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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’s Wars’

In the wake of Desert Storm, the Pentagon became convinced that that kind of warfare would soon be an anachronism: no one would be foolish enough to challenge the United States head-to-head in pure military combat.  Conflict in the future would be diffuse.  It would take place in cities as often as on battlefields, be fueled by ideas as much as by weapons, and engage cultures and economies as much as armies.  As one JFCOM analyst puts it: “The next war is not just going to be military on military.  The deciding factor is not going to be how many tanks you kill, how many ships you sink, and how many planes you shoot down.  The decisive factor is how you take apart your adversary’s system.  Instead of going after war-fighting capability, we have to go after war-making capability.  The military is connected to the economic system, which is connected to their cultural system, to their personal relationships.  We have to understand the links between all those systems.”
 [And later…]
Van Riper didn’t believe you could lift the fog of war.  His library on the second floor of his house in Virginia is lined with rows upon rows of works on complexity theory and military strategy.  From his own experience in Vietnam and his reading of the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Van Riper became convinced that war was inherently unpredictable and messy and non-linear.
    —      Malcom Gladwell
From his book: “Blink“, describing modern warfare and Paul Van Riper
[You cannot predict the course of a war based on economics or superior firepower.  Rober McNamarra couldn’t do it for President Johnson and a much lesser man (Donald Rumsfeld) couldn’t do it for “W”.
Ultimately, this is why America’s policy pre-emptive attacks and over-throwing (“replacing”) governments in most parts of the world (particularly Muslim countries) and trying to do nation-building “in our own image” will NEVER work.
When (if) you fight an enemy who is willing to fight on your terms, you may defeat them if you are a superior force.  If you are not superior, it can go either way – even when you are fighting on your terms.  If you are unable to fight on your terms, you must be vastly superior to ensure even modest victory.
If you ultimately are intending to form a new government, the populace must be one which historically is willing to bend to the will of their own government / “superiors” (either through cultural tradition, divine right or extreme force, Germany and Japan after WWII, for example) and not tribal and culturally / economically independent (like Iraq and Afghanistan, for example).
Saddam was in power over twenty years and slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people and still many tribes resisted his rule.  Why would any but the most naïve amongst us believe ALL of his people would welcome us with flowers and kisses, instead of treat us as an invading power – which we were.  The same is true with Afghanistan.  They were not so much governed by the Taliban as loosely confederated under a set of religious beliefs.
Think about this: the United States is spending about $1 BILLION dollars EACH day to keep our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have over 120,000 of the best trained and equipped soldiers in the world in Afghanistan to fight what is probably an Al Qaeda force of not more than 500 in an area the size of Texas.
That we have killed Bin Laden only means he will not live to see his ultimate economic and cultural victory over us.  Not a military victory, which was never possible, but a victory over us as a world economic super-power because he was able to kick our political system into hyper-militarism – individually spending more as a single country than all of the other countries in the world.  This is the warning President Eisenhower gave us in his famous “military-industrial complex” speech.
To defeat western-civilization (quasi-benign capitalism) at it’s core, Bin Laden only had to accelerate “corporate” capitalism.  With the help of a willing Republican “neo-conservative” government in the White House, controlling both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, who were all willing to wage a war off budget (read that as “with no public debate over the actual costs or the real lost opportunity costs“) and without raising taxes to pay for the war, the Bush Administration virtually guaranteed an eventual collapse of the American economy.   The miracle is that we have not already had a complete collapse.  We narrowly avoided complete economic collapse in Nov ’08 to Mar ’09.
Bin Laden truly learned the primary lesson of Afghanistan in defeating the Russians:  you need not defeat a superior force in battle; you can bleed the home country to death by fighting their force with fewer (120,000 to 500) and less expensive (does anyone believe it costs a million dollars a year to keep a single Al Qaeda foot-soldier in battle?) ground forces.  (Before anyone starts thinking this was an incredibly brilliant discovery by Bin Laden, please recall this is EXACTLY the same tactic used by General George Washington against the British monarchy in the American Revolutionary War.)
