Two days ago, a Soldier from my unit, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, was killed in Afghanistan. SSG Michael Ollis, 24 years old, was killed when Taliban insurgents attacked FOB Ghazni with a vehicle-borne IED, indirect mortar fire, and small arms fire. The insurgents penetrated the wall of the base, and remained inside, fighting for 6 hours.
FOB Ghazni is controlled by Polish forces. Soldiers from 2-22IN moved through FOB Ghazni on their way north while leaving Ghazni, only a couple of weeks from returning home. SSG Ollis made it 8 months. This was his third deployment to a combat zone.
I ask that you say a prayer for his mother and father, the two surviving members of his family.
“Deeds Not Words”
I am again deployed to Afghanistan. The hours are long, and there are no days off. An average work day is about 13 hours, but this doesn’t mean we work like we’re in a sweat shop.
There is a chess board in my office, and there is almost always a game at hand. One person makes a move, 30 minutes later, his opponent strolls by the board, ponders, pushes a piece, and goes on with his work. So far I have 12 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws.
The power of chess to enliven me is amazing. Nothing makes my brain work more efficiently, nothing sharpens my senses more. I could play all day, every day. If I have a chess set, I need never be bored.
It’s easy to see why the Soviets dominated chess for so long: In Communist Russia, intellectual achievement were held in high regard, and there were few distractions to individuals who wished to improve their game. State funding for promising players didn’t hurt, either.
When I was younger, and playing sports of all kinds, I worried about old age, that it would deprive me of something that brought me so much joy. I don’t worry about that anymore.
“He wants his home and security, he wants to live like a sailor at sea. Beautiful loser, where you gonna fall, when you realize–you just can’t have it all…he’ll never make any enemies.” ~Beautiful Loser, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band.
Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.~General John Stark
In the world of video games, there is a term that denotes making something decidedly less potent or dangerous: The term is Nerf.
My Army and indeed my country is trying to Nerf my entire world. It does this under the pretext of caring so much for my safety. Our obsession with safety is in fact making us weaker and thus less safe.
I cannot say that I expect nothing from my government. I expect it to smash the hell out of any enemy that tries to destroy our way of life. I expect it to maintain internal security so that people can enjoy their families and the things they have worked for. Thus I expect the government to toss people in jail whom have committed crimes which harm me or my family–or any other American family. I expect my government to defend its sovereign borders so that my country does not become what others without an American ideal want it to be.
What I do not expect of my government is that it protect me from myself. I do not expect the government to worry about the minutia of dangers that confront man everyday. The government cannot protect me from myself as well as I can. The United States Army has become one of the most risk-averse entities in our risk-averse nation. Soldiers must watch hours of safety videos every few months, many many more hours than they fire their rifles on a practice range, and are expected to wear a reflective belt at times, even when off duty in broad daylight, and must wear knee and elbow pads when in a war zone on patrol. Packing lists for Soldiers readying to deploy easily bring to mind a 5 year Soviet planning cycle. Make sure you bring your sewing kit. Who the hell is Sun Tzu? Because of the (most times) well-meaning cry for troop safety, our troops are weighed down with heavy body armor while trouncing over 8000 ft high mountains, exhausting them. Our enemies dance around in man-dresses and sneakers. In my unit, Soldiers pulling CQ duty (a 24 hour duty in which two Soldiers sit at a desk and communicate any problems to the chain of command), have been ordered to stop any Soldiers whom leave the barracks in shorts, because it’s too cold to be outdoors in shorts. Yes, that’s right, a military that helped annihilate the Nazis and nuked Hiroshima is worried about people wearing shorts in the cold during their off-duty hours. Every Friday, Soldiers must endure long speeches from the chain of command about what not to do during the weekend. They must be reminded that slapping their wives is illegal and driving drunk can result in car crashes. If we have Soldiers that are so stupid they require to be told these things every week, well then, I say let them make their mistake and get them out of the Army. Because that guy will probably blow the back of my head off with an accidental discharge from his M4 carbine. Our gown men used to be able to drink beer while deployed to war. No more. In the Vietnam War, US grunts could bye a 24-pack of beer for $2.40. We did better in Vietnam than in Afghanistan, according to authoritative writer, Bing West… We couldn’t have that now, could we? Surely American Soldiers would go on mad rampages across the Hindu Kush, slaying everything in sight. Somehow we beat the British with many of our troops half in the bag. As far as I’m concerned, denying a man a beer while he endures war is not just cruel, it’s downright un-American. The Puritans–those great foes of the Libertine Left– fed kids the stuff for breakfast, but then MADD busted up the party.
