Thursday, December 31, 2009

I See London, I See France, I See Bombs in Underpants

So this Lonesome Luke rich Nigerian kid, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, hops on a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day with a bomb sewn into his underpants. As the plane begins to land, the kid tries to set off the bomb and it does little more than give him third-degree burns on his tallywhacker, and the entire civilized world goes snake guano.

Many observers have compared the rich Nigerian kid with the skivvy bomb with shoe bomber Richard Reid who tried to blow up an airplane over the Atlantic in 2001. The explosive in Reid’s shoes was the same type the Nigerian kid had in his drawers, PETN. Had Reid been able to detonate his shoes, he presumably would have blown his toes off. The rich Nigerian kid had twice as much of the explosive in his boxers as Reid had in his shoes. Federal authorities say if the kid’s panties had gone boom like they were supposed to, they would have blown a hole in the side of the aircraft. That would have caused something called "explosive decompression," which isn’t as horrible as it sounds. Unlike what you may have seen in thriller entertainments, decompressions don’t suck everybody out of the airplane — unless, of course, the hole is big enough to break the airplane in half, in which case being sucked out of it becomes a minor concern.

The media have been frothing over the prospect that the rich Nigerian kid is connected to al-Qaeda. The kid himself told authorities that he has ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That could mean just about anything. It could mean some huckster recognized him as a screwed up rich kid with radical Islamic leanings, sidled up to him, and said, Psst. Young Man. I am with al-Qaeda. We’ve had our eye on you for some time now, and we like what we see. You want the martyrdom, the virgins, the seat beside Allah? Well, I have a lovely little bomb you can sneak onboard an airplane in your Fruit of the Looms, and for you I’ll part with it for a mere $100,000 US, and believe me, I’m losing money on the deal.

Who are these AQAP hooligans, anyway? They’re described as an al-Qaeda "offshoot." Does that mean they’re a subsidiary of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, kind of like KBR is an offshoot of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton? AQAP formed in January 2009 when al-Qaeda in Yemen merged with Saudi Arabia’s al-Qaeda. Whatever you do, don’t mistake AQAP or Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which more than anything else resembles a Pittsburg garage band that calls itself "The Rolling Stones of Pennsylvania."

AQAP has taken credit for the rich Nigerian kid’s bombing attempt, which tells us the outfit is a gang of losers. Taking credit for the Detroit plane bombing is like Winston Churchill bragging about his role in Gallipoli: yeah, I’m the schmuck who arranged that unmitigated disaster.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who never met an issue he couldn’t be partisan about, criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for appearing "bored" on the Christmas weekend political gab-athons. "There was no intensity, there was no show of emotion," King said. King obviously would have preferred the female Democrat to appear hysterical and disoriented.

As it was, Napolitano did more than sufficient damage to herself by claiming that "the system worked." Yeah. A rich Nigerian kid who’s on a watch list and whose respected banker father has warned authorities may be a terrorist risk manages to board an airplane headed for America with a pant load of bomb and no passport and the freaking system worked? Napolitano later retracted her statement, but the damage had been done. Like President Obama finally said, there was a "systematic failure" of America’s security apparatus.

Speaking of saying stupid things: I have two graduate degrees in bull crap, I know exactly what it sounds like, and I hear it every time lipstick neocon Joe Lieberman opens his mouth. Like Dick Cheney, Lieberman managed to get himself deferred out of the Vietnam conflict, first for attending Yale and Yale Law School and then for managing to get his wife pregnant. Joe’s only real warmongering credentials are his conspicuous displays of smoking John McCain’s stogie, but that appears to be enough for him to get by. Joe never met a war he didn’t like: except, of course, for the one he managed to dodge when he was of draft age.

Joe told FOX News "Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war." Joe’s always been one for acting preemptively. He was a leading proponent of going off half-cocked into Iraq. He still thinks preemptive deterrence is an enlightened method of foreign policy. Joe might want to stitch his pie hole shut on the subject of military actions and look into what’s wrong with the Homeland Security structure, seeing as how he’s the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and all.

Joe doesn’t seem to understand, however, that we’re already doing preemptive things in Yemen. The US was involved in a pre-Christmas air strike on Yemen’s Sa’ada Province. CIA agents and Special Operations forces began covert ops in Yemen a year ago. This has all been done, of course, without a declaration of war or an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) from Congress, much as the Bush administration blew villages in Somalia to smithereens without authorization from the legislature. We don’t have presidents any more. We have emperors.

Non-G.I. Joe says Yemen is now one of the "centers" of the fight against terrorism, and Joe’s not the only war dog who thinks Yemen is the next military-industrial mother lode.

"Yemen’s security problems won’t just stay in Yemen," says Christopher Boucek, who studies Yemen as an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "They’re regional problems and they affect Western interests."

Lest you think the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is actually interested in peace, be advised that another of its associates is Robert Kagan of the neocon Kagans who include father Donald Kagan and brother Fred Kagan who played a major role in designing both the Iraq and Afghanistan surges. Robert Kagan is also the long-time publishing and ideological partner of Weekly Standard editor and Project for the New American Century founder Bill Kristol.

Keep in mind, then, that Christopher Boucek’s real job at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is to start a full-blown war in Yemen, and the job of everyone else at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is sustain international warfare for as long as humanly possible.

And now we’re all hot to trot off to war in Yemen because of some spoiled, screwed up Muslim kid who, by the way, comes from Nigeria, not Yemen, just as the 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, not Afghanistan.

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 51 295 Pen and Sword 2 1 362 12.0

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Surgin' Safari

Devotees of President Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan hope to repeat the "success" of our surge in Iraq. That’s likely to prove easier to accomplish than even the most rabid Afghanistan surge proponent dares to hope.

The Iraq surge was already in motion in January 2007, when Bush and Cheney flipped off the Iraq Study Group and decided to escalate the war with David Petraeus, the "Teflon General," at the helm of the operation. A shameless self-promoter, "King David" created the illusion of a successful surge by lowering violence statistics through his usual method of operation: hand out weapons to the bad guys, bribe the bad guys not to use the weapons, and pretend to be shocked, shocked when the bad guys take the bribes and use the weapons anyway.

