book reporting on the socialism which will get him kicked out would tend to sell better before the election."

a recognition of markets and marketing. But with the anticipated forest of conservative screeds, few will see our Backpacker's.

BTB*, DUI defendants in Colorado will be driven to drink with our Backpacker's unavailability while writing his work of friction [sick!] on 8" x 14" canary legal pads.

*By the Bybee
 

Bart De Palma wrote:-

"If we are supposedly losing the Afghanistan War because the previous military strategy and execution was inadequate, why precisely should anyone assume that the previous commander and now ambassador in any way "knows what he is talking about?..."

The reasons why are as follows:-

1. Because since General Eikenberry graduated from West Point in 1973, he subsequently received his MA in East Asian Studies from Harvard, been a National Security Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and obtained his MA in political science from Stanford. He also studied at the UK MOD Chinese Language School, and has an advanced degree in Chinese History from Nanjing University;

2. Because Ambassador Eikenberry served in Afghanistan in 2002-2003 firstly as the US Security Coordinator for Afghanistan and secondly as the Chief of the Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan (OMC-A). As the Security Coordinator he worked closely with UNSG Special Representative, the Algerian diplomat, Lakhdar Brahimi, to forge a unified international effort to rebuild the Afghan National Army, the Afghan Police, Counter-Narcotics, Judicial Reform and Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of the militias. In his role as Chief of the OMC-A he was the chief architect of the strategy that built and fielded the first Afghan Army Corps. During his second tour he was Commander of the Combined Forces Command for 18 months, leaving in 2007 to become the Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

With that background, I suggest that Ambassador Eikenberry is to be presumed to know what he is talking about when he is fulfilling a primary duty as Ambassador which is to report and advise the Administration of the day on the situation in country.

It is worth looking at a video of a presentation General Eikenberry gave at Harvard in March 2007 on the then situation in Afghanistan Afghanistan - A Campaign Assessment which, it is worth noting, began with an exposition of the geographic, topographical and other challenges facing the forces the US and NATO had deployed in Afghanistan - at that time rightly described as "the war the public had forgotten".

Our "chinless wonder" Bart might care to reflect on the proposition is that if there is a reason why the execution of US and NATO objectives in Afghanistan has fallen short of expectations, which is undoubtedly the case, that reason might best be found in the undoubted fact that the Bush Administration "took its eye off the ball" in favour of the ill-starred and unnecessary Enterprise of Iraq™.
 

Our Backpacker's res gestae questioning and challenging such as in the case of Ambassador (formerly General) Eikenberry's credentials is comparable to the utterance of the cat whose tail is stepped upon. Mourad's detailed response to our Backpacker in this regard suggests that Mourad has indeed - once again - set a trap for our Backpacker who cannot resist the cheese. With just a modicum of thought, our Backpacker should have been aware that then Gen. Eikeberry was not responsible for the Bush/Cheney administration's policy shifts from Afghanistan to Iraq.

BTB*, our Backpacker's ill/literate timing for publication may be based upon the Mayan calendar. Perhaps he might consider this as the title for his work of friction [sick!]:

"GOING REGGAE ON OBAMA: WE'RE DOOMED!"

The book jacket could feature our Backpacker's portrait accompanying his comments at this Blog with a Mayan temple/pyramid in the background. Who knows, if there if life beyond 2012, our Backpacker could be cast Harrison Ford-like as "Colorado Jones," hero of the neocons.

*By the Bybee (watch the NY trials)
 

More on topic news.

I note that your Secretary of State has just made some remarks going further than the Administration has previously gone on the corruption issue on This Week:-

"I have made it clear that we're not going to be providing any civilian aid to Afghanistan unless we have a certification that if it goes into the Afghan government in any form, that we're
going to have ministries that we can hold accountable. We are expecting there to be a major crimes tribunal, an anti-corruption commission established and functioning because there does have to be actions by the government of Afghanistan against those who have taken advantage of the money that has poured into Afghanistan in the last eight years so that we can better track it and we can have actions taken that demonstrate there's no impunity for those who are corrupt.

So we're going to be doing what we can to create an atmosphere in which the blood and treasure that the United States has committed to Afghanistan can be justified and can produce the kind of results that we're looking for.

