The War We Cant Win - Andrew Bacevich (COL, USA, Retired)

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by NathanHale, Sep 3, 2009.

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  1. mmmmmmmmm
  2. Excellent. Just what we need: another phase of American isolationism and national self-absorbed navel gazing. Just like the ones that ended with a bang at least three times before - 1917, 1941 and 2001. :thumright:

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    Why do you assume that the only alternative to a projectionist policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is isolationism and navel gazing?
  4. Would one of the boards Intellectuals define WIN to me.
    The Brit Army will fight and do it's DUTY as it always has done.
    Labour decided to go to WAR with ? in Afghanistan and a British government will one day have to decide when to make peace with ?
  5. A very good question, but one which will never be answered because “winning” in “asymmetric” campaigns, or what in my day were called “low intensity operations” (and compared to Iraq and ‘stan, they were) is in the eye of the beholder.
  6. In Blair's notorious "Five Tests for Intervention" (which I now can't find) the need to define very clearly what the vital national interest was that justified the cost in money and lives of these ops was conspicuous by its absence.
  7. Wow - he must know some really modern Islamists. I thought that the seventh century was the target destination (okay, yes, he's talking about the Ottoman Empire but even then many of the fundamentalists were look back to the past through rose-tinted brains.)

    It is not so much American isolationism - it is realism and an understanding that there are quite a few bits of the world (UK included) that don't actually want to turn themselves into downtown Baltimore. This would involve the American education system and media actually encouraging the septics to think about anywhere outside the States (Canada counting as hono(u)rary USA as far as the Blue Jays and the Maple Leafs are concerned for the sports' pages only).
  8. "Win" needs to be in the hands of the politicians - it is a strategic set of objectives. "Win" was a very different view of things in the Falklands, as opposed to NI, and in Korea as opposed to WW2.

    This, I believe, is what we are actually missing. The initial tactical objective - overthrow the Taliban government - was achieved a long time ago.

    Given that strategic objective, the military planners could then set out a series of mil tasks necessary to achieve it and ask for the right force numbers and balance to achieve that task.

    It's not where we are. "You can have a reinforced brigade because that's all we've got left". "You have enough helicopters", when we clearly don't etc, etc. So we soldier on trying to "keep the peace" and "support the local population", in a strategy vacuum and equipment shortages.
  9. Many of these people live in such pi$$ poor conditions it scarcely makes any difference to them what century they are in. And sending the Marines with survey questionnaires is hardly likely to improve their lot. The Septics appear unable to grasp that if their notion of free market unrestrained capitalism goes global that many nations and peoples will and do resent the inevitable imbalances which then occur. You do not have to be an extremist to think that the increasing Americanisation of the entire planet is not A Good Thing.

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    Not necessarily. If you defined the mission as denying Afghanistan as an operational base to terrorists, you could measure success or failure quite easily.

    The problem arises when the mission is expanded to become denying Afghanistan as a base to terrorists through the development of civil structures and the establishment of democratic government on the basis of human rights and the rule of law. Then it does become confused and, in an Afghan context, probably impossible.

    To sell the attack on Afghanistan, it was packaged as a moral crusade (as almost all US conflicts have to be) complete with liberal wish list. That wish list got muddled up with our original reason for intervention and now we are hopelessly confused with no clear mission. As a result, we now face the near impossible task of trying to impose Western values and structures on a society without any sophisticated civil structure and which is pathologically conditioned to resist any outside interference - and has been since the beginning of recorded history.

    The brutal truth is that the number of Afghan women who are abused and denied an education makes no difference to our security. Policy makers need to consider that a satisfactory endstate could consist of installing a ruthless b@stard capable of keeping the people in order and the terrorists out, and stop selling the 'hallelujah' option so hard.
  11. There have been several articles supporting Andrew Bacevich’s thesis recently. For example see George Will piece in the Washington Post.

    However, Max Boot wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal today, which is also interesting. Complete article here, but a couple of extracts

    Just thought I would through out an alternative thought piece for consideration. It still appears to me, that both the US and UK governments have failed in a basic way to enunciate the goals and reasons for their taking military action in Afghanistan. If you can’t explain it, then popular support will not follow or be maintained, and there will be increasing pressure to depart the region. If they are really unable to explain the reasons, then perhaps it is time to depart and stop wasting lives and treasure.
  12. Great post FF. I have posted here a couple of times about Malaya and the heavy handed sometimes murderous tactics employed by us British to do down the rebels. To be honest, I don't go for this softly softly crap any more. High time to crack down in Helmand, impose curfews, destroy crops the whole hog. Malaya wasn't done by simply hearts and minds, it was a full on brutal regime, where it needed to be. We can shilly shally around forever in Afg with crap kit and insufficient manpower. Starting point being the corrupt figure Karzai. As long as he stays in power the whole thing is doomed.

    I wonder if General Richards is fully aware of the brutality of the Malaya Campaign he loves to quote. The following tactics worked, but it is hardly New Labour or Army Intellectual.

    Here is a taster;

    Malaya: Hearts and Minds?

    It is possible to construct very different accounts about the impact of British counter-insurgency in Malaya and from this draw contrasting 'lessons' about the implications of these stories for counter-insurgency practice. Templer's proclaimed 'hearts and minds' campaign in Malaya may serve to conceal the extent to which coercion and repression was used by the British. This included:46

    The Briggs Plan (1950) which forcibly resettled 500,000 people, about 25 per cent of Malaya's Chinese population
    Mass arrests
    The death penalty for carrying arms
    Detention without trial for up to two years, between 1948 and 1957 a total of 34,000 people were held without trial for more than 28 days
    Deportations (over 10,000 in 1949)
    Identity cards and movement restriction
    Control of food and shops
    Arson against the homes of communist sympathisers
    Collective punishment in the form of curfews and fines
    'the indiscriminate shooting of rural Chinese squatters fleeing army patrols'47
    The Batang Kali massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in December 1948
    Treating prisoners as criminals and hanging hundreds of them
  13. Known widely as 'Blair's Doctrine' They were:

    1. Are we sure of our case?

    2. Have we exhausted all diplomatic options?

    3. Are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake?

    4. Are we prepared for the long term?

    5. Do we have national interests involved?

    I believe that you could safely have said NO to 1 2 and 5 in the case of Iraq and probably all 5 in the case of 'staan.
  14. Agreed :)
  15. Interesting observations DD (honest-no sarcasm) . I am not sure we as a nation consciously want to Americanize the world but your point is valid that too many in the US look at the world through their own experience and project it onto other cultures where it just won't work. That is one of the problems with "nation building." In "whose" image is the new nation built?

    The other dynamic that makes this so intractable is that contrary to the good professor's view, I don't think as a practical matter the US can ever turn inward to the extent he urges in his closing paragraphs. Even if "we" as a nation (and that is probably the first insurmountable problem) tried to do that, internal and external pressures would erode our resolve.

    Somalia is a good example where initially Clinton was adamant that the US had no national security interest there and thus would not send ground forces. Then the media campaign (later coined the "CNN Effect") supported by various NGOs showing starving children eroded that resolve to the point he then intervened but in a way that was tentative and dangerous, eventually culminating iun the whole "Blackhawk Down" fiasco.

    Like it or not, we have become the world's policeman and paramedic. Of course this will inevitably change as the US fades in its place in the world from internal cancers. It will be interesting to see (not me but later generations) which country (ies) rise to fill the vacuum.