Petraeus’ personal stenographer, former journalist Thomas E. Ricks, admits that Petraeus misled Congress and the public into thinking he was trying to end the war when he was in fact laying "the groundwork for a much more prolonged engagement in Iraq."

Three years after the surge began, violence shows no signs of disappearing. Holiday attacks were especially brutal. Mosul Mayor Zuhair Muhsen al-Aaraji escaped an assassination attempt on Christmas Eve. (Mosul is the town Petraeus supposedly "tamed" during his first tour in Iraq. Within weeks after he left and the graft well ran dry, Mosul went up for grabs and has been a trouble spot ever since.)

Also on Dec. 24, as the Shi’ite religious festival of Ashura approached, five attacks killed at least 19 people and wounded over 100. The Iraqi government was quick to blame al-Qaeda in Iraq, but I’ll bet you a shiny new Ohio quarter that the Sunni-based Awakening movement that Petraeus armed and funded had more than a little something to do with the attacks.

On Christmas Day, a roadside bomb killed six Shi’ites during a religious ceremony in Baghdad. In several parts of the country, fights broke out between Christians and Shi’ites over competing religious decorations.

Many Iraqi Christians were afraid to make any public celebration of Christmas. Midnight mass had to be observed in daylight. A bomb exploded near a historic Christian church in Mosul on Dec. 23, killing two people and wounding five. Security around Christian churches was the heaviest it has been since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

On Dec. 22, a series of coordinated car bombings killed 112 people in Baghdad. This was the third coordinated attack on Baghdad in four months; the bombs struck areas near justice buildings, a Finance Ministry office, and a police checkpoint, symbols of government authority all under tight security after the earlier bomb attacks.

On Oct. 18, a roadside bombing and other attacks killed 10 U.S. troops, making it the deadliest day for American forces in 10 months. (We have, by the way, spent over $14 billion on programs to defeat roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices [IEDs] and have yet to find a solution. The Army’s Joint IED Defeat Organization [JEIDDO] rather symbolizes our entire war on terror: mind-numbing amounts of treasure poured down a rabbit hole to no avail.)

Iraqi security forces have proven unable to provide the security necessary to keep the peace. That should come as no surprise: the man in charge of training them in 2004 and 2005 was Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who, in that capacity, lost track of over 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols that without question found their way into the hands of militia groups. This happened while the staff at the U.S. Army War College was assembling the new field manual on counterinsurgency operations that Petraeus later took credit for writing, a myth that Ricks and other media sycophants helped propagate.

The best summary of the "success" of the Iraq surge came in the form of a July memorandum from Army Col. Timothy Reese, chief of the Baghdad Operations Advisory Team, titled "It’s Time for the U.S. to Declare Victory and Go Home."

Reese describes the "ineffectiveness and corruption" of the Iraqi government as "the stuff of legend." The so-called anti-corruption initiative is merely a campaign tool for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki’s government is taking "no rational steps" to improve the country’s infrastructure or oil exploration. Sunni reconciliation is "at best at a standstill and probably going backwards." The Kurdish situation "continues to fester." Political violence and intimidation is "rampant."

There is no possibility of implanting a "professional military culture" in Iraq’s security forces. Corruption in the officer corps is "widespread." Enlisted men are neglected and mistreated. Cronyism and nepotism are "rampant." Laziness is "endemic." Lack of initiative is "legion." Iraq’s security force’s "near total ineffectiveness" prevents it from becoming self-sustaining.

Gen. Ray "Desert Ox" Odierno, Petraeus’ handpicked successor as overall commander in Iraq who Ricks laughably claims was the real brain behind the Iraq surge, calls Reese’s concerns mere "tactical issues."

Gen. Stan "The Man" McChrystal, whom Petraeus handpicked to command in Af-Pak, has been charged with leading a successful surge in that theater of operations. Given the corruption that exists in the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the incompetence and corruption in their militaries, and the seemingly uncontrollable levels of violence in both countries, I’d say McChrystal is well on his way to surpassing the accomplishments of Petraeus and Odierno by a wide margin.

In fact, I see no reason why President Barack Obama shouldn’t fly aboard an aircraft carrier tomorrow and declare "mission accomplished" in Af-Pak.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Obama's AfPak Vagina Monologues

(Scene: The Bizarro Universe, January 1942. Bizarro Adm. William Leahy, chief of staff to Bizarro President Franklin Roosevelt and de facto first chairman of the Bizarro Joint Chiefs of Staff, enters the oval office of the Bizarro White House.)

Bizarro Leahy: Mr. President, your national security team has just adjourned after agreeing on what we think is the perfect Pacific strategy.

Bizarro FDR: That’s excellent, William. Let’s hear your plan.

Bizarro Leahy: The entire strategy rests on the vital geostrategic importance of Alaska, sir.

Bizarro FDR: (Pauses.) But, uh, William, what about the Philippines and New Zealand and Singapore and Midway and the Solomon Island chain and so forth?

Bizarro Leahy: Sir, Alaska is definitely the center of gravity of the war in the Pacific.

Bizarro FDR: But it’s not exactly in the center, is it? It’s more toward the top, wouldn’t you agree?

Bizarro Leahy: Yes, Mr. President, but it’s like they say, a fish rots from the head down.

Bizarro FDR: (Stroking his chin.) They do say that, don’t they?

Bizarro Leahy: You see, Mr. President, Midway and the Solomons and Singapore and so forth are important strategic targets, but the Japanese can’t capture them unless they have a sanctuary in Alaska from which to plan their operations.

Bizarro FDR: By George, William, you’ve explained it all perfectly. Thank goodness I have the expertise and experience of you and your Bizarro Chiefs of Staff to explain things to me. Order another 30,000 of our troops to Alaska then, and I’ll speak with Bizarro Winston Churchill about sending an additional 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders and Canadians to help out.


