Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!~Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar–The Play
Sometimes I wonder: Am I nuts, possessed of extreme hubris, simply churlish?
Maybe. I think about this war in Afghanistan, and I see all kinds of experts talking, a lot of people who have been to war college and many more who’ve treaded the baneful lands of Afghanistan and Iraq as soldiers. Why is it that I seem to disagree so vehemently with most of them on how the Afghan war should be prosecuted? We’re making the same mistakes we made in Iraq.
Last night I’m watching the news. CBS I think. There’s a piece on the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. Young Marines are shown on patrol. They’re interviewed and they relive moments when they had the opportunity to kill Taliban, but because the insurgents hid amongst the populace, no air strikes could be called in.
Then my jaw dropped. First, the journalist is interviewing a Marine Colonel. He asks the Marine how many Taliban his men have killed.
“I have no idea, it’s not important. It’s not a measure of my success,” came the reply. “If I kill 1000 of the enemy but kill 2 civilians, I’ve lost.” Is that the standard we’ve placed upon ourselves? Get out, then, and stop letting politicians and whiny libs who are in no danger themselves use a false morality to make it easier for soldiers to die. His quote was promptly followed by a picture of Marines saluting the rifles and helmets of seven of their fallen comrades. The Colonel doesn’t care how many of the enemy he kills. Does he care how many of us the enemy kills?
These are the words of retired Marine, John Bernard. Bernard’s son, Joshua Bernard, killed in action in Afghanistan, the photo of his dying moment caught on film and published against his father’s wishes by the AP. John Bernard writes to Maine Senator Susan Collins:
“We’ve abandoned them in this Catch-22 where we’re supposed to defend the population, but we can’t defend them because we can’t engage the enemy that is supposed to be the problem,…”If you’re going to try to go over there as a peacekeeper, you’re going to get your butt handed to you, and that’s what’s going on right now.”
Ok, I think. What is your measure of success? I’m assuming he’d say something like: When the violence drops and the government is able to sustain security for the country. To which I’d ask: How will this happen?
Then an Army general is being interviewed. It gets even worse. He’s asked how many years it will take to win the war in Afghanistan. He rightly states that the average counterinsurgency takes 14 years to be successful. He assures the interviewer that the mission can be successful.
What the hell is going on here? Am I insane? Am I the only person who thinks this is the dumbest rhetoric ever? Now a bunch of high ranking officers get interviewed say exactly what you’d expect them to say. We can do it. They don’t even present me with good arguments. It’s just: We’re the experts, trust us.
No. All my instincts tell me this is wrong and we can’t win using counterinsurgency. I guess as a soldier I’m just supposed to salute smartly and drive on.
If we want to win, we have to fight and we need to fight with a lot of power. That’s the way it works folks. I’m sorry if I hurt someone’s feeling about how war can really be won by just winning hearts and minds, but it just ain’t so. Find one war where that’s happened. A real shooting war, then throw in religious zealotry as one sides motivation for fighting in the first place.
We used to know how to fight. We got lost somewhere after Desert Storm. We haven’t adapted. It is the terrorists and extremists who have adapted to post-modern warfare, in which media manipulation holds the power of a hundred JDAMs. The terrorists have evolved while we’ve stood in line waiting for the world to change to our advantage, and it’s refusing to do so. The Taliban stole our tactical advantages and we’ve let them keep it. Instead of stepping up the intensity of our fighting, we backed off and hoped CNN would be appreciative. And it is appreciative, because dead soldiers makes great news.
Our soldiers die and we comfort ourselves with terms like hearts and minds. We tie their hands and shake our heads when we see new pine boxes unloaded from C-130s, each one draped in Ol Glory. Our men call for fire support and strafing runs and get denied for political reasons. That’s never ok. We’re choking our own warrior.
Mr. President, if you’re listening. Admiral Mullen, Mr. Gates, General McChrystal, I humbly ask you to lend an ear to a lowly enlisted man. Yet a man who’s seen his share of human conflict and who does his best to see the world clearly. Unleash the dogs of war. Hunt the Taliban and destroy them. Our men will not wantonly kill innocents. We have the tools, now we need a dose of harsh, historical reality; warriors fight. And they prefer to do it with two hands. Let them fight, or just bring them home to their parents, wives and children. The military life is difficult enough, let them at least have the comfort of home if you won’t let them do what American soldiers do best.
Americans like to win. Our politicians seem immeasurably feckless at this moment. We Surged in April. Negative result. Obama just ok’d 14,000 more support troops, much less than the 40,000 requested by McChrystal. This will only delay defeat, because we’re ashamed of our power. Shame destroys. It’s a shame created by hypocrite and theoretical social tinkerers, willing to sacrifice our men in battlefield petri dishes. If these politicians had an ounce of common sense, any connection with real people going to real jobs, struggling with real issues, they’d know that victory forgives all. If we win, and win in good time, all the media’s photos and film of burned out houses and reports of dead civilians won’t mean a thing. It’ll be forgotten. The disappointed malcontents will go home, saddened by yet another American victory. It’s the usual suspects, so I’d advise that we ignore their whining and get on with business.