To see if I have any idea what I’m talking about, please refer to my two earlier posts:  “Obama’s Wars” and “View From Under The Bus“.
Please Mr. President – Give Peace A Chance!!!  Get out of these pointless, hopeless and impossible to win wars now!!!  Not in 2012, 2014 or 20-whatever…  NOW!!!  (Yes, I know it will take six months to draw down if we begin withdrawing tomorrow…  So start tomorrow!!!)
It is still NOT too late to save America and Western Civilization…
Signed,
A Democrat (Still Under The Bus)
    —    KMAB]
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Short version: Read the book.  It’s interesting and well written.  I believe Woodward will end up being considered one of the great historical journalist / authors of the last 40 years (and probably then next 10 or so, too).  The book highlights the reasons for our eventual political and military failure in Afghanistan.  It is inevitable…
Long version: Today I completed Bob Woodward’s latest book: “Obama’s Wars“.  The book is an insiders look at the Obama Administration, the US Military and the on-going prosecution (mishandling) of the war in Afghanistan.  By insider, I mean it is quite obvious Woodward is being fed information by a host of characters to get their view of history in his story.
The book makes several things clear – the “war” in Afghanistan is un-winnable by any normal use of the term “win”.  The current Karzai government is corrupt and not supported by the Afghan people.  The fall is inevitable.  The only question is how much money and how many lives will we waste before we wake up, smell the coffee and get out?
The best we can hope for is to kill a bunch of Al Qaeda, avoid a complete government breakdown in Pakistan (and consequent loss of up to 100 nuclear weapons to terrorists) and not completely bankrupt the United States.
Every account of every review of the situation says we can’t “possibly” stem the tide in Afghanistan unless we commit far more troops than we currently have for far longer than we can possibly afford.
The author is clearly trying to kill a political run for the presidency by General Petraeus (a potential Republican nominee) in 2012 by making him out to be a fairly self-centered and self-serving man.  He (the General) clearly states (repeatedly) that this war will take generations, yet repeatedly asks for troops while promising to be able to move us closer to victory (with numbers far less than he knows can achieve this).  A “victory” he knows will not come in anyone’s lifetime.  General Petraeus is a student of history and knows full well a Democracy cannot sustain a prolonged active conflict – either politically or economically.
The same is true for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is also made out as a scapegoat (one of many) in this tragedy of failure in leadership.  Gates is made to appear to be regretful the US abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan after the end of the Cold War and the continuation of US involvement in this region is his way of somehow assuaging his conscience.  How this will happen or why he feels the need is not fully explained, but he promises the Afghans we will never leave the area!!
The military leadership, the Pentagon, the CIA and the other “war fighting” agencies in the government do not fare well in this book.  They are apparently only efficient at getting their way in the press.  They can’t “honestly” assess a situation and provide options.  In fact, they are insubordinate and plot to refuse to provide any realistic options to the plan they feel will provide some continuation of the war effort – not victory, just continuation.
Those in the military (active and retired) who try to argue against the single option are systematically marginalized and / or derided.
The White House staff does not escape the broad brush of criticism by the author.  General Jones is used to characterize them (WH Staff) as “water-bugs” and they certainly come across that way in the narration.
The only person who survives the ridicule is President Obama, who is portrayed as thoughtful, caring, conscientious and (at times) forceful.  The author appears to be making the case that President Obama cannot simply withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.  He must allow the military sufficient rope to hang itself so he can later justify a decision (an already made decision) to withdraw from Afghanistan.  It appears this decision will come shortly after the Dec 2010 review.  (Just after the Congressional elections – what a coincidence!)
