Sunday, February 22, 2009

Obama's Bananastan

If you know neither your enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

--Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu maintained that proper planning secures victory before the battle begins. Carl von Clausewitz insisted that war must focus on the political aim. How is it, then, that we are about to put more troops into a war we know is unwinnable and have no coherent objective for them to pursue?

President Obama announced on Feb. 17 that he will send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. That’s just over half of the 30,000 troop escalation that’s been discussed in recent months. Gen. David McKiernan, top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, says he needs another 10,000 troops on top on the 17,000 Obama has promised on top of the 32,000 already in Afghanistan. McKiernan says the pending escalation won’t be a “temporary force uplift.” He thinks we need to keep 60,000 troops in Afghanistan for the next three to four years. “We’ve got to put them in the right places,” he says; but he doesn’t appear to know where those places are.

As foreign policy analyst Gareth Porter tells us, Obama was ready to support the full 30,000 troop escalation, endorsed by Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Central Command head Gen. David Petraeus. A hunch must have told Obama to ask one more question, because he called McKiernan directly and asked him how he planned to use those additional 30,000 troops. McKiernan couldn’t give him a straight answer.

Obama’s hunch must have generated in a Jan. 28 meeting with the Joint Chiefs and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. According to NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, Obama asked his service chiefs “What is the end game” in Afghanistan? His service chiefs replied, “Frankly, we don’t have one.”

In a related story, journalist Robert Dreyfuss reports that Danielle Pietka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, worries that Afghanistan is a "war that we may walk away from.” This remark came at a Feb. 28 meeting of AEI, the neoconservatives’ home think tank. Tom Donnelly, AEI’s top analyst and former deputy executive director of the infamous Project for the New American Century, hammered the Obama team for "the dumbing down of Afghanistan strategy," which is a phrase he appears to have stolen from fellow AEI and PNAC luminary Gary Schmitt. It’s hard to tell whether Donnelly and Schmitt know that their chambermaids Gates, Mullen, Petraeus and Kiernan, not team Obama, are the ones pushing for an escalation without knowing what they’re escalating to or what to do with the escalators. They don’t even know which escalators to send. According to the Washington Post, nobody has even decided what kinds of forces to deploy.

At the AEI hobnob, Fred Kagan—who was thought to be the principle architect of the surge until publicist Tom Ricks said the real architect was Petraeus’s pet ox Ray Odierno—expressed concern that the Obama administration is trying to “define success down.” One wonders what Kagan means by that since nobody at AEI, including him, has defined what success in Afghanistan would be at all. Schmitt slams the administration for bandying buzzwords like “realism,” “attainable,” and “end game.” How dare they?

According to Dreyfuss, Kagan hopes President Obama isn’t listening to any of that slacker talk about realistic goals. Kagan hopes Obama listens to Petraeus.

Petraeus is the guy who bribed everybody in Mosul, which went to heck in a handcar when he left. As general in charge of training Iraqi security forces, Petraeus armed the Shiite militias before he left. As top commander in Iraq, he bribed and armed all the Sunni militias before he left. Now Iraq is a more dangerous place than it was before we invaded, so we can never leave or things will go back to the way they were under Saddam Hussein, and while things were better then, to go back to the way things were would be unacceptable after the hard work and sacrifice we’ve put in to make things the way they are now. As theater commander, Petraeus wants to repeat his “successful experiment” in Iraq by bribing and arming Afghan militias so we can never leave there either.

Yeah, Petraeus is just the guy we want Obama to listen to. Thanks for the tip, Freddie.

Obama should stop listening to whoever told him to commit 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Going along halfway with a stupid idea is twice as stupid as taking it hook, line and sinker. And Obama should rendition whoever told him it would be a good idea to step up the air strikes in Pakistan. What, we weren’t pushing enough locals into the arms of the militants as it was?