Barack Obama’s Af-Pak strategy must have the real FDR clawing at his coffin lid. The new strategy was cooked up by the same group of stooges Robert Dreyfuss laughably described as "Obama’s Chess Masters" in the April 2009 edition of Rolling Stone, one of the country’s most authoritative voices on military and foreign policy matters.

In March, the pawn pushers announced a strategy that promised to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda, give Afghanistan a real government and security force, establish civilian control of Pakistan, and involve the "international community" in achieving all of these "realistic and achievable" objectives.

Within months of assuming command of Af-Pak, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose previous combat job had been to command the Joint Special Operations Command, then-vice president Dick Cheney’s personal assassination team, decided he needed a new strategy.

So Obama sent his chess masters back to work on the project and they met and met for weeks and weeks in a "deliberative process," and here’s what they came up with.

The main objective, as before, was to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda’s ability to plan and execute terror operations. This part of the deliberative process largely resembled the deliberative process from March, which included a debate on what the center of gravity might be.

Many of the brainiacs in and around the five-sided puzzle palace considered the Taliban to be the center of gravity. Stan McChrystal and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen considered the Afghan people to be the center of gravity, but that’s largely because they buy the balderdash Gen. David Petraeus’ underlings wrote in the new plagiarized Counterinsurgency (COIN) Field Manual. Sen. John Kerry, not exactly known for his ability to devise and execute winning strategies, thinks the center of gravity in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Now the top dogs with the brass plates in their skulls are saying the center of gravity is southern Afghanistan.

Poppycock. None of these guys would recognize a center of gravity if it pitched a tent in their heinies.

Carl von Clausewitz described the center of gravity as "the point against which all our energies should be directed.” That point must of necessity be the thing most closely associated with our objective. So if our objective is to end al-Qaeda’s ability to plan and execute terror operations, a slow child could correctly conclude with little deliberation at all that the center of gravity is al-Qaeda. Funny how Obama’s chess champs couldn’t reach such an obvious conclusion through their advanced decision-making processes. Maybe the problem was too simple for them. Or maybe it was too hard. Maybe they should take up checkers, or better yet that childen’s card game where you play one card at a time. What’s it called again? Oh yeah – War!

War is, in fact, exactly what Obama’s security team is playing. Long War, to be specific, the Pentagon’s grand strategy to keep low-level conflicts active for another half-century or longer to justify the military budget. That’s why they don’t want to come out and call al-Qaeda the center of gravity. National Security Adviser James Jones admits there are at a maximum 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and probably fewer than 400 in Pakistan. Other studies estimate that there may be fewer than 10 core al-Qaeda members left. It’s pretty hard to justify a 50-year war for the sake of taking out fewer than 500 Islamo-hooligans (at most) who are on the run. The other problem with that approach is that with modern mobile communications technology, al-Qaeda needs a safe haven in Af-Pak to plan terror attacks on America even less than the Japanese needed a sanctuary in Alaska to plan Pearl Harbor.

So we’re sticking with the same game plan as before, even though it’s even more farcical now than it was then. The Afghan president, who is as crooked as the Snake River, stole two elections, his hand-picked election inspectors declared him "reelected," and the Obama administration tripped all over its collective sex organ declaring Karzai the "legitimate" leader of Afghanistan so we can say we have a reliable partner for our counterinsurgency effort that now includes timelines that mean absolutely nothing. ("Depending on conditions on the ground." Where have we heard that load of snot rag before?)

Pakistan’s military and intelligence service have made President Asif Ali Zardari as much of an empty hat as George W. Bush was, and Pakistan is becoming as corrupt as Afghanistan is.

As for international involvement, Obama has managed to bully NATO countries into sending more troops to Afghanistan, but the second our bureaucratic twit Secretary of Defense Bob Gates complains for the umpteenth time that NATO doesn’t know how to fight guerrillas, NATO’s going to tell Gates where he can stick his guerrillas and go home.

Those weeks of "deliberative process" were little more than cover for the fact that Obama was once again going to put on his kneepads and give his generals everything they wanted. I shriek every time Obama gives a speech in which he talks about how brilliant Petraeus is when the facts are that all Petraeus knows how to do is hand out guns to bad guys, bribe the bad guys not to use the guns he just gave them, and then act surprised when they use the guns anyway.

Here’s what Obama needs to change right now. He needs to drop the vagina monologues, get his generals under control or fire them, start acting like the commander in chief, and quit acting like Bizarro FDR.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bring Back the Bad Guys

By Jeff Huber

Conquerors immemorial have known that the secret to successful occupations is to let the guys who surrender stay in charge of the yokels. We are presently bogged down in two quagmires because we haven’t learned that lesson.

Iraq’s government and security forces are incompetent and corrupt, the Kurdish situation remains unresolved, and nobody seems confident that the country will ever be able to function as an independent state again. Oh, for the good old days under Saddam Hussein! Whatever you want to say about the son of a sand dune, he didn’t need a field manual to figure out how to run his country. Neither did Mohammed Omar’s Taliban need a book on how to run Afghanistan. They have lived in the neighborhood for a very long time.

Decapitating regimes through military force is the most foolhardy of foreign-policy acts. The Prussians discovered this the hard way in the Franco- Prussian War. They defeated the French Army at Sedan and took Napoleon III prisoner along with 140,000 of his soldiers. But the war dragged on for months because the French formed a new government and a new army and kept fighting. They didn’t like the idea of Germans occupying their country. Imagine that.

Few military victories have been more stunning than the fall of Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the fighting continues almost seven years later. We supposedly ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan eight years ago, and we’re still trying to oust them. We’d be better off by far if we had never invaded either but worked instead with the power structures already in place. As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”

See the rest at The American Conservative.

Friday, December 18, 2009

ON the Rapid Mend

Thanks to all for your expressions of concern. I'm on the mend. Just my second full day at home, I ran several errands, cleaned the house, walked the dogs, did about 15 minutes of tai chi, wrote a complaint to the State Department of Health regarding my (former) cardiologist, and got a good start on Monday's article.

So fear not. I'll be back!

Best,

Jeff

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Get Real about Iran

Iran has announced that it will build 10 new nuclear facilities. Big deal.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the facilities are necessary to meet the country's goal to one day generate up to 20,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, a grand ambition.