Here’s a quote from the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Glenn Beck’s book, Arguing With Idiots:
Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver, but she ended up leaving her own organization. Why? Mission creep. Here’s what she said….
“[MAAD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned…I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol, I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”
In the same chapter, Beck goes on to explain how legislation has been proposed to install devices on all cars that prevent people from driving drunk. As of now, only people whom have been convicted of DUI can have such devices installed by the government. He goes on to make the point that if we focus on the person offending, and not the tool of the offense, we do a better job in dealing with the problem, and we don’t needlessly bother those whom don’t drink and drive, since the majority of the DUI problems come from repeat offenders. And it’s the same thing when it comes to gun control. Taking away guns from the 99% is a tyranny. Many want to do it because the modern Left simply has a difficult time calling anyone whom is not named Dick Cheney or George Bush, evil.
The true shame of this, is that in the Army, NCOs are told that they are not leading unless they are micromanaging the private and professional lives of the Soldiers that work for them. I simply refuse to live like this or lead other men like this. As a kid, I did all kinds of dangerous things, and I’m proud of it. I never wore a bike helmet, yet rode my bike everywhere. Most of my bikes didn’t even have brakes; I had to use my foot on the rotting (dangerously so) tires, to slow myself. I proudly displayed the scabs and scars on my hands from the times I went over the handlebars on the pavement. Myself and groups of other kids engaged in rock fights and BB gun wars. We threw ice-encrusted snowballs at each others face, hoping to give each other black eyes. I carried a rifle around in the woods, unsupervised, at the age of twelve, shooting cute, furry squirrels until I could hear the weeping of bleeding-heart liberals for miles around. And I felt nothing for it except proud of my outstanding marksmanship….I endured 5 knee operations before the age of 25, all from playing that rough, dangerous sport: Backyard football. I boxed and had my brain concussed.
And every one of us boys is better off for having beat the hell out of ourselves.
And why did I do all of it? Because I don’t want to feel completely safe. I never have. I most certainly don’t want someone else making me safe from everything. I mostly want to be left alone to make my own decisions. I want to learn on my own. I don’t want to go to jail, get a fine, or get demoted in rank for failing to make my Soldiers wear knee pads. I want to live in a country that demotes me because my troops didn’t kill enough Taliban fighters, because my troops didn’t make the enemy quit. I know, I know, that makes me a brute. Yet, our addiction to safety helped us lose the war in Afghanistan. Make no mistake, COIN “warfare” is the child of an addiction to safety. It is a system designed to win wars without fighting the enemy. We hope to build the enemy stuff until he quits, we hope that he becomes as sedated with free stuff from the government as this American generation has become. COIN hopes to keep our Soldiers out of danger, but in reality it makes him so at-risk for lack of ridding the battlefield of armed insurgents, that the American fighter spends most of his time running back and forth between villages and friendly bases, instead of rooting the enemy from his enclaves. March to a village, shake some hands and smile at people lying to you and helping safeguard the people whom will kill you, then hurry the hell back to the base before you get shot.