But we have no illusions. This is not the prior days when people would come on your show and talk about how we were going to help the Afghans build a modern democracy and build a more functioning state and do all these wonderful things. That could happen but our primary focus is on the security of the United States of America. How do we protect and defend against future attacks. We do not want to see Afghanistan return to being a safe haven and a staging platform for terrorism as it was before. That is what is driving the President to make the best decision he can make."
- The Page - Clinton This Week Transcript

Obviously, those are remarks for US consumption, hence the down-playing of "nation-building", although in fact the security issues cannot be addressed without also addressing those issues. But the anti-corruption message of the Ambassador has plainly got though to the Administration - and that's a welcome change from the previous Administration.
 

In addition to this from Mourad:

" But the anti-corruption message of the Ambassador has plainly got though to the Administration - and that's a welcome change from the previous Administration."

the point has been made by others that Gen. McChrystal's ball is limited to Afghanistan, whereas the really real problems in this portion of the Greater Middle East are in Pakistan.
 

Mourad:

Bart De Palma wrote:- "If we are supposedly losing the Afghanistan War because the previous military strategy and execution was inadequate, why precisely should anyone assume that the previous commander and now ambassador in any way "knows what he is talking about?..."

Regurgitating Gen. Eikenberry's resume is a red herring that in no way answers the question I posed. The fact that an academically and bureaucratically credentialed general failed where it counts - on the battlefield - simply shows what a farce is reliance on credentialing.

Obviously, those are remarks for US consumption, hence the down-playing of "nation-building", although in fact the security issues cannot be addressed without also addressing those issues. But the anti-corruption message of the Ambassador has plainly got though to the Administration - and that's a welcome change from the previous Administration.

:::chuckle:::

Do you believe every bit of spin you are fed?

Neither the Obama Administration nor the NATO government give a fig about meaningless certifications of anti-corruption efforts. These are the same people who fired Peter Galbraith, the deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, for making too much of a stink over corruption during the election certification process.

The Obama Administration has adopted this spin as a justification for not making a decision on reinforcements to Afghanistan so it can keep the Dem left base united for the Obamacare and Cap & Tax pushes.

As discussed on NPR as I drove in to the office this morning, the EU governments are similarly using corruption as a justification to delay sending money and deny requests to send troops to Afghanistan.

It is all a rather transparent dodge.
 

Barnum & Bailey's The Greatest Show on Earth should feature our "Chuckles, the Backpacker."

Here's his close:

"It is all a rather transparent dodge."

Bush/Cheney from 1/20/01 - 1/20/09 was not very transparent.

BTB*, Sixty Minutes yesterday "absolved" Bush/Cheney regarding its WMD claim - Saddam dried up the marshes!

*By the Bybee (gavel thyself)
 

It's odd that Baghdad Bart would prefer to pretend that Cheney/Bush never existed.
 

Bart De Palma wrote:-

"Neither the Obama Administration nor the NATO government give a fig about meaningless certifications of anti-corruption efforts."

What Bart writes may be literally (if inadvertently) true: I am quite sure that neither the Obama Administration nor the government(s) of the other member countries of NATO do give a fig about "meaningless certifications" of anything. I am sure they are more interested in the reality of progress rather than pieces of paper.

If, however, what Bart wanted to say (were he literate enough to do so) what that the Obama Administration and the other governments of the member countries of NATO are unconcerned about corruption in the Afghan state, then I have these observations:-

1. I have no reason to doubt that the USA (at least under its present Administration) and its NATO allies are very interested in reducing the level of corruption in Afghanistan.

They are paying the price of corruption in terms of the illegal flow of narcotics into their own countries with all the consequences that entails.

They are also paying the price of corruption in terms of the continuing loss of life of their military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan. None of them really wish to be in Afghanistan for longer than necessary or at greater expense of blood and treasure than necessary.

2. I do not think that any of the countries concerned has not in the past encountered egregious examples of (a) the corruption of public officials in their own countries for personal or corporate gain ("Type A") and (b) cases where their governments have been willing to use corrupt means to bring about a particular foreign policy objective ("Type B"), but I doubt that any country within the EU has seen Type B corruption rise to quite the art form it achieved under Reagan and Bush 2.