That program would require 500,000 centrifuges. Iran presently has 8,000, only half of which are currently producing reactor grade uranium. Experts predict the Iranians can’t get there from here, at least not any time soon.

“We’re looking at an extremely costly 20- or 30-year program, at best," says Gary Sick, a professor of Middle East studies at Columbia University who served on the National Security Council during Iran's 1979 revolution.

Ahmad Shirzad, an Iranian nuclear scientist who is often critical of his government, says Iran has neither the industrial ability to create 500,000 centrifuges nor the basic ingredients to operate them. He says the announcement was a "political decision to make an impression."

The announcement came in response to an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution that said Iran was bad, bad, bad for not exporting the majority of its reactor grade uranium to Russia and France. That was a bogus deal that Iran was wise to stiff-arm. France has screwed Iran on nuclear deals in the past.

No one wants to grant that Iran, like many countries, wants to improve its situation in the world, and that the prize, for them, is a nuclear energy program. To have nuclear weapons would be, for them, a death sentence. Both Israel and America would go snake spit and bomb them back to the Bronze Age.

The impasse revolves around demands by the west that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program. That’s an outrageous demand, one that Iran says it will never accede to, and well it should not. Having a nuclear energy program that relies on other countries to provide your nuclear fuel is like not having a nuclear energy program at all.

The Iranians will stand their ground. They will not be bullied into giving up their “inalienable right,” as guaranteed in the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty, to refine their own uranium. So why bother pursuing that aim?

The hoopla over their “secret” enrichment facility at Qom, buried under a mountain, the one they revealed before we accused them of keeping it a secret, is not a big deal. As they explain, they wanted a back-up, bombproof facility in case the Israelis blow up their main facility in Nanantz, something the Iranians have ample reason to believe might happen.

To review the bidding, Iranians don’t have a nuclear weapons program. They have never invaded another country. Their conventional forces have limited capability. Their army has never deployed more than about ten miles from its border, and that was only during the eight-year war with Iraq when Saddam Hussein invaded them. Their navy is a coast guard and their air force is a junkyard. Their defense budget is less than one percent of ours. Iran is a pismire.

Iran’s president says unfortunate things; most of them, one strongly suspects, are for domestic Iranian and Muslim world consumption, the equivalent of “Bring ‘em on.” But the Iranian’s are, well, paper Persians. Their growl is much worse than their bite. They are, in fact, toothless.

Iran is part of the multi-tined Long War strategy that the Pentagon and its supporters are cramming up our noses. They’re digging their heels in on Iraq. Gen. Ray Odeirno has been making noises about how we need to keep 30,000 or so troops in Iraq until 2015 or so, and says the insurgency in Iraq may go on for another 15 or so years. So much for the “successful” surge.

Afghanistan, where it looks like we’re going to re-re-escalate in order to develop an exit plan, has become the Long War’s center of gravity. We’ve never seen the Pentagon and its confederates make such a media play to force a president to keep a war going indefinitely. MacArthur’s antics with Truman were tame in comparison.

Iran serves several purposes. It gives the Air Force and the Navy a reason to exist. We won’t bother to invade Iran; we’ll schwack it with air power. Iran is a convenient scapegoat. Whenever something goes wrong anywhere in the region, we blame it on Iran, even though we never have managed to prove any of our allegations. Most importantly, the Iranians give us a perfect excuse to maintain presence in the Middle East, so we can guard Israel from them and keep them from shutting down the Straight of Hormuz.

In all, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan form our Long War trifecta.

I don’t propose that we turn our backs on Iran. There is a possibility that they someday will develop nuclear weapons behind everybody’s backs if we don’t keep an eye on them.

But the sound and fury we generate every time Iran jerks our chain is silly.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bananastan Delusions

President Obama’s Dec. 1 speech about his decision on the Bananastans (Afghanistan and Pakistan) is unlikely to surprise anyone. The sanctioned leaks have been coming fast and furious the past few days, and it appears that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get what he asked for. Maybe.

He’ll get his 40,000 extra troops, 34,000 to come from the U.S. and 6,000 or so to come from NATO nations. He’ll train Afghanistan security forces to a total strength of 400,000. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will eliminate corruption in his government.

Right.

At a million smackers per troop per year, the annual cost of the war bumps up by $34 billion, and that’s probably a conservative estimate. Many other expenses will be involved. Democratic leadership in Congress doesn’t much care for that aspect. Congressman David Obey, (D-WI.), wants to pay taxes to pay for any escalation of the war.

Europe is not all shot up about sending more troops to Afghanistan. France, Germany and England have had significant anti-Afghan war protests.

McChrystal will have a tough time getting Afghanistan’s police and military forces up to 400,000. The Afghan National Army’s rate of turnover--due to desertion, absenteeism and lack of reenlistment--is atrocious.

The White House called Hamid Karzai the “legitimate” leader of Afghanistan after he stole two elections. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Karzai to make a “new compact” with the people of Afghanistan. Get real, Hillary. Karzai is one of the biggest crooks in the second most corrupt country in the world. (Somalia is the most corrupt. Iraq is number four.)

McChrystal wants to do a “classic” counterinsurgency operation, based on the doctrine prescribed in Field Manual 3-24 that states unequivocally, in several places, that successful counterinsurgency operations require effective and legitimate governance. We’ll never get that from Karzai. He’s congenitally crooked; he’s a warlord whose cabinet is made up of fellow warlords and his brother Ahmed is a drug lord who’s on the CIA payroll. Drugs finance the Taliban and Hamid himself has old ties to the Taliban.

What on earth are we doing in that part of the world?

We estimate that at a maximum, 100 al-Qaeda operators are in Afghanistan and maybe 300 are skulking around Afghanistan. Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi relates that there may be fewer than ten of them left.

Obama says, "I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive." If there’s a clear rationale for what we’re doing in Afghanistan why haven’t we heard it yet? If Candidate Obama kept telling us Afghanistan was the “war of necessity,” how come President Obama never told us why that is? Obama’s strategy team already went through one high-level strategy session in March and came with a paper pile of trash. We would disrupt terror networks, turn Afghanistan and Pakistan into real countries, and get the international community involved. Sure.