I enjoy danger in my life. Yeah, there are always things the government could do to make us all safer. But at what cost? Should we make a law mandating all cars be coated in 12 inches of nerf material? I’m sure the guy who gets bumped into at a crosswalk would appreciate it. I measure my danger with what it can provide me. I understand there are some dangers we want to control. For instance, I argued quite vehemently for increased screening at Airports, but I’m against gun-free zones around schools. Why? Because I believe one does what it’s supposed to and the other doesn’t. If there were two airlines to choose from, one offering increased screening and pat-downs before boarding a plane, and one that did not, I would choose to use the one that offered increased screening. If there were two schools to choose from, one with a gun free zone and one without, I would choose the one without, hoping the well-vetted principal with 20 years experience in education is well armed and trained. Get it? I lift Russian kettlebells. There is an element of danger in using these, which makes me enjoy them all the more. Throwing around 70 lb iron balls cannot be made purely safe. My hands get torn up, and I’m damn proud of it. They make me a better person, even if I break a wrist.
I don’t want to be told how to pack my rucksack, how many bars of soap to bring with me to Afghanistan, and I sure don’t want to shave my chest, wear pop-collared polo shirts or gloves while weight lifting. I want to be allowed to not wear knee pads. I want to be allowed to fight when I go to war. In short, I want to be a man and not a giant baby. Let me be a big boy so we can focus on the important stuff, and not the things that end up costing us more in the creation of rules and their enforcement than in any protection we gain. We are a country of laws–too many of them–not of men. Why not think like Bruce Lee, and begin to take away before we add. Less is always more efficient, and maybe we can toughen up a bit and remember what a great feeling it is to be able to do things on our own without having to hope the government will protect us from all evil, and maybe fix our toilet if we whine and play the victim well enough.
Maybe we can teach our kids, again, the value of hard work, self-reliance, responsibility and toughness. A nation of individuals that values those things does not require a government that has to keep them in line.
The United States is planning to withdraw all its fighting capability from Afghanistan in 2014. Beginning in 2013, American forces with transition to an advisory role. That is, it will no longer conduct joint patrols or take major offensive action against the insurgency, but instead “suggest” courses of action to Afghan military personnel.
Many wonder if the Afghan Nation Security Forces (ANSF) will be able to defend the country from the Taliban after America leaves. It is my opinion that the ANSF will crumble rather quickly in the face of the insurgents. Here are the reasons why:
1) The ANSF are comprised mostly of illiterate, underpaid Pashtun males. They are unable to maintain logistics systems taught to them by Americans, and as a course of habit, will hoard bullets and fuel instead of dispensing it to the appointed units and locations. The ANSF have no means to maintain American military equipment, except perhaps some small arms. Infrastructure will deteriorate quickly.
2) Afghan culture is not conducive to discipline, order, timeliness, self-sacrifice for the group, or control of negative emotions, particularly in areas far from Kabul. Drug use, desertion, lateness, fighting and homicide are not uncommon among ANSF by Western standards. The attention to detail needed to fight an industrial strength insurgency is not present.
3) The Taliban insurgency is more disciplined than the ANSF. The ideology of Jihad creates strong bonds and stimulates initiative as well as promoting self-sacrifice for the group, even to the point of suicide attack. Though there are divisions within the insurgency, they are no greater than in most Western organizations. The Taliban uses a fairly complex logistical and governance system and each local shadow governor is held responsible for his actions by senior Taliban leadership in Quetta, Pakistan.
4) Many in the ANSF do not want to fight the Taliban. While in Afghanistan, I saw instances of fully manned police stations abandoned without a shot fired when threatened by Taliban of similar numbers. In other areas, when asked where the Taliban were located, ANSF commanders readily gave an answer. But when asked when the ANSF would attack enemy positions, the commanders only provided a laugh and a telling smile. Still more, in areas where the insurgency is strongest, Afghan border police are stationed some 10 kilometers away from the Pakistani border, allowing insurgents to easily cross into Afghanistan unmolested. At checkpoints located directly on the border, police do not bother the Taliban crossing at official checkpoints.
5) Foreign powers such as Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Syria and China have a strong interest in an insurgent takeover in Afghanistan because this will de-ligitimize American efforts in the country, sow political chaos within the American system, create doubt in the American public’s mind as to the effectiveness of military intervention, as well as provide training areas for global terrorists, especially Iranian/ Syrian Hezbollah proxy fighters. As such, these countries provide training, safe haven, and equipment to insurgents.