Our military’s senior officers are either unforgivably ignorant of the basic tenets of their profession or they’ve pawned their integrity for enduring job security through the “persistent conflict” of the “long war.” Whichever is the case, it’s time for a Stalin-esque purge of the Department of Defense. Every officer from the full bird level up should be ordered to submit a request to retire, and all DoD civilians with the word “secretary” in their titles need to submit a letter of resignation. Don’t worry that the folks next in line aren’t ready for greater responsibility. Ike was a light colonel when World War II broke out.

Note to the commander in chief: the people who tell you this is a bad idea are the ones you need to push out the hatch first.

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.


  1. Anybody bother to tell Freddie that Afghanistan cost the Russians a dozen years and a half million sick and wounded soldiers?

    and Oh, yeah, this stuff too:

    118 aircraft
    333 helicopters
    147 tanks
    1,314 IFV/APCs
    433 artillery guns and mortars
    1,138 radio sets and command vehicles
    510 engineering vehicles
    11,369 trucks and petrol tankers

    Mmmm, lets see, how much shit went into the burn pit in Iraq?

  2. Freddie doesn't care. Thanks for the list, Nunya.


  3. Kerstin7:43 PM

    I bet the Russians are smiling now.

  4. General Quarters7:50 PM

    There are Echelons Above Obama. He must color within the lines or suffer the consequences.


  5. Or he could do something really bold and use his legal authority.



  6. You bet your bottom ruble they are, Kerstin.


  7. General Quarters8:58 PM

    You have covered the politics of Babe Odierno and Douglas McPetraeus artfully. Do you know where McRaven and Olsen stand politically? I don't know the answer to that, but if you believe that Mr. Obama really wants to do the right thing and clean house boldly (which I do not), he will need them (and the troops they command) onboard with him.


  8. CQ,

    Good question. Let me delve into that. I'm just starting to think whose letters to act on and whose to file.


  9. To continue a bit...yeah, you want to tap the Ikes at the light colonel level, but it would be nice to identify a Marshall or a Nimitz you could keep around.


  10. Oh, and you're talking about the SEAL admirals, right?


  11. General Quarters9:16 PM

    Aye, SEALs, but more importantly, the joint forces they command.


  12. SOF forces. That's a whole 'nother subject, though related. I'm major league leery of making SOF the new air power like they're trying to do.

    It will turn out, like air power, to be a false panacea.


  13. General Quarters9:35 PM


    Can't really go further here, but I'm thinking more about how SOF might be used in support of or against a President who acted boldly and with full legal authority and dumped the super-sized can of whoop ass on the oligarchs who now call the shots.


  14. Yes, good post. Do you really think the US will do what it needs to do in Afghanistan? Like, get out!
    A real horror here, as been said before, nobody knows their history.
    The "pet ox" is just great -- you can just picture the two great generals walking around, the ox dragging up the rear.

  15. We'll get out. The question is when. I fear our children will be dead and gone.


  16. Jeff, the news in my local paper today confirmed that we have Predators stationed inside Pakistan-at one of their AB-run by CIA and that we have Army SF Teams training Pak Frontier troops in Pakistan-the Frontier troops apparently now have a -unit larger than a company trained by SF as a commando type unit but size??- that is now in action. I have many questions about this story, which according to the article came about because the Paks said it was OK with them for the Army to release this. Where would one start? It is obvious that this entire operation was started by gwb. Is this then an attempt by some in the military to burnish the gwb image a bit? Heaven knows, but this story does make me change some idas that I had about the Pakistan govt. Oh it is still very weak, it really does not have control of either its military or its intel service. What else could be expected from Mr 10%-Asif Zardari, a Pak oligarch.

  17. Timr,

    Based on my internal bull feather duster, I'd guess that anything we hear out of CENTCOM is what the Pentagon wants us to hear, considering that our press gets whatever it gets in that theater through Petraeus.


  18. The Pentagon learned from the master and they go about it the same way every time. I will let him speak for himself.

    "Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    Herman Göring speaking about war and extreme nationalism to Captain Gilbert, as recorded in Gilbert's Nuremberg Diary:

  19. Good old fatso. What a role model for our military to adopt, eh?


  20. When someone does something which does not make sense to you, it may mean that there is some piece of information which you don't possess.