As we discuss an escalation, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is talking about how to get British troops out of the joint. He’s put up a series of demands of the Karzai government. But he says he would not set a timetable for withdrawal. Nothing ever happens without timelines in the military. If it weren’t for timelines, we’d still be waiting for Dwight Eisenhower to order the invasion of Normandy.

To make matters messier, there are indications that another civil war between the Pashtuns and a Tajik-led anti-Pashtun ethnic coalition that would look like the one that took place after the fall of the Soviet-supported regime in 1992. Sticking our soldiers in the middle of other countries’ civil wars seems to have become America’s new pastime.

We’re still running a funky facility in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base called the “black jail” where prisoners are locked away with no due process and tortured.

We’re still assassinating “suspected” bad dudes from the air in Pakistan with unpiloted drones, and killing a lot of civilians as well.

Pakistan isn’t doing so well on the corruption scale itself. President Asif Ali Zardari and his allies face corruption and criminal charges, and Zardari has ceded his control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to the country’s prime minister, and is being called on to cede other powers as well. Pakistan’s military has traditionally been stronger than its civilian government, and Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad says that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut a dope deal with Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Service Intelligence agency to negotiate with the Taliban for us. Ain’t that a heel upside the noggin?

Speaking of boots, the Washington Post reports that shortly after President Obama announces his latest Afghanistan plan, as many as 9,000 Marines will deploy to resume an offensive in Southern Afghanistan, the one that stalled out when McChrystal first took over. The current official explanation of why the original offensive went flat is that we didn’t have enough troops at the time. But the time, the story was that the Taliban fighters faded away in the presence of a superior force and struck elsewhere. How many shiny Ohio quarters would you care to bet that they’ll fade away this time too?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Obama’s Big Speech

President Obama will announce his big decision about Afghanistan on Tuesday. The sanctioned leaks about what he’ll say are coming fast and furious.

According to various reports, he’ll commit somewhere between 30,000 and 34,000 extra U.S. troops to the region. When he announces that, NATO nations will maybe send 6,000 extra troops. That adds up to the 40,000 extra forces Gen. Stanley McChrystal wanted, and then we’ll train Afghan security forces up to an end-strength of about 400,000, and we’ll have as many counterinsurgency troops in place as our bogus counterinsurgency field manual calls for (between two and 2.5 percent of the host nation population, which in Afghanistan is a little over 28 million, so the total number of counterinsurgents will be in the ballpark of 600,000).

The bad news: this means Obama is signing on to a nation birthing strategy, one that in part is about maintaining a reason to exist for NATO and the U.S. Army, who would otherwise have trouble justifying their bloated budgets.

The politics of this goat rope are becoming as ridiculous as they are transparent. Obama’s “deliberative process,” that has taken months, will end up giving McChrystal more or less just what he asked for. Obama asked our NATO Shemps to kick in 10,000 extra troops, knowing they’d give him about half that number.

Candidate Obama put himself between a rock and a brick wall when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” and promised he would get “the job done” there. He said that gibberish to get critics off his back for his having voted against the Iraq surge, something he shouldn’t have apologized for. The Iraq surge was a shipwreck. Iraq’s government and security forces are incompetent and corrupt, political reconciliation is nowhere in sight, and we may never see their next set of elections. (I’m thinking we’ll never get completely out of Iraq. The whole point of invading the joint was establishing a permanent base of operations in the heart of the oil rich Gulf region.)

Obama supposedly insisted that his security team come up with an exit strategy. White House spokesmodel Robert Gibbs says, "We are in year nine of our efforts in Afghanistan. We are not going to be there another eight or nine years." That’s not an exit plan. It’s blabber from a White House spokes-character.

"The American people are going to want to know why we are here, they are going to want to know what our interests are," Gibbs says.

What exactly are our interests in Afghanistan? None of the 9/11 attackers came from there. Al Qaeda has all but disappeared; some reports say it’s down to a core membership of eight or ten, and few if any of them are in Afghanistan.

U.S. and NATO forces already in place in Afghanistan outnumber the Taliban by a ratio of 12 to one, and it’s questionable why we give a rat’s rump about the Taliban. They’re a more potent political force in Afghanistan than Hamid Karzai’s government, and a more honest one, and they control 80 percent of the country. Our political leaders are calling Karzai the “legitimate” leader of Afghanistan even though he just stole two elections and everybody on the planet knows it.

Top Democratic leaders aren’t peace, love and understanding about the vector Obama seems to be taking on Afghanistan. Chairman of the House Appropriations committee, David Obey (D-WI) doesn’t like the idea of escalating and says if Obama wants to do that we need to increase taxes. Chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee Carl Levin (D-MI) would also like to increase taxes but only on high-income earners. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there’s not a shipload of support in the Democratic caucus for escalation in Afghanistan.

Candidate Obama stuck his wits in a wringer when he called the Afghanistan conflict a “war of necessity” and vowed to “get the job done” there. Now, it appears, he can’t back down from those statements without being reviled from the right as a “weak on security” Democrat, and a black one at that. He’s already suffered a media blitz from McChrystal that rivals anything Harry Truman had to put up with from Douglas MacArthur, and the hawks in Congress have been screeching at him non-stop for not giving McChrystal what he wanted the second he asked for it.

I’d like to see him go on TV Tuesday night and say, “My fellow Americans, I was wrong. Our war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with national security anymore and we can’t afford it, and I’m not sending one more kid into harm’s way to fight there. As of tonight, I’m ordering a complete withdrawal.” But the odds of that happening are slimmer than a licorice rope. Obama couldn’t take the heat.

Former four-star Barry McCaffrey, the military-industrial ghoul who was the worst of the retired military media analysts who helped sell the Iraq war to the American public, is, incredibly, back on the air with NBC. He’s pushing the “no exit strategy, no timeline in Afghanistan” line. McCaffrey has ties to DynCorp International, a company that has a five-year contract to support bases in Afghanistan.

