Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Between I-Wreck & Afghanistan: Not Surging; Only Splurging

When I am lying at bed in the early morning hours 5:05, listening to the BBC, my mind is crystal clear. Something happens to me between than and now after hours of coffee, dawg attending to, wife interaction and work. So, by now, I don't know where to start unless it's where I broke off.

Maybe let's try a different approach.

By now it should be McChrystal clear that Iraq should not work as an example of what to do in Afghanistan. The splurge of resources (it's been called 'surge') did not settle anything.

Just look at this morning's news: More than 127 Iraqis are killed by five explosions orchestrated in Baghdad. As soon as we begin to draw forces down, the uncivil warriors which Bush's wanton invasion loosed, are loose again. Nothing lasting has been gained through General Petreaus' venture. The resumption of internecine ethnic cleansing between the Kurds, Shia, and Sunnite militia waits for further American redeployment.

In Afghanistan, where empires go to die, splurging or surging will not work any better. In this latter war of choice, we are dealing with a medieval, non-state. It's a irregular chess board of inpentratable valleys and hard rock mountains, the way Matt Hoh describes it. There never has been a central government in Afghanistan. It's an oxymoron to speak of rebuilding state infrastructures; there are no foundations there.

McChrystal's idea is to train an Afghan National Army (ANA). Such an entity exists only in acronyms. There's no need to train Afghans how to bear arms. Afghans don't need no 2nd amendment. They know shooting and bombing. If you really want a nation-state in Afghanistan, and you should have given that some thought before now, there's no secret about who can muster enough blood and iron to weld something new and different out of Chaosistan. That would be some conglomeration of the war lords and the Taliban who aren't as logistically challenged as is NATO. And please, let's not forget that that acronym stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


This whole thing started as a mandated retaliation for the 9/11 attacks and pursuit of the brains behind it. We all remember now how and why George Bush diverted our posse away from getting this outlaw, Osama bin Laden, 'dead or alive' as he promised. Our lingering presence in Afghanistan morphed, through inattention as much as through anything else, into an indefinite occupation. Now there is an insurrection. Who can be surprised by that?

What is surprising is that the man I supported as a presidential candidate, the author whose books I read, can't deliver on his promise to enact change we can believe in. It's fully expected that successful candidates campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Once in the White House, the American People expect of their president a full reassessment of all things foreign and domestic. Now, I understand that his agenda is overloaded with domestic items as well as global problems. If he hasn't been able to personally re-think it all from top to bottom - that's understandable. That's what his aids and advisors are supposed to do for him.

But what he has apparently done is entrust Afghanistan and Iraqistan to the same people to whom Bush ended up entrusting his bloddy messes: the uniforms and suits in the Pentagon. And to service their enduring agendas, these latter agenda-setters have led my putative Agent-of-Change around by the short hairs.
This whole thing about 2012 is an example. Obama says one thing and the guys and girls in his own administration say another. We hear:

"2011 is not a cliff, it's a ramp."
"To be determined down the road"
"The beginning, not the end, of Afghan withdrawal"
"Troops there ... are not leaving in July of 2011."
"Some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time."
"Don't consider this an exit strategy."
"2011 is not a cliff, it's a ramp."
"We're going to be in the region for a long time."
"We're not going to be walking away from Afghanistan again."
"We're not talking about an abrupt withdrawal, we're talking about that something that will take place over a period of time."
"There could be tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for several years."
We old-timers know this kind of formula leads no where but to endless war & occupation.

The answer is certainly not to shut up and get out of the way. The answer is to stand up and speak up. It should be taught in chapter one of the Presidential Handbook: no foreign military adventures to faraway lands without first ensuring the confidence and support of the American people. Obama doesn't have it and I don't think even he can get it from his bully pulpit.

The 4th branch of government, the mainstream media, is doing its best not to check or balance. As it did with Bush, the MSM is trying to make do by satisfying its increasingly questioning and skeptical audience with stenographers instead of journalists. This isn't going to cut it; it's too late in the game for this generation of Americans. Arianna Huffington reminds us,

Actually, over the past eight years it's been much easier to cheerlead than to criticize. It's hard to look back at those years and their two wars and conclude that the problem is that we've had too much criticism. Shouldn't decisions that require enormous costs -- in blood as well as resources -- be met with ferocious questioning by the media? Articles sent to academic journals get more rigorous vetting these days than do decisions to escalate wars.

....Sadly ... Obama isn't distancing himself from "the Left" with his decision to escalate this deepening disaster. He's distancing himself from the national interests of the country.
It will not do to support the so-called mission as a way to support the troops. Whatever this mission is, it is not in the interests of the American people.