6) The ANSF lacks the technical intelligence capabilities of America, specifically drone and professional scout teams. Thus, insurgents will be able to mass much easier than they now do.
7) The ANSF lacks firepower. They have little artillery and almost no aircraft. Even with its incredible air supremacy, America has struggled in this war. It will be even worse for the ANSF.
As in Vietnam, Afghanistan is made up of essentially one culture, the Pashtuns. And also as in Vietnam, it is possible for one part of the culture to want to fight and the other half to have almost no will to resist. It is unfortunate for the Afghans living in Kabul, virtually a different planet from the rest of Afghanistan. Those people are ready to cast off the old ways and move into this century. But the rest of Afghanistan is not. And it will likely be less than two years after the bulk of America’s military troops leave, that Kabul falls once again to the Taliban.
2014 is drawing ever closer, but the United States is no nearer to assuring victory and stability in Afghanistan than it was in 2003. Here are the reasons that Afghanistan is now an un-winnable war.
- The corruption in local and national government is staggering. The corruption in Afghanistan is about much more than politicians skimming from government funds. It’s mostly about failing to uphold laws in exchange for political and monetary favors. While performing the duties of DIA intelligence analyst in Kabul Province in 2010, I traveled to Musahi District, just south of Kabul, with the Nebraska National Guard 1-134 Cav Scouts. The local police chief in Musahi spoke a good game, promising to stand up against corruption and fight the insurgency. We found out later that he brokered deals in order to keep the peace in his district. All politics was indeed local, thus the chief had no romantic thoughts of “national security”. He allowed insurgents to move into his district and cache weapons and supplies meant for attacks on Kabul. Meanwhile, Musahi looked perfectly peaceful. And who could blame him in the end? At one point we learned from one of the chief’s subordinates that local police located an insurgent weapons cache in the district and took some Guardsmen to the location where several weapons turned up. The chief grew enraged when he found out that his policeman gave us the location of the weapons. He knew how this would appear to the insurgents; like he’d stabbed them in the back. After a couple of cache finds, the Haqqani Network decided to teach the police chief a lesson. A suicide bomber drove a Vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) from Logar Province into Musahi. After circling the police chief’s building and finding no access because of a newly built stone wall, the bomber detonated in from of a new district center, shearing off the front of the building and leaving a huge crater. Miraculously no one was killed. The vehicle had passed through a checkpoint up the road, but the police officer failed to search the vehicle. From that point on, the police chief glanced nervously out his window whenever a vehicle engine revved outside the station.
The above picture shows me and a National Guardsman approaching the Musahi District Center before the bomb exploded.
Here’s what remained of the district center after the bomb.
Even when Musahi law enforcement did its job, there was no guarantee Kabul would comply. One time the National Guardsmen arrested two men on a motor cycle in Musahi. One man’s hands tested positive for HME (Home Made Explosives) and the other man had a cell phone with hundreds of photos of known insurgents on it. The day after these men were arrested and sent to the detention center in Kabul they were released from jail with no bail or trial. A man inside the Kabul government brokered their release, likely for a promise from the Taliban that they’d leave him alone.
- The Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) cannot be trained to an adequate level in a reasonable amount of time. My anecdote about the Musahi district center is demonstrative of many of the problems in Afghanistan. Even where the ANSF is present, it lacks the discipline and equipment to effectively fight a determined insurgency. The tea and pillow, Laissez-Fair attitude prominent in Afghan culture does not lend itself to aggressive law enforcement and security. Moreover, the technical, legal and bureaucratic intricacies of future advise and assist teams have not been worked out, despite the fact that these teams are set to deploy in early 2013. Fundamental questions such as: What happens when Afghan security forces refuse to deal with insurgents that pose a threat to American forces? The primary difference in advising as opposed to partnering is supposed to be in the power of suggestion: US advisers suggest possible courses of action, but it’s up to the Afghans to act on them. If the US chooses to take no action against known insurgent High Value Targets in order to maintain GIRoA primacy, the US is in effect sending its troops to a slaughter. But if American forces target insurgents who pose a threat despite the protests of Afghan officials, then the mission is no longer merely advise and assist. There seems no easy answer in this regard.