A swell fellow, that McCaffrey is, but he’s really just a symptom of a larger American disease. Our wars, even though they’re destroying our economy, are making a lot of people rich. The cash caisson, the gravy ship and the wild blue budget continue to grow. War is our only export, and counterinsurgency is the perfect tool of the Long War mafia because counterinsurgency wars are unwinnable.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let Them Fight Among Themselves

Are we going to escalate the war in Afghanistan for the sake of saving face? Defense Secretary Robert Gates says we have to stay the course in Afghanistan to deny al-Qaeda a “propaganda win.”

A propaganda win, as best I can tell, is a condition where someone can say “nyah, nyah” to us and we can’t say “nyah, nyah” back. Except that wouldn’t be the case if we left Afghanistan. They could say they ran us off. We could say so what, we live in the richest country in the world and you live in Afghanistan.

Gates has proven himself to be a bureaucratic survivalist who knows how to work the system but very little else. He calls Afghanistan the “modern epicenter of jihad.” A place “where the Mujahedeen defeated the other superpower,” and in his estimation of the Taliban’s thinking, “they now have the opportunity to defeat a second superpower.”

One senses that Gates doesn’t understand the difference between al-Qaeda, which by some estimates is down to fewer than a dozen core dudes, and the Taliban, who just want us to quit occupying their country, and the mujahideen, whom we created to help defeat the Soviets, and the variety pack of other militant outfits that roam around in that part of the globe.

Gates has an narrow perspective on the concept of “defeat.” The Taliban—or whoever he perceives to be the “enemy”—can’t defeat us if we leave. They can only defeat us if we stay. Despite what you’ve heard for years, they can’t follow us home. The oceans are too big to swim or jump across.

As the Cato Institute’s Justin Login says, “There will always be somebody to declare victory for al Qaeda, whether we leave Afghanistan next year or 20 years from now. Staying until you feel comfortable no one can claim a moral victory as we depart is a recipe for staying forever.”

Of course, a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever is just what America’s Long War mafia is looking for, and Gates is in their camp.

Make no mistake, fellow citizens, the Pentagon we have now is not interested in defending America because the head dudes there know there’s nothing they can defend us from. Our far-flung forays overseas are disasters. Our missile defense systems don’t work. Our $2 billion strategic stealth bombers can be shot down by moisture. No, the brass hats just want a never-ending war against opponents they can never defeat but will never lose to, per se, so they can continue to justify soaking up half or more of our national budget.

Therein lies the conundrum that Gates and his four-stars and their supporters in Congress and the media are trying to box Obama and the rest of us into. We have to keep fighting stupid wars against vastly inferior opponents who we can’t defeat or we’ll look like wimps. Never mind that we look stupid in doing so; it’s much better to be a stupid sole superpower than a wimpy sole superpower.

Our NATO pals are tired of the Afghanistan game, which is rich because David Kilcullen, a key adviser to David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, says the major justification for staying the course in that country is to give NATO a reason to exist, something it hasn’t had for 20 years. Obama’s national security team wants NATO to pony up 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan. NATO is saying no.

The war is so unpopular in Germany and France that those two countries can barely maintain the troop levels they’re contributing now. The Netherlands and Canada are talking tall about pulling out altogether.

The premise of McChrystal’s proposed counterinsurgency strategy is fundamentally flawed. Our counterinsurgency doctrine calls for good governance from a legitimate government of the host nation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai just stole two elections. He’s knee deep in relatives and cronies who are warlords and drug lords who we’re paying off to provide us with security, and he’s an old pal of the Taliban, who are raking off a piece of the foreign aid we send to Karzai.

If we send more troops, and we bribe NATO into sending more troops, we’ll be spending more money (about a million USD per troop per year) that we can’t really afford (our national debt is at $12 trillion) so they can fight an enemy that we’ll wind up bribing not to fight us, just like we’ve bribed our enemies in Iraq.

When will it occur to our foreign policy wonks just how counterproductive our foreign policy practices are? The only things our military interventions overseas accomplish are to provide our enemies with targets give them superb reasons to hate us.

The neocon cabal warns us of all the horrible things that will happen if we withdraw our troops from the Middle East and Central Asia. The worst of their campfire ghost stories describes how a regional war will break out if we don’t stay around. Heh. These people can’t do anything to each other worse than what we’re doing to them. Let a regional war break out. Let them fight among themselves. We don’t need to be in the middle of it.

Sages from the ancient stoics to our parents have admonished us time and again not to worry about what other people think of us. To continue to pour blood and treasure into AfPak is mindless shame, and it’s a shame we’re going to keep doing it. Let them have their propaganda victory. We’ll sit around and enjoy our holiday dinners.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unforced Error

President Barack Obama is about to make the biggest mistake of 21st century by sending 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

We currently have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO countries supply an additional 42,000. There are maybe 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and maybe 300 in Pakistan. Some estimates say al-Qaeda is down to fewer than a dozen core fighters. And we already have 110,000 mechanized, highly trained and well paid dudes gunning for them. There are also 200,000 Afghan forces under the command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal who suck, but that’s a lot of forces. All told, McChrystal already outnumbers al-Qaeda nearly 800 to one at a conservative estimate.

If we grant that the Taliban and the other militias in Afghanistan are the enemy, which is a dopey notion because those cats just want us to leave their bleak country, we still outnumber them by 12 to one—there are no more than 25,000 Taliban.

The Taliban are supposedly the enemy because they support al-Qaeda. Problem: Hamid Karzai, whose government we’re supporting in that sinkhole, not only just stole two elections, but he’s thigh rubbing pals with the Taliban. His brother Ahmed is hairline deep in the Afghan drug industry and he’s on the CIA payroll. Among other things, Ahmed acts as a broker between the Taliban and us.

Diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who has said that we will recognize success in Afghanistan “when we see it,” has confirmed that we’re trying to cut dope deals with the Taliban. We’re doing this through Pakistan’s Inter-service Intelligence Agency (ISI) who are a bigger bunch of crooks than the crooks Hamid Karzai is in league with.

