Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fog of War Redux – Afghanistan

You know military things are desperate in Afghanistan when the Obama Administration turns to Stanley Karnow for advice on how to win the war there, based on his knowledge of the US failures in the Vietnam War.

Karnow, an 83-old who won the Pulitzer prize for his books and reporting on the Vietnam War, is categorically against the US war in Afghanistan as he was against the one in Vietnam a half a century ago. What is important is that historical mistakes are learned and not repeated; the progress of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has indicated that so far the US has, in the main, intentionally and consciously ignored its Vietnam experience both strategically and tactically.

When the GW Bush administration was criticized on the invasion of Iraq as another unwinable Vietnam War, snake oil neocon salesmen fanned out in the mainstream media to tell us it was not so by accenting differences and ignoring similarities between the two wars.

So it is more than passingly curious that General McCrystal, commander of forces in Afghanistan, and Ambassador Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan/Pakistan theater of operations should turn at this moment in history to Karnow. We should be thankful, I guess, that they did not seek out Hopeless Henry (Kissinger).

If there is a source in which to find lessons learned, historical analogy, e.g.: the foolishness of US engaging strategically in wars of national liberation, it is former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's documentary film, THE FOG OF WAR. It was produced in 2005 and was a sincere effort by him to admit openly his mistakes in an official record. He outlines his false assumptions and lists his bad decisions – it is a remarkable statement made by a man at the end of his life with nothing to gain but an attempt to salvage his integrity. He, after all, was a major contributor to the deaths of nearly 60,000 American servicemen and many more Vietnamese.

To paraphrase a summary of his views, in the film The Fog of War, Robert McNamara said something along these lines: If you are in a country to save people who don't really want you there...well maybe you shouldn't be there in the first place. These hostile conditions prevail in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as they did in the Republic of Vietnam.

All these American neo-colonial wars of national liberation have a political component of national elections. The problem in each situation becomes the local peoples' choice who never quite fulfills the US expectations for rule of the dominion during US occupation.

You found this in the Republic of Vietnam; now, in Iraq, and most certainly in Afghanistan with Karzai, it is the same. National elections are scheduled for 20 August. Of the three candidates, Karzai is a corrupt failure; another candidate represents the Northern Alliance opposed by most Afghans and by Pakistan; and another has Bill Clinton's old campaign manager James Carville as his campaign advisor. None of these people, if elected, provide a stable hub for US occupation or victory. It is as if the US becomes more inept with each war and occupation.

Its not just the flawed military political aspect of the occupations that are repeated unsuccessfully, it is the stale, failed tactics that produce defeat. Since Vietnam, innovations with drones and Hellfire missiles, civilian contract labor for security and logistic support, it seems to appear different. Both drones and contractors have a record of killing indiscriminately which undermines US missions in insurgent wars. McCrystal has tried to limit air strikes, but wants contractors to secure his bases and logistics... Happy days Are Here Again For Black Water and Halliburton.

General McCrystal was assigned to Afghanistan because he was expected to be innovative with special operations. His first big operation was a SEARCH, DESTROY, HOLD USMC strike in the South of the country with over 4000 troops. The US and NATO have sustained the highest casualties since the war started with his vintage, old school operations.

The General is already asking for more troops and some in congress are eager to provide them. The General now claims the Taliban has gained the upper hand in the theater. The Taliban is also taunting the command over a captured US soldier that makes the US MSM go berserk.

The Administration sent Susan Rice, our UN Rep. and General Jones, NSC Director to reassure the country, regarding Afghanistan, with their appearances on Sunday talk shows. General Jones said he is open to more troop requests and if the current strategy in Afghanistan is not working, it would be changed within a year.

Hillary also made an inconsequential appearance in a week-old canned interview from Nairobi. She was upstaged by Bill's rescue of those two captured Calamity Janes from North Korea. She did give a shout from the Congo that Bill is not Secretary of State. She better be careful there because tsetse flies are as dangerous as Bosnia snipers... sometimes it is better to stay home and bake cookies.

Currently our war in Afghanistan/Pakistan is a basket case. This fall there is another 100 billion due to fight both wars. This is on top of an expensive health care bill... What is it going to be President Obama? Guns or Butter? Even Gaius Julius Caesar had to make such a choice. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret


Anonymous WLindsayWheeler said...

Wasn't the Vietnam war won at the Tet Offensive? Was not Cronkite's bad judgement and press power and the Leftist academia in America that caused us to lose that war?

Was it not the Democratic Congress that voted NOT to give arms to our allies? That we left our allies on the field of battle?

You're not a religious man Col., but don't you remember the Hanoi airlift of Catholic Vietnamese from Hanoi? That the first thing that the Viet Cong did was kill the priests and the nuns when they captured a village?

We were stabbed in the back by the Academia, by our fellow countrymen and then we left our allies without ammo, without support. Vietnam was not a lost cause until Lenin's fifth column in America chimed in. It's hard to win a war, when homegrown commies commit treason. The Vietnam war was lost due to Treason in Academia and Treason in the college students and Treason in the Democratic Congress. That is what made us lose that war.

Blogger Bob said...

"We should be thankful, I guess, that they did not seek out Hopeless Henry (Kissinger)."

Well, my take on the fact they haven't called in Kissinger is because Afghanistan is not the threat to Israel Iraq was... Or Iran is.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, my take on the fact they haven't called in Kissinger is because Afghanistan is not the threat to Israel Iraq was... Or Iran is."

I'm guessing that the reason we are still in Afghanistan is because for some inscrutable reason or another the Israelis want us there. Both administrations were wholly owned subsidiaries of Israel, Inc.


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