- The Taliban already has Kabul in its back pocket. There is no Kabul “Green Zone”. Insurgents, spies and assassins stalk the streets of Kabul and haunt the halls of parliament. Much of the national government has likely brokered closed doors deals with the Taliban. Those who refuse to play the Taliban’s game are assassinated. The Kabul police are not adequately equipped to stop suicide bombers. It is my assessment that the only reason Karzai is still alive is because he’s already cut deals to stay alive and in power. His protesting against American night raids mirrored what I saw in Musahi: The insurgents want the night raids to end because they are effective, so they force political leaders to denounce them under threat of force or bartered deals for local peace. The politicians intentionally incite the Afghans about night raids and this legitimizes a Taliban agenda. While in Kabul, myself and other analysts from the Combined Stability Operations Center (CSOC) visited a Kabul and met with former Afghan Prime Minister, Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai. A warm, genuine man, Ahmadzai assured us that the Taliban had learned their lesson. According to the former PM, the Taliban knew it’d “gone too far” and that if they were allowed back in to power, they’d tame their actions. Ahmadzai even offered to host a meeting between Taliban and my group. Apparently it was that easy for this politically connected man to invite the enemy’s of America in for a cup of tea. We all declined, imagining a suicide vest-clad Talib tipping back his cup as he pressed his detonator….
The author( left) and Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai (center) in Kabul, 2010.
- The insider threat. Finally, a wave on attacks against coalition forces by Afghan security forces have all but destroyed the partnership between NATO and Afghan troops. Recently, NATO halted outright partnered patrols with Afghan security forces. With an impending draw down of troops this year, things will only get worse for advise and assist teams as insurgents will gain increased freedom of movement and ability to stage for attacks in ways not previously witnessed. Whereas most of the large attacks of the past were planned for in Pakistan, it may become possible with decreased American troop presence, for the insurgents to prepare large scale attacks much closer to their intended targets. And advise and assist teams themselves will become very vulnerable to attack with fewer maneuver elements to protect them. All in all, this bodes ill for the future of Afghanistan.
In a recent interview, retired General Stanley McChrystal stated that he believes America should re-institute a military draft, ensuring that all citizens share the burden of war.
I agree with McChrystal and so did Thomas Jefferson: “Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”
In today’s America the idea of a draft is politically untenable. Many citizens feel the system is supposed to give something to them, but they are not required to give anything to it. People who think this way call it “freedom.” One could riff off Tacitus and say, “They made a democracy and called it freedom.”
The sense of community in America is dying, and I can attest that the sense of belonging in the military is a troubling phenomena. The military is very separated from everyday America, and this is not a good thing. It is a difficult experience to explain to someone who has never served in the military, but many many people feel very cut off from regular American life. I can testify to this feeling. When I first came in the Army and moved to Germany, I cannot imagine a more alienating experience.
The primary difference between today’s wars and the major wars of the past is that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are fought by a much smaller percentage of Americans. In fact, less than 1% of Americans serve in the military, whereas in WWII, 9% served. When you consider that women did not serve in WWII except as civilians, you can see that a very high number of men were in the military.
A difficult fact to ignore is that America has failed to defeat decisively any foe since the draft was abandoned in 1973. Some can argue that Desert Storm was a decisive victory, but we had to go back and clean up the mess we left. Americans no longer have a visceral feel for what it takes to win wars. This fact drove me crazy in Afghanistan, where I saw a plethora of well-intentioned projects accomplish little. As my friend, Dr. Scott Catino once said: “We’re throwing million of dollars at the insurgency and hoping it will go away.” Solar panels on the roofs of villagers which were stolen by insurgents and used to power bombs. Million-dollar “justice complexes” abandoned. Yet the suspicious stares from the Pashtuns continues. Does anyone believe a member of the military came up with the idea of solar panels as part of the war effort? I think not. It was a Non-government agency (NGO) who thought that was a good idea, because their job is to come up with solutions that don’t involve killing people.
