Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Afghanistan Debacle

What if they told an astonishing story and no one noticed? What if they exposed years worth of bipartisan incompetence and no one paid much attention? Such is the case with the recent revelations about how the government lied about the Afghanistan military conflict. Aside from the lies, the more important point is that we have been failing in Afghanistan. Rather than changing policy and working to succeed, we get into a game of let's pretend that we are winning.

You see, for eighteen years we have been fighting something resembling a war in Afghanistan. For eighteen years the government has been telling us that we are doing a bang up job. For eighteen years it has been lying about the progress of the war and has been wasting obscene amounts of money. 

The Washington Post reported the story. Barbara Boland summed it up in The American Conservative (via Maggie’s Farm).

It’s that after 18 years encompassing three presidential administrations from both parties, no one has been held accountable for the vast U.S. taxpayer dollars—not to mention, blood, sweat, and tears—wasted on a vast exercise for a purpose that even the principle players seem unable to identify.

These papers show a clear attempt to mislead and deceive the American people about the extent of the administrative and bureaucratic waste and incompetence that was occurring. What these interviews reveal is mind-blowing; that no one has been unaccountable is criminal.

So, we were fighting a war, ostensibly against the nation that had harbored al Qaeda terrorists, but we did not know what we were doing. We did not know who the enemy was. We did not have any conception of what would be required to win. 

If there is a dog that didn’t bark in the story, it’s the simple fact that no one, not in the White House, not in the Pentagon, not in the State Department seemed to have any notion of victory. They were most concerned with keeping up the appearance of success.

When Donald Trump run a presidential campaign on the notion that he wanted America to start winning again, he seems to have captured the general national exhaustion over fighting wars where the people in charge seemed not to know what they were doing.

Dare we say, our great fighting machine, having lost the habit of fighting to win, is proud of its diversity, of its ability to co-edify the armed forces, even of its ability to integrate the transgendered. Weren’t you just slightly surprised to see the Pentagon pushback when the Trump administration wanted to stop accepting the transgendered and to stop paying for gender reassignment treatment? 

And, let us not forget, today’s Pentagon is chock-a-block with lawyers. Decisions made by generals and admirals need to be vetted by an army of attorneys. How would World War II have worked out if Eisenhower and MacArthur needed to get the approval of lawyers?

As for why the nation is not up in arms about all this, the answer is obvious. The incompetence was manifest in the conduct of both Republican and Democratic administrations. If no one can gain a political advantage, if no one can use the information to indict the opposing party, everyone forgets about it.

But, don’t you think that it’s significantly more important than a conversation about sending weapons to the Ukraine?

The Afghanistan fiasco reads like a systematic failure of leadership. The people in charge did not know what they were doing. They did not know what victory would look like. They did not set the agenda and define the policy. As a result, every junior officer and every junior bureaucrat could project his or her own priorities. 

Boland explained:

Officials repeatedly acknowledge in “Lessons Learned” that with so many competing agendas in Washington that it was like having no real war strategy at all.

Fundamental disagreements went unresolved. Some U.S. officials wanted to use the war to turn Afghanistan into a democracy. Others wanted to transform Afghan culture and elevate women’s rights. Still others wanted to reshape the regional balance of power among Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia.

The freedom agenda. The woman’s rights agenda. The cultural transformation agenda. Duh. How about none of the above.

Boland adds:

The single most salient challenge for U.S. military commanders, however, was the struggle to articulate who they were fighting, or why. From the article:

Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the U.S. government never settled on an answer.

As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe.

“They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017. “It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’ ”

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a Sept. 8, 2003 memo.

Regardless of whether or not you think that we should have been fighting in Afghanistan in the first place, the most important point is, once we engaged against an enemy that had caused immense damage to the homeland and that had murdered thousands of our citizens, we should have had a goal in mind. And we should have had victory in mind. 

I doubt that any administration, faced with the horror of 9/11 could have chosen not to fight back. It would have been demoralizing beyond endurance. And yet, I also recall, at the onset of hostilities, that one day our airmen were flying reconnaissance in order to find Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban. When they saw a convoy of black sedans moving through the countryside, they were nearly certain that it contained the Taliban leader and his leadership team. 

And yet, did they open fire on the convoy? Not at all. They ran the information up the chain of command until it arrived at those who were really in charge: Pentagon attorneys. These latter decided that, in order to avoid collateral damage, we should leave the convoy alone.

After all, we did not want to be war criminals? Did we? We have been defeated by our guilty conscience--- didn't we learn from Hamlet that "conscience doth make cowards of us all...."


Le Gaïagénaire said...

From far far away I though US army was there to control drug production.

After all 9/11 is an inside job.

But, like I said, from far far away.

UbuMaccabee said...

Gen.Flynn spoke out about this fiasco. No coincidence.

Anonymous said...

What happened to WTC7?

The Taliban and al Qaeda were and are red herrings.

UbuMaccabee said...

Everyone knows that Joey Gallo and the Jews ran through WTC7 lighting fires and setting off semtex to avenge the Sbarro pizza bombing.

"Joeeeeeey, Joeeeeeey, king of the streets, child of clay, Joeeeey, Joeeeey, what made you and the Jews blow WTC7 away?"

Anonymous said...

Dilbert visits Elbonia:

Elbonian: "What's the secret for making mud?"
Dilbert: "Dirt and water?"
Elbonian: "We'll have to kill him".

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The Bushes blew up WTC. Then Obama covered up for it and continued the policy. And now Trump is in the midst of that continuance (and Obama and the Bushes both hate him), yet Trump wants to end it.

Red herrings, inside jobs, stand down orders........... all from far away.

That makes sense.

No doubt it has all been masterminded by Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location.

Maybe it was Russia?

Anonymous said...

"When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are ruled by criminals".

Link to image:

Anonymous said...

When I read comments about WTC7, I always wonder if they are old enough to remember...I remember distinctly, the news people (back before they were soley dim party activists)saying officials were going to bring it down -- an hour before it happened...

Then they kept mentioning it and finally said they have word it will be in the next 5 mins or whatever, and then it came down,exactly as timed, in front of the whole word.

Do people asking not think the news people and their global audience would have said "Woah--- what was that?" and quickly moved their cameras over, expressing shock. Instead, the cameras were already there, they made the announcements and then talked through the demolishing of it.

Were those people now questioning not watching, or what's the deal?