I had a chance to visit with Mac on All Marine Radio last week. We touched on many topics and as we got to the end our visit we hit on something that really bothers us both. That something is winning battles only to lose wars. Although the legacy media is not focused on the fighting going on overseas things have quietly been changing for the better. ISIS is getting its ass kicked and will soon be nothing more than a bitter memory. The Taliban now have no path to victory. They cannot win as long as America and a few hearty allies maintain a commitment to the government in Kabul. The Taliban is not going to win a military victory (I don’t think they could have done it even if we cut and run) and the people of Afghanistan know this to be true. You can listen to Mac and I talk about this – I come on at the 23 minute mark.
Entertainers, Political Activists, being replaced & MY RIGHT TO NOT TO WATCH
All this good news should elicit a feeling of success but it hasn’t generated positive vibes with me nor is anything remotely positive seem to be working its way to the surface in our media culture. Here is my guess concerning that phenomena.
The first problem with our military efforts overseas is they are not linearly successful. Last week is was noted that every Afghan Army Corps was on the offensive. Today we see that the Taliban has launched bloody attacks in four provinces; Paktia, Ghazni, Farah and Wardak killing 78 Afghans and wounding 179 soldiers and civilians.
Raqqa has fallen and it appears that ISIS is on its last legs. That was inevitable because ISIS was a foreign entity that had invaded and claimed land that was not theirs. Yet in the face of victory we get the disturbing news that the Baghdad government is in the process of taking the oil production center of Kirkuk away from the Kurds. This is a problem; the Kurds have been loyal allies to the west, they are an oasis of sanity in a part of the world that is being consumed by Islamic madness. They have all the right enemies, the Turks, the Iranians, the Iranian puppets in Iraq and the Syrians. Operation Northern Watch. which ran from 1997 to 2003, was implemented specifically to protect the Kurds from Saddam after he gassed them back in the 90’s. Now we are going to stand aside while Iranian proxy’s invade them? Does that sit well with you?
We are currently achieving our military objectives despite the fact our military is in serious trouble. The air component of the Marine Corps is essentially non functional as evident by an alarming rate of mishaps coupled with an unsustainable decrease in flight hours. The army is lowering it’s enlistment standards to meet its recruiting goals. The navy is in shambles and apparently unable to safely operate its surface combatants. The service academies are giant money pits that are producing an inferior product. Yet the folly of using the military as a platform for social engineering continues.
Despite the bad news the military is delivering some good news but that good news is irrelevant which is the really bad news. Clausewitz explained why:
WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY OTHER MEANS.
We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.
Providing the time and space for the Afghan government to get its act together is half a solution. The other half requires diplomats with the vision and ability to foster this process along. Diplomats who understand the tribal dynamics well enough to split the already fractured Taliban movement apart. Diplomats savvy enough to bring tribal groupings onto the side of the central government while simultaneously forcing the central government to be responsive and accountable to the people they are supposed to serve.
We need a diplomatic corps that can work with the Iraqi government to find diplomatic solutions to ancient problems. Our military efforts in the middle east should be subordinate to these diplomats but that is not the case now and hasn’t been for a long time. The military will eventually sort itself out; they answer to congress and we have seen that congress loves to get the generals in front of them to ensure compliance with whatever agenda the congress is pushing.
What I’ve never seen (and maybe I’m not paying close enough attention) is those same congressional committees calling state department mandarins into account in public hearings. Congressional oversight is used to bludgeon military leaders while the State Department gets a pass. Why? The State Department is the main tool for implementing foreign policy. Why does John McCain bully the SecDef and General Dunford about a plan for Afghanistan when their plan should be based off the State Department’s plan and their efforts subordinate to the overall State efforts?
Why is War the policy option we now use to solve the problems we created by using war as a proxy for diplomacy? I don’t know the answer to that but suspect this is the reason why, in the face of good news, we find little hope, dwindling confidence and the sense that progress towards a more peaceful world is an illusion.
3 Replies to “We’re Winning…..Why Does It Feel Like We’re Losing?”
Right on spot Tim!
Winning what? The right to pour cash into the country and guarantee corruption on a massive scale? To protect America from a non existent threat from the Taliban? To ensure that the national security establishment is well funded? To protect the reputations of the army & USMC? To give DC policy wonks, generals and COIN experts a place to experiment and make names for themselves? To give the most gung-ho of America’s soldiers a place to practice and get gongs? To prevent the POTUS from “losing Afghanistan” on his watch?
There’s no up side to more “winning”. It’s kind of like France in 1914. Losing in August would have been better for France (perhaps everyone) than winning in 1918. Wrapping up the Afghan war a decade ago would have to been to Amercia’s advantage even if it meant chalking up a loss.
WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY OTHER MEANS.
I’m not a Clausewitz fan but why would he need to say his most famous dictum? I believe it was because the monarchs that he worked for were prone to head off on wars for what Clausewitz thought were silly reasons- habit, insult, glory, revenge etc. By “policy” I expect he meant getting some sort of strategic advantage- capturing a new province, fort or province etc. War was fine for the right reason. The aim was to get stronger not just waste resources in some sort of bloody game.
Which brings us to Afghanistan 2002. What was the strategic advantage of taking Afghanistan? Surely pushing AQ into Pakistan and not following makes little sense. Afghanistan has little of value (which is why the Brits took it twice and left twice). The Taliban were hardly a threat to the US. Why the invasion and occupation?
Revenge and glory (for senior people in the administration, CIA and DOD). On top of those we have the modern motives of greed which really kicked in once the occupation got underway (not for the wealth of Afghanistan but for the wealth of the US Treasury) and domestic politics- the need to keep enough voters on side while providing the opposition the opportunity to say things that might impune the honor of the military or the victims of AQ.
Comments are closed.