This just in from the Times of London: the Obama administration has set objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The bad news: they’re the same objectives the Obama administration set in March, and they suck just as bad now as they did then. In a nutshell, we’re going to disrupt terrorist networks, make real countries out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and get the international community involved in making all that happen.
Same poppycock, different day.
FOX News reports that General Stanley McChrystal is “privately requesting” 30,000 to 40,000 more troops for Afghanistan. That would bring the total to around 100,000, nearly triple the number of troops that were in Afghanistan when Mr. Obama took office.
The New York Times relates that the Obama administration has delivered to Congress “about 50 measures to determine whether a broad military and nation-building campaign to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan was succeeding.” Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, says “It’s really important that they have a clearly articulated, understandable policy that has an endpoint in military terms that everyone can understand. I don’t think they’re there yet.” They’re not even in the ballpark of “there,” Jim.
An unidentified senior administration official, who couldn’t be identified because the White House insisted, said of the measures that “This will be an honest effort to grade ourselves.”
I find it fascinating that the White House is the source of these measures, and that the measures are a method of grading the White House as opposed to grading the Pentagon. Maybe it’s a good sign. The Bush administration always pushed responsibility off to the Pentagon, shirking responsibility to the point where “King David” Petraeus was in de facto charge of U.S. foreign policy.
Measures of effectiveness are a critical aspect of the art of war (operational art), but they’re meaningless in the kinds of wars we’re fighting now. They’re meant to measure how well our forces are accomplishing our objectives, and as I’ve noted many times over the past few years, the objectives of our current Asian wars are as slippery as the reasons we started them. (You haven’t lately heard anyone say we’re going after Osama bin Laden, have you?)
To review the bidding: McChrystal himself says there are no signs of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The connection between Afghanistan and the 9/11 attacks is dicey at best. "Mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was operating in the Philippines when he first presented the attack plan to bin Laden in 1996. The six hijackers who controlled the airplanes received their flight training in the U.S., and the "muscle hijackers" came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The long war mafia argues that if we leave Afghanistan its government will fail and the country will fall into chaos. How would we know the difference between a failed Afghanistan and the one we have now?
The warmongery also asserts that if Afghanistan fails then Pakistan will fail. There’s no reason to believe that. Pakistan isn’t exactly a real country either, but it has nukes. I find it difficult to believe those nukes would actually work if somebody set them off, but if we’re really concerned about them, we can sic our worthless B-2 bombers on them. The pilots could have breakfast with their families in Missouri, accomplish the mission in Asia by teatime and be home in time for supper. (How was school today, Sweetie?)
There’s no sane reason for us to continue escalating the Bananastan conflict, just as there is no reason to linger in Iraq. Those, however, are the two variables in Obama’s foreign policy equation. Candidate Obama promised to pull the plug on Iraq in order to open the spigot on Afghanistan. For Obama to stand tall on Iraq and stoop small on Afghanistan would be politically untenable. Look at how the warmongery squealed over Obama’s decision not to equip Poland with a missile defense system that doesn’t work (it’s a theology, not a technology, according to weapons expert Philip Coyle). John McCain said the decision “has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe.”
That leaves us with an insane strategy for Afghanistan: to continue throwing good money after bad, to honor our war dead by adding to their number for no good reason, and to re-escalate in order to justify the previous escalations. It’s beyond mission creep; it’s mission creepy.
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.