Bart should not judge the politicians and executives of other states by the amoral behaviour of his own anti-heroes.

I do not think there is yet any basis for saying that the Obama Administration is quite as amoral as the Bush 2 Administration, if anything the evidence thus far indicates the contrary.
 

Mourad said...

1. I have no reason to doubt that the USA (at least under its present Administration) and its NATO allies are very interested in reducing the level of corruption in Afghanistan.

They are paying the price of corruption in terms of the illegal flow of narcotics into their own countries with all the consequences that entails.


The Afghanis deal in drugs for the same reason dozens of other countries including the US do - there is money in the trade. This is a demand problem and has nothing to do with corruption in the Afghan government.

They are also paying the price of corruption in terms of the continuing loss of life of their military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan. None of them really wish to be in Afghanistan for longer than necessary or at greater expense of blood and treasure than necessary.

This assumes that official corruption is the prerequisite for the Taliban war on Afghanistan and the Taliban would suddenly disappear if Afghan police and government bureaucrats no longer took bribes. There is no evidence at all for this proposition. Bribery is a centuries long tradition in Afghanistan and hardly began with the arrival of democracy.

The key to any counter insurgency strategy is to provide security to the people from insurgent terror so that the insurgents can no longer coerce popular support. However, Obama and the NATO governments seem content to allow their troops to die for lack of reinforcements to accomplish this key to the counter insurgency effort. Pardon me if I find their concern for the grunts to be less than genuine.
 

Our Backpacker continues to kick the can of Afghan corruption down the road as inconsequential to Gen. McChrystal's ball.

Perhaps a check of TomDispatch.com's 11/17/09 post of Pratap Chatterjee's "Paying Off the Warlords - Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption" will not provide comfort to the grunts in Afghanistan whose numbers our Backpacker wants to increase NOT to settle matters in the Greater Middle East but to improve 2010 elections for the GOP to vindicate the failures of Bush/Cheney 1/20/01 - 1/20/09.
 

Perhaps it is time for our Backpacker to come up with a new illustration for his comments. In lieu of his backpack, perhaps he might emulate Charlie Brown's Linus with a blanket by substituting an afghan to comfort his belief in Gen. McChrystal's ball. But our Backpacker should beware of Snoopy et al ready to bust him.
 

Today's Boston Globe (11/19/09) has a lengthy editorial "The best of bad options: more troops, but not 40,000" that suggests a middle course in Afghanistan.
 

General McChrystal provided the President a plan setting forth what troops were needed, where they would be deployed and what they would accomplish.

Does the Boston Globe explain what areas of Afghanistan would be ceded to the Taliban by reducing the requested troops and why that would be a good thing?

Of course not. Cutting the baby in two is not a military decision based upon what is needed to win the war, but rather a political compromise attempting to placate those who wish to call it a day and lose the war.
 

I wonder if Gen. McChrystal's ball foresaw the manner in which Karzai would be reelected and of Karzai's forecast at his inauguration today that in five (5) years (coincidentally when his new term ends) Afghan's troops/police will have command of the situation in that nation. I also wonder if Gen. McChrystal's ball foresaw that Afghanistan is now the runner-up for the title of the world's most corrupt nation. Maybe Gen. McChrystal ball needs batteries - or grow a pair to recognize reality.

BTB*, Newsweek issue of 11/19/09 has this article by Michael Isikoff: "Torture Memo Author Sets Up Defense Fund to Fight Possible Impeachment." Surely our Backpacker already has his check in the mail.

*By the Bybee
 

Check out TomDispatch.com for Tom Engelhardt's "The Afghan Speech Obama Should Give (But Won't)." The military-industrial complex apparently will prevail. Meantime, China, Russia, India and other Asian nations (who should be addressing the Af/Pak problems) sit back and work on their economies, waiting for the demise of the American Empire.
 

Rajiv Chandrasekaran's article "A softer approach to Karzai - New warmth from U.S. is acknowledgment that Afghan leader is needed as partner" in today's WaPo (11/20/09) may be suggesting the direction that Pres. Obama will take in Afghanistan. But Karzai is not in the class of America's caped super-heroes.
 

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