  1. Vigil,
    It seems to me that our presidents trust policy to the experts.Maybe they feel that in the long run if policy fails they can point to the experts and in that manner deflect some of the criticism ?

    Bush listened to Cheney and Rumsfeld,although Cheney's expertise was analogous to Zsa Zsa Gabors celebrity-no achievements led to the individual fame or expertise but rather it just seems to have showed up unannounced one afternoon and never left.

    Obama listens to Geithner and Summers,I guess his military advisers are at a similar level of mediocrity.

    It's as if Don Zimmer (assuming he's gotta be dead?) resurrected himself as the entire US government.

  2. Careful, Oso. Word has it that Zimmer still walks among us.

  3. in the future mankind - if it has any future - will know this time as the age of absurdity. i doubt many people now appreciate just how amazingly absurd it is. sometimes i actually can appreciate that accomplishment. as when yesterday i heard an npr interviewer discussing the proposed afghan plan as an attempt to copy the success story of iraq.

    keep well my friends. you are part of an endangered species.

  4. I've lost hope that President Obama will do the right thing in Afghanistan. Russia went there to die, and so will we if we (and Canada) commit to this war long term.

    They should have Special Ops take care of Bin Laden and bring everyone else home.

  5. VIG; Well said. The only honest way to support the troops is to bring them home NOW. The B.S. of this imaginary exit plan is just that, B.S. The Pentagon, and Hillary have basically said it is an open-ended occupation. The Generals, the MIC, and the shadows behind the curtains are running this war. NOT OBAMA. They always have and they always will. The American people are too naive, and brainwashed to see the truth.

  6. Seems to me that Big O has made it more complicated than it has to be. No need to splurge and then retreat over the next 2 years. Why not announce that the U.S. and NATO are leaving without the splurge? But then, I'm not a military thinker.

  7. @stimson; they are not going any where. Now that the boot print is in place, and they know they have the american sheep to back them up. they are not going any where. on the contrary, be prepared for another surge.

  8. You're probably right, RZ. *sigh*

  9. The "surge" accomplished absolutely nothing. The violence in Baghdad (and believe me, the violence in those places the MSM never mentions went right on) was tamped down by (1.) paying off the local warlords, and (2.) erecting a whole bunch of little Berlin Walls throughout the city. The walls have come down now, and-guess what?

  10. JR,
    Thanks for connecting the "walls came down" dot to the rest of the puzzle,I wasn't aware of that. Moqtada's still keeping a low profile too-that can't last forever either.

  11. The last I heard was that Al Sadr was studying to become an Ayatollah. Then he will be able to declare Fatwa's. We have not heard the last of Al Sadr.

  12. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's proposal calls for a counterinsurgency war (COIN) modeled on the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, developed by Gen. David H. Petraeus with strong input from Gen. McChrystal.

    Pursuant to that standard, to fully man a COIN strategy we would need 20 to 25 troops per 1,000 residents in Afghanistan. That would require 600,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops and police.

    According to CNN, at the height of the Iraq surge, there were 29 troops for each 1,000 residents. Currently, there are about 260,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops on the ground, about 11 troops per 1,000 residents. With additional 30,000 U.S. and 5,000 NATO troops, that would bring the force density rate up to 12.5 troops for every 1,000 residents -- barely half that needed to reasonably hope for success. Moreover, the history of COINs -- from Philippines, Algeria and Malaya to Vietnam - is that they will take many years to succeed -- if then. The Philippines took 50 years.

  13. RZ,
    I'd read he was studying,the Fatwa part hadn't clicked till now. Gonna make him formidable,he already was due to his family connections,lotta credibility.
    That Ayatollah part is like what Freddy Roach did in training Manny Pacquiao,make a really good fighter a great fighter.

  14. OSO; When I think of Al Sadr, i think Nasrallah. Both have built their own infrastructure, as in hospitals, food banks, and shelter. Not only does he have the family connection, he also has the Iranian connection. Iraq is far from over. It is still a civil war of Sunni vs Shia. Now we have to throw in the Kurds. In a way it is a Saudi-Iranian proxy war. We have been sleeping with the devil, Saudi Arabia. The house of Bush house of Saud was erected long ago for a reason.

  15. RZ,
    Right on all counts,at least to my knowledge.Nasrallah's probably the most credible figure in the Muslim street.
    I don't know if Nasrallah has any religious authority? Put an Ayatollah hat on Al Sadr and yeah,you got a guy who can transcend the Sunni-Shia divide.
    You're right about far from over.I think Maliki's just a Karzai who has slightly better demographics and who is allowed a little longer leash by the US.

  16. Support the troops...Support the mission.