I thought up a pretty good analogy of why the Afghan and Iraq Wars took way too long, and not until we “surged” several times and changed our tactics, did we see real results.
Let’s compare the wars with exercise physiology.
In exercise, two important factors are intensity and duration. As the intensity of your training goes up, the duration must go down. It’s the difference between walking for an hour and sprinting for an hour. You simply can’t do the latter. Too much intensity. Or, you can do 6 repetions of curls with a 50 lb dumbell and your bicep may reach exhaustion. Then try doing pinkie finger curls. You could probably reach 500 and keep going; very little intensity.
And guess what? Intensity trumps duration when it comes to reaping athletic and health benefits. That’s right, Eight, twenty second wind sprints has more hormonal and physiological impact than running five miles. More bang for the buck. As a matter of fact, if you don’t have enough intensity, you’ll see virtually no changes in your physiology.
Same goes for war. Either go hard, or go long. Can’t do both. And if your opponent goes hard when you try to go long, guess who wins? He does.
We tried to fight these wars with too little intensity. We needn’t have begun carpet bombing civilian populations or lighting huts on fire. We did however, need much more closing with and destroying the enemy. We couldn’t take the pain of an intense sprint (read: the pain of CNN reporters interpreting every action as American attrocity), so we’re still doing a funky race-walk. And we looked stupid just like race-walkers do. Our politicians chose to take the most well educated, well equipped, most physically fit infantry in the history of any war (yes–we’re better than the Greatest Generation–our politicians don’t know it, but we do) and make them sing kumbaya.
Only, the Taliban doesn’t know kumbaya. They know how to fight pretty well though.