    I do not mean to be cryptic, and I do not mean to suggest I know what the missing information is.

    I am searching for the missing pieces along with many of you.

    My theory is that it's mainly being done for the purpose of keeping control of the region away from the usual rivals for the energy resources. No surprise there really, just hard to admit for some politicians.

    Can't have the whole game plan just printed up in the NYT for the rivals to read, I suppose.

  21. Yes, that's always the case, or almost, but it doesn't mean we sit by and say, "Well, they must have their reasons."


  22. Anonymous10:07 AM

    Thanks for your views about current events. Here is a link to "Alternate Brain" which on Sunday, 02/22/2009, posted an interview by Charlie Rose with Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In spite of Holbrooke's deification of General Push-up, I'd appreciate your comments about what Holbrooke had to say.

  23. Anonymous10:10 AM

    Oops. Here's the link:

  24. Sorry, Jeg, I couldn't watch any more after he said "Kudos to General Petraeus" for turning around Iraq.


  25. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I did warn you - but I can understand your reaction. Thanks anyway.

  26. lIke I've said before: Petraeus is bigger than MacArthur was.


  27. Sun Tzu may have correctly seen the military effect of political decisions, and, to a certain extent, the economic effects. But that was then. Nowadays, the economic effects of military action are rarely clearly expressed so that a political effect is made. Rather, pundits seem to wring their hands at how stupid such-and-such military action is, or that the war is not properly serving an expressed political aim, but military action in the present circumstances is not about expressing a political aim, but rather creating an economic effect. While Sun Tzu may have realized and certainly did express that war should be the last option, todays economic warriors know better: blood and war is money in the bank. This paradigm is the more important one to discuss as to the real motivations of the current wars and how it affects military tactics and long-term war strategy. Seen in this way, the current wars must be planned to be unending. Or to put it more starkly: to hell with human suffering; war profiteers are in the morally superior position. And what the hell are you going to do about it?

  28. Dennis,

    Economic conditions are political aims. In fact, they're the most legitimate of political aims, especially when physical security is a minor issue.

    War profiteers "morally superior?" Which edition of the Newspeak Dictionary are you using?

  29. Nietzsche of course: if the war profiteers can get away with it, then they are morally superior. I don't agree with this sentiment at all, but it seems to me that much of the republican and even democratic positions represent exactly that moral position.

    But how can *human* security ever be in a less important position than an economic condition? Is not human life priceless? If not, then I guess you would agree with Nietzsche.

    Only when we as humans insist that a moral imperative is more important than any war strategy do we have a chance to end the madness of war. Otherwise, we are always tempted to triage a situation and put a price tag on human life. A soldier who puts his life on the line does so for a moral principle, not for a paycheck. I am sure you agree with that.

    My point is that Obama may be deciding to add troops to Afghanistan not for military or political reasons, but for economic reasons which are unstated because they are so morally bankrupt. Thus, we should recognize what he does not and argue against the economic justifications and not the military strategic or political justifications of his decision, because, obviously, there are no good military or political justifications, as you point out.

  30. "I guess you would agree with Nietzsche."

    No straw men allowed in here, okay?

  31. Update:

    A treasonous military coup against President Obama just happened to be suggested as one of two possible courses of action by Fox Television's Hannity in a public poll today to his listeners.


    Maybe not.

  32. Thanks for the info, Geoff. Hey, if Hannity says it's a possibility, it's time to worry, huh?

    Actually, it is time to worry. A lot.


  33. Anonymous12:56 PM

    You probably are already on top of this but check out: Wikileaks cracks NATO's Master Narrative for Afghanistan

  34. Anonymous11:37 PM

    Wonder what your thoughts are on Chas. Freeman. The few speeches of his I have read are quite amazing. And if his purview extends to counter-espionage. That might be interesting. And would it be possible to communicate off line? I have a suggestion for a post.

  35. I really don't know what to make of Freeman. In fact, I don't know that to make of that NIC job. Do we need a council on top of a Czar?

    I don't generally do requests, but if you want to suggest something offline you can contact me through Facebook or MySpace.


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