The increasing separation of people in the military is causing increasingly recurrent visits from what military people call “The Good Idea Fairy”. The Good Idea Fairy is a font of well-intentioned ideas which are to be carried out by those of lesser rank. These ideas usually involve taking a rather simple exercise of some sort and transforming it into a confusing, over complicated mess.
The Good Idea Fairy can flourish in places where the negative aspects of bad decisions are not visited upon the person who made the decision in the first place. And since we have so few people who have served in the military and the number of elected officials who have served before beginning their political careers is growing smaller every election cycle, it seems trouble was inevitable
So now politicians can make decisions about a military in which they and perhaps their father never served. Political and social ideologues push ideas and plans for the military having little real knowledge about how it will effect our ability to fight. Women in the infantry is one idea that I’m sure The Good Idea Fairy would be proud of. While there are women that serve honorably in the military, the Army and Marines prohibit women from serving in the infantry for what every military in the last 10,000 years has thought obvious reasons. Not the least of which is a wanting physical prowess when it comes to fighting a war. Watch the movie Restrepo and imagine a woman being in that environment for 15 months.
But winning wars isn’t what’s important to some about the military. What’s important is the opportunity to push an agenda, to change society by infiltrating its most hallowed halls. Thus, in 2013 we have women being admitted to the Army’s toughest school–Ranger School. And every female failure at the school will need to be justified to high level rank.
This honest female Marine Corps Captain writes about her opinion concerning women in the infantry. She says that even though she was an outstanding athlete in college, and is not in the infantry, her deployment to Afghanistan left her with permanent injuries. She lost 17 pounds and her body stopped producing estrogen. And she wasn’t doing half the physical work that a Marine infantryman does.
All of this leads to a growing sense within the military that the troops don’t matter. Every decision is imposed without asking the people in the military what they think, or if they are asked, it doesn’t matter what they say. This is what happened with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Surveys were passed around but the SECDEF made it clear before a single chad was punched: This is getting repealed.
Suicide rates in the Army doubled after 2004. At that point some Army units were doing back-to-back 15 month tours. And this wasn’t in areas of the world as sophisticated as WWII Europe. It was culture shock with IEDs. With so few Americans serving during this operational tempo, you’d think the Army could have done without the multi-million dollar studies that tried to explain the reason for skyrocketing suicide numbers. But no. The studies were again ordered by people who have never been there and barely even care to read about it.
It used to be that the very best served. In WWII men had no choice, they went. The entire will of a nation was brought to bear against the country’s enemy’s. Now, our uber-professional Army can’t decisively beat a herd of toothless goat herders who know more about using fertilizer to make a bomb than using it to grow crops. America simply hasn’t enough troops to make it work.
Yet again, our glorious and supremely eloquent counterinsurgency strategy stands to be liquidated by the foolishness of our troops in Afghanistan.
Really? Photos, published by the LA Times, depict soldiers posing with the remains of a suicide bomber who’d just tried to kill them. Is it the burning Korans and photos of dead terrorists that’s causing us to lose this war, or is the strategy itself the problem?
Let me be clear that the soldiers did wrong. The photos (2 years old, I may add) should not have been taken for the purposes of personal collections. Why? Because it’s the rule. Mostly, just because it’s the rule and soldiers follow orders. A breakdown in the ability of troops to follow the rules results in a mob, not a professional army.
But it was not the soldiers who killed the dead terrorist. He killed himself while trying to kill them. Do we feel the same way about photos photos taken of dead robbers and criminals in the Old West?
How about photos of gangsters and miscreants from the 20’s and 30s? Remember Bonnie and Clyde?
Michael Yon wrote an article saying we shouldn’t blame the media. He’s right. The Soldiers are the first cause of this problem. But how big of a problem is it?
American soldiers in WWII mailed the skulls of dead Japanese back to their ladies:
And frankly, the sight of the dead insurgent is the historical tool used by rulers to crush uprisings. Ask the Romans and Vlad Drakul. Hiding the results of being a terrorist doesn’t help our cause. The message to all young Afghan and Pakistani males should be that this is what you look like when you strap on a bomb and try to murder people.
