The Cost of Risk Aversion
Just in time to put a damper on your holiday spending comes this helpful article from the White House I mean McClatchy news service designed to prepare Americans for the impending raid on our hard earned money. Questions arise over how to pay for Afghanistan war is the name of the article and as one would suspects it helpfully points out that many of our previous Presidents raised taxes to pay for sending our Armed Forces onto the field of battle. My first thought upon reading this garbage was it reminded me of the main stream media’s attempt to provide us “depth and context” to former President Clinton’ life long history of predatory sexual abuse by dragging Thomas Jefferson and JFK through the mud. The second thing I thought was that our current efforts in Afghanistan are not remotely on the scale of our Civil War or World War II. The third thing I thought was that LBJ was an abject failure as was his short lived 10% surtax for Vietnam.
Coincidentally this article compliments the ongoing discussion in the comments section of my last post. As I stated there I have consistently raised the point that the level of money being expended on our current Afghan campaign cannot and should not be sustained. Not because our great nation cannot afford to keep 60,000 or so troops in the field but because a majority of it is being wasted. We can and should prosecute this war with far less financial expenditures. But this initiative sponsored by David Obey (D) Wisconsin is ludicrous. Congressman Obey is concerned about shoveling billions of dollars of taxes generated by the war effort off on future generations. Yet he has no concern about pushing off trillions of dollars of debt onto our children to finance health care we do not need or to “fix”the fictional problem of global warming – that’s no problem but finishing what we started in Afghanistan…..well that is a problem. I suspect that problem directly correlates to the inability of Afghans or the United States Military to generate the votes needed to throw scum bags like David Obey out of office. I have ideas on how to fix this – the old Roman Army technique of decimation comes immediately to mind but I do not want to end up on Janet Palitano’s watch list so I’m keeping my ideas to myself.
Not all politicians are power hungry petty tyrants who believe their constituents too stupid to understand what they are up to. Michael Yon posted a white paper from one who has consistently demonstrated sound judgment, professional leadership, integrity and an inordinate amount of common sense. He is Adam Holloway; a British MP who has made several trips to Afghanistan traveling both inside the official security bubble and outside the wire. Take the time to download and read the paper – it lays out exactly what we need to be doing and I suspect is just shy of 180 degrees out from the pablum we will be fed Tuesday night by our current President. Here are some of the key points;
- Afghanistan is just one area of confrontation in our wider struggle against political Islam, a struggle which we must win.
- Afghanistan is no more important to Al Qaeda than a half dozen other countries. But it is strategically useful for AQ in generating propaganda footage of “infidels” fighting Muslims and Muslims fighting back.
- NATO’s ill-conceived operation in Afghanistan is on the brink of failure. Support for UK and NATO forces is falling: only 45% of polled Afghans support a NATO presence in the south, down from 83% in the previous year.
- Much of what NATO is doing is aggravation the problem and is making attacks in the UK and other NATO countries more likely, not less.
- It is vital that Afghan territory is not used as a launch pad for future attacks; and that the Islamist minority cannot claim victory.
- This can be achieved with a much smaller allied force. There is always going to be some level of insurgency in Afghanistan.
One can only wish that somewhere in America there is a political leader with this much common sense. If there is an American politician who has even half the knowledge on the current situation in Afghanistan I have not heard about him. I suspect the current masters of Capitol Hill will be articulating some sort of weak ass cut and run strategy which will be folly. In fact here is another Brit – this one a legacy press guy who wrote and article today saying “Afghanistan withdrawl would be a folly.” He too seems to know a thing or two about what he is talking about and is worth reading. Is it me or do any of you find it weird that we are now forced to get so much of our news about America from the British press?
Yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, was little Eid and my Palestinian neighbors came over to help me cull the goat and sheep heard on my modest little farm allowing me to sharpen up my throat slitting skills. I have learned the fine art of butchering halal meat and always enjoy chatting with my PLO neighbors (just kidding two of the three brothers served honorably in the American military) who normally drink all my beer as we trade stories. Being little Eid they spared my beer stocks and the youngest brother – a former Navy diver – just walked into the kitchen and started making pot after pot of coffee. The two older brothers and one of their sons and I set about to our task with quiet efficiency and in just over an hour had butchered 3 sheep and 2 goats. Normally we argue about Beirut circa 1982 -83 – all of us were there although the brothers were children at the time. They asked how we are doing in Afghanistan and I was forced to admit that we have learned nothing since our unfortunate intervention in Lebanon some 30 years ago. Back then the Marines sat on the Beirut International Airport with no real clear idea of what exactly we were supposed to do other than sit there with our weapons unloaded. Now there are thousdands of Americans who go to Afghanistan and most just sit on a FOB with their weapons unloaded and no clear idea what exactly they are supposed to be doing either. Instead of arguing politics I told them of Zarang and what could have been were it not for risk aversion, micro managment, and a clearly disfunctional Department of State.
The Boss has a serious case of wanderlust and our collective success at running cash for work programs in Taliban controlled urban areas motivated him to go to the next level. For months all he talked about was Zarang – the capitol of Nimroz Province which is located on the border with Iran. Zarang attracted him because nobody knows anything about it so he loaded up the plane with himself and Team Canada (Tim from Panjwayi, Mullah John and New Guy Todd who is not really a new guy to Afghanistan having done multiple tours with the Canadian Army but is new to the outside the wire ops) and flew down for a reconnaissance in force.
We still actually know precious little about Zaranj. The Mayor is Savar Khan. There are no ISAF forces in the city. We are not sure they have ever seen NATO troops. There is a gravel airstrip with no real control tower in the north end and it took about 10 minutes of flying around to figure out that it was the municipal airport. Zarang is in perpetual drought until the Helmand overflows it’s banks and floods the city each spring. The Iranian border crossing is a major bridge and has a fraction of the Torkam traffic. The border is marked on the Iranian side by a castle wall complete with guard towers every 200-400 m. There is one NGO, Education Concepts International, in town focusing on education and womens programs. The UN apparently has one guy who may be withdrawing. USAID has no one. Farsi is the language of government although most people speak Pashtu and some Balochi.
We have rented a house and will be starting up multiple cash for work projects soon. It is going to cost a ton to get internet set up down there but everything else we need will come from the local economy and will be dirt cheap. The Mayor appreciates all the help he can get and there is little doubt that our projects in this area are going to be wildly successful. One international, a half dozen of our talented Afghan managers and we will be able to run multiple projects for less than one cent on the dollar currently spent by USAID implementers on the projects they run in the rest of the country. That is no exaggeration we have no armored trucks, no expat security detail, no need for the lavish compounds or food flown in from Dubai. We may not produce fancy PowerPoint’s and professional presentations on our genius plans to get a project going nor do we have a large inside the beltway corporate HQ full of retired USAID and military officers. We have a dozen or so expats who know just one thing -how to get projects going at warp speed and for dirt cheap. We do not talk reconstruction we do reconstruction.
There was never a need for the elaborate security which was foisted upon the reconstruction efforts by our Department of State when we started the reconstruction programs years ago. There is now as we have fed the insurgency by failing to deliver meaningful aid while supporting GIRoA officials who prey upon the people they are supposed to serve. The Afghans see us riding around in armored vehicles with truck loads of gunmen fore and aft and wonder what the hell it is we think we are accomplishing. I can’t blame them as I wonder the same thing myself.
The key to getting things done in a post conflict environment is to get things done. Using expensive large corporations who specialize on doing USAID reconstruction projects while relying on State Department Regional Security Officers who know nothing about the region and little about security to set the minimum operational security standards has proven to be a waste of time, money and lives.
Adam Holloway is right on target with his assessment of the correct way forward. Smaller, agile military formations complemented by small agile teams of reconstruction experts are not only cost effective – they are the only way to go. And now dear reader we (us Americans) have been placed on the proverbial “horns of a dilemma” by the “public servants” who spend their adult lives enriching themselves and their families by feeding at the public trough. You can follow the advice of MP Holloway, myself, and countless others who have said for years we need to be smaller and more agile or you can pay a 1% surtax which will grow and grow as taxes always do. My advice? If you have a job, assets and saving which are worth more than a warm cup of spit it is time to hire a good accountant.