The bottom line for this book – and war – is that President Bush did exactly what he campaigned against – nation building.  He tried to topple a government he didn’t like (Taliban) and then install one he did (Karzai).  When there was initial success: the Taliban were driven from power, Bush installed a corrupt leader who would never be able to unite and lead his country independently.  Bush then lost interest and went on to illegally attack another country (Iraq) to do the same thing.  Now Karzai will fall in Afghanistan and despite the present appearance of progress in Iraq, it will also collapse before the political situation in that area stabilizes.  And no amount of propping up by the US military will make a damned bit of difference…
The remainder of this blog is my personal opinion and not really part of the book review…
Bush failed miserably in both efforts at nation building – although he was clearly a success in initially overthrowing both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
Bush has left President Obama to clean up his (Bush’s) utter failures and, unfortunately, President Obama has followed bad advice and is choosing to slowly extract us from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I personally do NOT believe leaving 30,000 to 50,000 troops (and a similar number of contractors) in Iraq is “withdrawing“.  I want every single post closed and every last soldier brought home.  I feel the same way about Afghanistan!!  Out NOW!!
As un-liberal, un-Democratic and un-Christian as this sounds, we do not need to be there to kill people over there – lots and lots of people.  Yes, many innocents will also be hurt and killed, but the bottom line is their leaders don’t care about them (the average person).  Their leaders only care about themselves.  If we have to blow up a few thousand innocent civilians to get to their leaders, so be it.  It won’t take many “examples” before the rest of the world realizes we are serious and mean business – and don’t mess with us.
The flip side to this is we should also stop propping up the governments of other countries and we should bring all of our soldiers home – from Europe, Asia and Africa.  If a foreign government nationalizes some part of an American company – tough!  You should have kept your capital here where it was safe or you should have invested it in such a way the government didn’t feel they had to seize your assets.  Other than American citizens overseas, we have NO national interests in other countries!!  Read George Washington’s farewell address…  Avoid foreign entanglements!
Self-governing is difficult enough for Americans here in the United States.  Let’s leave other governments to their own people for a change.
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Last night Hil was watching Larry King interview Bob Woodward about his new book: “Obama’s Wars“.  Even though I don’t normally watch “puff-piece” quasi-journalistic interviews, I sat down, because I’ve read several of Woodward’s books.
The most interesting (damning) thing I heard during the hour was the claim that President Obama attended a meeting with his Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs expecting to get several options for Afghanistan and was only given one.  The President stated having only one option was unacceptable and Secretary Gates replied (something to the effect): “Yeah, we owe you one there.”
The option provided – to increase troops – was ultimately adopted.
What I have to ask is – why was Gates not asked immediately for his resignation and the head of the Joint Chiefs given one week to formally (and personally) present at least two additional options?
Basically, we are talking about insubordination by the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs.
They knew what was requested and they appear to have chosen NOT to perform their duties.  There is nothing at all wrong with disagreeing with policy, but when you are in command and you honestly feel you cannot fulfill or comply with the orders you have been given, the only honorable course of action is for you tender your resignation.
In the United States of America, the elected government (the President) is the superior command authority of the military.  The Joint Chiefs willful attempt to corner the President in the decision making process of an active conflict is the grossest form of misconduct and they should be ashamed of themselves.
If this story is true, this book will be a future case study at the military academies (and at civilian universities) as to how senior officers can fail in their service to a democratic society.
Needless to say, it staggers me to think of this group of men who have “dedicated” their lives to the service of their country can so fundamentally misunderstand the nature and role of the military in the history of the United States.
I put this on a par with the insubordination shown Lincoln (by McClellan) during the Civil War and MacArthur’s actions towards Truman during the Korean Conflict.
My mind has drifted back to this topic several times today…
When I got home from work, I went into the bedroom to change and there was a bag on my pillow.  Inside was a present…  A book!
Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s War“, with a note from my Hil saying,
Dear Kev,
Thought you would like spending time reading this book.  So I got if for you.
Love Always,
Hil”
Small, frequent acts of personal thoughtfulness and kindness… towards me (and others).  That’s why I love her!
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