Let’s get real. This is not an atrocity. This is soldiers breaking an administrative rule. There should be no talk of kicking them out of the military. And, the soldier who gave the photos to the LA Times is a weasel. If he were so concerned, he should have given the photos to his chain of command–years ago. We need a little more outrage aimed at the culture that breeds these self-immolating haters. In any event, don’t ask me or other soldiers to like the people that are trying to kill us. Blog and talk bravely of our philosophy, and cultural sensitivity and all that, but just don’t ask us to hug the dude trying to take me from my kids. Maybe 10 years from now, but not now.
I’ve spent more time in Afghanistan than most. I worked along side young soldiers every day. I never once saw anything like this. I did not witness any heroic deeds, though there are many in the last ten years that have become heroes. But I did witness an incredible adherence to duty, to getting the job done, day in, day out, under very uncomfortable circumstances. 20 year old men doing whatever was asked of them, going without real sleep or hot food for days, sleeping in trucks waiting for a car bomb to drive up. Being dirty for a week at a time. To say that these photos depict some sort of evil culture within the military is just plain stupid.
The burning of the Korans at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and the subsequent riots and murder of 5 NATO soldiers put all questions to rest about our future in the country. There is nothing more the US can gain in this war. Amid our apologies and groveling, our warped attempts to prove we are not imperialists, the Taliban and crime lords thrive, resting peacefully in Pakistan. And we still pace the floor like Hamlet churning the possibilities through Washington’s mushy head.
The cultural differences between the US and many Afghans are so great, they simply cannot be overcome in a manner that benefits in any meaningful way the US. The country is still largely run by thieves and criminals, and outside Kabul there is little true support for the US effort. Our national prestige is being drained away by the ridiculous “sensitivity” of Pashtun Muslims, whom seize upon any sleight as a reason to engage in mayhem.
Why are we still there? It’s time to leave, and let Afghanistan face the reality it created for itself. A future of crime, chaos, fundamentalism and misery. To the Afghan government and the Taliban: Keep your evil inside your own borders this time.To Washington: Stop embarrasing your nation and its troops with your equivocating and hand wringing. Bring back the pop-up targets you’ve provided for blood drenched, hateful Islamists.
Bring our boys home.
“All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.” ~George W. Bush
“We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam,” ~Barack Obama
Surely we are not at war with Islam. If we were, we’d kill everyone who professed the Muslim faith. The problem with Obama’s and Bush’s statements is that they lead many to underestimate the level to which Muslims in the Middle East and Asia support the jihadists. Throwing out statistics that show only a small percentage of Muslims are responsible for the destruction wrought is a bit like saying that because less than 1% of Americans serve in the US Army, only 1% of Americans support the US military. People fail to realize the power of both the “our team” mentality and religion, especially in parts of the world where the people have little hope in this world and nation states have been shamed in war by America and Israel.
Many people throughout the Muslim world gain satisfaction when the US suffers a setback at the hands of extreme Islam. Otherwise, the extremists could not exist to the extant that they do. Polls throughout the Muslim world show that Muslims in the Middle East support the actions of the jihadists. Most Muslims, even those living is Western countries, support Sharia Law, which is fundamentally at odds with Western values. In a poll of 9 countries, Turkey was the only nation in which a majority of the people said that Sharia should not comprise the law in entirety, or be a “source of legislation.” Pakistanis, despite the billions of military and domestic aid poured into their country by the US, continue to despise Americans. Most Pakistanis also wish that bin Laden was not dead.
People shocked at the recent Egyptian election results should study some history. I’ve long said that Egypt was the spiritual center of jihadism, not Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia made good fodder for the Left because of oil. Egypt, in the poll cited above, had the highest percentage of people that believed Sharia should be the sole root of law.
The Muslim countries that have in recent years received the most American aid are Pakistan and Egypt. Approximately 25% of the money used to fund the Pakistani army comes from American aid. The top recipients of US foreign aid in 2011 are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Egypt in that order. Egypt has routinely ranked among the top nations in the world in the number of dollars given to it by the American government.
