Thursday, September 23, 2010
"I Don't Think You Win This War'
Excerpts from Bob Woodward's new book Obama's War reveal something of an insurgency being run by senior American generals intent on undermining the will of their Commander in Chief.
The American people want to wash their hands of Afghanistan. Obama wants American forces out of Afghanistan. Petraeus wants to keep the party rolling for a very, very long time.
"You have to recognise also that I don't think you win this war," Woodward quotes Petraeus as saying. "I think you keep fighting. It's a little bit like Iraq, actually … yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."
What Dipshit Dave is overlooking is that, even if we did stay stuck in for the duration of our kids' lives, we'd probably be no further ahead than we are today. The Vietnamese fought the Chinese occupiers for centuries until they withdrew, just as they fought the Japanese, the French and the American occupiers who followed.
When the Soviets got bogged down in Afghanistan, the Americans looked on with glee. Anyone think America's emerging rivals aren't smirking at Washington's predicament today? America is driving itself to the Poor House. It has to run these adventures on borrowed money. Where's the return?
After nearly a decade in-country America hasn't consolidated its control or access to anything. There is no TAPI (Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, Dick Cheney's Holy Grail before he became vice president). Oil and gas from the Caspian Basin isn't being piped in. China has sewn up the rights to Afghanistan's major copper reserves. American influence over Pakistan is waning as China's presence steadily increases. Even the legitimacy of America's presence in Afghanistan isn't really accepted by the neighbours, particularly Iran. Meanwhile the Pakistan security forces are double-dealing, saying what Washington wants to hear while backing the Islamist rebels. What passes for a central government in Kabul is really a horribly managed, criminal enterprise. The national army bleeds deserters as quickly as it can recruit newcomers. The economy is that of a narco-state. Hey, what's not to like?
And then there's Sad Man himself, ol' hangdog General David Petraeus. This guy is a piece of work. Before he got involved in Bush's Middle East/South Asian adventures, his claim to fame was as the American military's counterinsurgency guru. He assembled a team of military and civilian experts to digest all the lessons of asymmetrical warfare gleaned over the millenia back to the Roman era and compressed all that wisdom into his military's new counterinsurgency field manual, FM3-24.
At the unveiling of FM3-24, Petraeus gave a lengthy interview to the Washington Post during which he recited the cardinal rules of successful counterinsurgency. The truly remarkable thing is how those sacrosanct tenets have been ignored by every American and Allied commander ever since they were pronounced.
One rule is to flood the endangered country with troops, massive numbers of soldiers. They're needed in droves not so much to fight the insurgents as to secure the civilian population, protect them and isolate them from the guerrillas. Instead America went into Afghanistan with a skeleton crew - a garrison operation - that never really attempted to secure the civilian population.
Another rule is to avoid the use of heavy firepower - air strikes, artillery barrages, etc. - wherever possible. Heavy weaponry used against insurgents who conceal themselves among civilians winds up killing a lot of civilians and, in Afghanistan, that turns their surviving family members into your mortal enemies. Another rule honoured far more in the breach.
A third rule is to get in and get out just as quickly as possible. Petraeus himself told the Washington Post that counterinsurgent forces have a very limited shelflife after which they go, in the civilian population's eyes, from liberator/defender to occupier/oppressor. A very limited shelflife yet he wants to drag out this war through the course of our kids' lifetimes?
At every turn Petraeus contradicts himself. Worse still is his willingness to make things up, to twist reality. He got the American public to believe that his Iraq "surge" actually produced victory of sorts in that country. That is utter nonsense and Petraeus knows it. Sectarian violence did subside but it was almost entirely coincidental to the surge.
I don't believe much of what David Petraeus says and I'd bet he doesn't either. One thing I do believe is his sad admission that, "...I don't think you win this war." In fact that just might be the most believable thing he's said in years.