So why is Obama sending more troops there?

He shot himself in the metatarsal during his campaign with his crock of jive about how the Iraq surge took our eyes off the prize of the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan, where we needed to “finish the job.” The war in Afghanistan is as necessary as removing the prostate gland of a healthy 12-year old boy.

The notion of America exceptionalism has worn itself transparent. We’re making the world a worse place, not a better one. Our counterproductive wars have nothing to do with national security. The al-Qaeda that attacked us with 19 guys on 9/11 who didn’t have the equivalent of a Chicago school system high school diploma is, for all practical purposes, dead and gone. Their work is finished. They suckered us into massive commitments of national blood and treasure into sinkholes that shouldn’t matter to the world’s sole superpower.

The notion that we can create an “exit strategy” by training Afghan troops to take over the counterinsurgency task is, to put it mildly, quaint. Afghan soldiers and police are as reliable as a flock of cats.

We need to get out of Central Asia as soon as we can. Alexander the Great couldn’t tame that patch of mountain and desert, nor could the British, nor could the Russians, and we won’t either.

I had hoped that Obama would stand up to the Pentagon’s insistence on a Long War approach to Afghanistan, but alas. We’re going to be stuck with this pig, lipstick and all, for a long time. It’s a boondoggle that will make Iraq look like a smooth move.

This big re-re escalation of Afghanistan is a big mistake. It’s a grand execution of a flawed doctrine. Counterinsurgency (COIN), the Pentagon’s latest flimsy excuse to exist, is based on a host of internal fallacies. Premier among them is the notion that the host nation must be a “legitimate government” that provided “good governance.” Mohammed on a crutch, if you have good governance from a legitimate government, by and large, you don’t have an insurgency.

Talk of an exit strategy for Afghanistan is low comedy. If you put troops into a country you’ll have to get them out with the hugest pair of pliers ever made. The way to exit Afghanistan is to exit, not to put more troops there.

Reports will say Obama will define the “precise U.S. goals in Afghanistan.” Give me a break. We haven’t had precise goals in a war since World War II, when the goal was unconditional surrender. There’s no such thing as surrender in the wars we’re fighting now. The best thing we can achieve is to bribe our enemies into playing along with us. Bribery, after all, is the essence our COIN doctrine.

Bribery has been the spine of our foreign aid for a really long time. We use the term “foreign aid,” like we’re somehow feeding “those poor kid” in wherever-land, but we’re really just making crooked high rollers richer.

I had such high hopes that Obama would really change things. Not any more, as Inspector Clouseau once said.

An excellent article in Armed Forces Journal by retired Army Col. Douglas MacGregor titled “Refusing Battle” deserves wide attention. MacGregor wisely admonishes:

America’s experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that in the 21st century, the use of American military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no navies, no armies, no air forces and no air defenses, can have costly, unintended strategic consequences. Put in the language of tennis, the use of American military power since the early 1960s has resulted in a host of “unforced errors.”

Obama has caved in to the Long War Pentagon and its supporters in the Congress and the neocon press who have been so wrong for so long that nobody should be listening to them anymore. He’s still talking his “finish the job” nonsense. What job? How will we know when it’s finished?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dumb and Dumber Wars

Michael O’Hanlon, a war-hawk tank thinker with the Brookings Institution who encouraged us to invade Iraq, says we should “remain hopeful” about Afghanistan. Even though the news about Afghanistan has been “dispiriting,” O’Hanlon tells us, “Most foreign and Afghan officials and officers who I encountered on a recent weeklong visit sponsored by the U.S. military are guardedly optimistic about our prospects.”

That’s because the Afghan officials and officers O’Hanlon met to were guardedly selected to feed him a line of bull feathers. Our adventure in Afghanistan is as impossible to justify, or be optimistic about, and the follies conducted there by Alexander the Great and the British and the Soviets.

Harvard Crimson sass Anthony Bonilla whines “It has been almost three months since General McChrystal reported to Obama that U.S. efforts in Afghanistan would fail if 40,000 additional troops were not deployed there. McChrystal’s experience as the commander of the military’s clandestine service has given him expert insight into how insurgencies operate.” Bonilla is scheduled to graduate from Harvard in 2012. We’ve seen the amount of harm Harvard graduates can do. One of them got us into two wars that seem to have no end.

Stanley McChrystal’s experience doesn’t give him “expert insight” as to how insurgencies work. McChrystal was the head of an assassination ring that worked for Dick Cheney, who had no legal standing in the military chain of command.

McChrystal may have seen a PowerPoint brief on counterinsurgency at some point in his life. He probably hadn’t slept much the night before—one hears he doesn’t sleep much (one hears that from his public affairs people like Smith who want to make Stan the Man seem manlier than mere mortal men, like he’s Nick Fury of Shield.)

Senator Joe Lieberman, who doesn’t think we can afford health care reform, does think that we can afford to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Lieberman, if you haven’t noticed yet, is dumber than a quarry.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says we might “withhold money” from Hamid Karzai’s government if it doesn’t do something about that nasty old corruption stuff. But we’ll still send more troops Afghanistan, apparently, and, uh, something, something, something. Troops and money go together. If we pour more troops into Afghanistan, national treasure will end up in Karzai’s pals’ pockets. You’d think that Gates, whose old outfit the CIA is paying off Karzai’s drug-dealing brother, would understand about those sorts of things.

Karzai is a bung buddy of the Taliban, who we’re supposedly fighting but who we are also funding.

As Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army officer, said in February 2009, Afghanistan is “not worth the cost in blood and treasure.” Bacevich notes that, our military supremacy didn’t “drain the swamp.” Hell no, it didn’t. It made the swamp bigger and created quagmires from which we can’t extract ourselves.

The terrain in Afghanistan and Pakistan is horrifying, and as best we can tell, al-Qaeda, (remember them?) the outfit we’re supposedly fighting, has vanished like a blind dowager’s tea service. There may be fewer than a dozen of the so-and-sos left.