There appears to be an inverse correlation between the positive views in a country when measured against the amount of US aid provided to it. The argument of course is that America is trying to show these countries that the US is not the enemy. This method of appeasement is failing. In a poll published by the Washington Post shortly after Mubarak stepped down, 79 percent of Egyptians viewed the US negatively, with 20% saying they have a positive view of the US. This is a sharp decline from the Bush years when 30 percent of Egyptians viewed the US positively.
The problems in giving countries like Pakistan and Egypt lots of money are macrocosmic of what I saw happening in local projects in Afghanistan. The money will always find its way into the hands of America’s enemies because they are the most ruthless, devious and aggressive portions of those societies. They also in many cases have a monopoly on violence, something the state usually lays claim to–if it is not a failed state. In Afghanistan the people were not “all in” for the Americans. They really didn’t care that much, at least in areas far from Kabul, if the insurgents blew up a few American Imperialists. They’d take five bucks to plants a bombs and be on their way. In one fell swoop they’d made a month’s wage, killed some infidels, impressed the locals with their “bravery”, and maintained a semblance of national pride.
Egypt’s Mubarak held the forces of Islamic jihad at bay with the only weapon that works against it: Decisive brutality. As with Saudi Arabia, Egypt was a police state, as much because of the extremists as Mubarak. Only with extreme vigilance could the Egyptian government survive. Frankly, Mubarak may have been the West’s only hope in Egypt, but starry-eyed Westerners with a Democracy fetish ran him off, unleashing a hoard of militants, radicals and young men electrified with a rage whose dynamo was built in 1967 and 1973 during the humiliating defeats of the Egyptian Army at the hands of the Israelis. The effect of these defeats upon the Arab psyche cannot be overstated.
The Arab Spring has generated nothing resembling Western democracy and displays brilliantly the weakness of Democracy itself: People can vote for any horrific idea they choose. Hitler was democratically elected. Muslims have voted and acted exactly how we should have expected them to. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists now hold power. The Salafists in Egypt hold the same views as al-Qaeda and Hamas. Christians are trying to leave the country, fearing for their safety.
The revolutions in Egypt and Libya were hardly induced by only few extremists. In fact,it seems the revolutions enjoyed the backing of millions upon millions of extremists. It is the same sort of thing we saw in Nazi Germany. Many Germans were not Nazis or did not take part in the actual fighting. But most of them wanted to see the Nazis win. And so it is with Muslims in Libya, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. The Muslims there overwhelmingly want to thrash Israel and the United States in any manner they can. If the terror proxies can trounced by the hyperpower or the Jewish state, we can of course expect the “innocent” population of “moderate” muslims to melt back into the woodwork.
Islam unifies people against Israel and the West. As Mark Steyn writes in his book, America Alone, the draw of Western “McWorld” to the average Arab male is vastly overstated. Secularism is about as un-motivational as a Rosie O’donnell workout video. It is meaninglessness and provides no promise of power or life after death, no cloak of righteousness; something that means far more to a poor 23 year old man in Cairo than does the promise of flipping burgers.
Now Israel has a monstrous number of problems on its hand, all coming to bear at once. Iran wants the bomb and is not far off from getting it. Egyptians are muttering that they want the Camp David Peace Accord “adjusted.” 20,000 surface-to-air missiles are missing from Qaddafi’s stockpiles. The current American president’s negative comments about Netanyahu were caught on an open mic.
The vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East are not jihadists or terrorists. But most of them support the actions of extremist Islam when those actions are directed against Westerners or Israelis. Our money and McDonald’s cannot possibly fill the same void that is filled by Islam. And Democracy, as with any form of government, is only as good as the people that comprise it.
So what is the answer? Does America have to kill every last Muslim? Not any more than it had to kill every last German or Japanese. America has only to decisively defeat the front-line troops of Jihad. But decisive victory may no longer be something the West is capable of, despite its overwhelming superiority in almost every facet of military and economic might.
The Arab Spring has not created Arab states that are more stable or less violent. It has provided kindling for another 100 years of Jihadist immolation. Our children’s children will see The Long War continue.