President Obama had his ninth big honking meeting with his big honking national security team on Monday (Nov. 23). I’m not sure why he’s bothering with all these meetings, unless he’s trying to improve the employment rates by keeping PowerPoint geeks busy.

Richard Holbrooke, who has a kind of sort of job with the State Department as a kind of sort of special dude in kind of sort of honchoing relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan says that we’ll know success in that region “when we see it.” Holbrooke has also confirmed that we’re cutting dope deals with the Taliban via the Saudis.

Foreign policy doesn’t get more half-baked than that. We’re the most powerful nation in human history, and we make more mistakes than any other nation in human history. It’s as if we’re a nation of compulsive molesters.

The Washington Post reports that both McChrystal and Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, a retired three-star who once had McChrystal’s job as military commander in Afghanistan, “have been told to prepare to testify before Congress as early as next week.” Some fun. McChrystal has asked for up to 80,000 additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan. Eikenberry says that corruption in Afghanistan is so rampant the country is not worth investing any more blood and treasure into. The funky part about this testimony stuff is that Stan the Man and the Berry will testify after Obama has made his decision on how many more troops to send to Afghanistan.

And oh yeah, it turns out we’re actually funding the Taliban, who we’re supposedly fighting. According to The Nation, “a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents.” Ain’t that a kick in the sack? We should can Karzai and give the country back to the Taliban.

Invading Iraq was dumb. Escalating the war in Afghanistan will be even dumber. It will cost a lot of money and won’t accomplish a doggone thing except get a lot of people killed; most of whom will be civilians who want nothing more than for us to leave them alone.

The latest sanctioned leak says we’ll send another 34,000 troops to Afghanistan.

God help America. We have no strategy. We have no realistic objectives. We have no idea what we’re doing.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Afghanistan: Hurry Up and Screw Up

Reptilian former presidential candidate Fred Thompson says that President Obama’s delay in making a decision of Afghanistan is “evidence” that the war is already lost. “Our enemies are emboldened,” says Thompson, “our allies are discouraged.” He says Obama’s “heart’s not in it” and that he is too obsessed with an “exit strategy.” Huh?

Our “enemies” are nothing. They don’t have an air force, they don’t have a navy, and they can hardly be said to have an army. We spend more on defense that the rest of the world combined. Our opponents in Afghanistan don’t have a defense budget.

Thompson is part of the right-wing hawk mob that supports the Pentagon’s Long War stratagem that seeks to keep us bogged down in some silly-Simon, low-intensity conflict for the next 50 or so years in order to justify the military budget, which by plausible arguments soaks up the majority of the federal budget.

Thompson associate John McCain, the dimmest bulb to ever serve in both the Navy and the Senate, is also pressing President Obama, who kicked his can a block down the street in the 2008 election, to give Gen. Stanley McChrystal all the troops and resources he wants to make a real nation out of a tinhorn country that has never been more than a spot in the middle of Asia.

McCain’s best girlfriend Lindsey Graham says that, “Obama must decide soon.”

McCain’s side squeeze, Joe Lieberman, says "I think it's time for us to stop beating up on President Karzai and start building up President Karzai and his government to be the government we need, Because they're not the enemy. The enemy is the Taliban." Psst. Joe. The enemy is al Qaeda, and your pal Karzai is a bung buddy of the Taliban and has family ties to drug lords and warlords.

John Boehner, House Minority Leader and the GOP’s leading fake tan product consumer, says that Obama’s decision on troop levels in Afghanistan is “long overdue.” Boehner had nothing to say about Afghanistan troop levels through two terms of the woebegone Bush administration.

Blue dog Democrat Ike Skelton, who sleeps in Joe Lieberman’s tent, exhorts us to show our “commitment to this fight.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who couldn’t find his exit ramp with a GPS gizmo, says it’s important that Obama listens to his advisers stationed in Afghanistan now, which means Obama needs to go along with the nation-birthing scheme McChrystal proposes.

McCain, Graham, Lieberman, Skelton, McConnell and the rest of the G.I. Josephine crowd don’t have national security on their agenda. They just like war. President Obama was Bugs Bunny-class maroon for calling Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” We no sooner need to deploy troops to Afghanistan than we need to deploy them to Pluto. Al-Qaeda is all but gone from everywhere, and who gives a rat’s rhetoric about the Taliban? The Taliban just wants us to leave Afghanistan.

We’re funding militias in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. We’re also funding the Taliban. We’re so screwed up we can’t figure out which way to point our pistols. I’d love it if Obama could un-funk American foreign policy, but fear that he punted the game away when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” Alas.

Obama has made some good moves. Talking to Iran was one of them. Cancelling the Bush administration’s rope-a-dope deal to deploy a missile defense system that didn’t work to Poland and the Czech Republic was another one. Committing to leave Iraq was also good, though I’m not sure the Pentagon and its paramours in Congress and the press are going to let that happen.

I’m hoping Obama has finally realized that Afghanistan is a bad investment, and that he can’t fix a violent, corrupt country by pouring arms and money into it. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s there yet.

I also don’t think he’s reached the point where he’s ready to stand up to his generals and his Secretary of Defense. The singular failing of the Obama presidency may turn out to be that he kept David Petraeus, Ray Odierno, Mike Mullen, and Robert Gates on the job and that he put Petraeus protégé McChrystal, who was Dick Cheney’s personal assassin, in charge of Afghanistan.

The open warfare between the Pentagon and the White House needs to be stomped, and the White House needs to have won. The egotistical four-stars and their stooge boss Gates got too used to the idea that they ran the country, and that kind of thinking in military circles has to stop. We’re Americans, for heaven’s sake, not Prussians. We don’t exist to support our military. Our military exists to support us, and it’s not doing a very good job of it. It creates more terrorists than it kills or captures.

Our military has turned putrid. We did pretty darn good during the post Desert Storm years when we leaned largely on naval and air forces to show the flag and perform surgical strikes. Boots on the ground have led to quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they did in Vietnam.

The last thing we want to do is put tens of thousands more boots in Afghanistan. We’ve already made this mistake in Korea and Vietnam and Iraq. How many more times will we make it?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.