Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has become the point man for the long war mafia, delivered his ultimatum to President Barack Obama on Friday, Oct. 9. As has been his practice over the past several weeks, McChrystal proxy-leaked details of his demands through the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other sources. The Journal says one of McChrystal’s proposed options calls for 60,000 additional troops, and “several officials” say the “maximum variant” is even larger.
How odd it will seem to future historians that the world’s sole superpower seriously considered escalating a war in a country that is not a threat to anyone. The most insane tenet of McChrystal’s proposals is to train up 400,000 Afghan security forces. 400,000 armed and trained Afghans is the last thing we want. Five years from now we’ll have to deploy 60,000 troops to defend Iran from Afghanistan. Won’t that be a kick in the cupola?
A “senior military official” says that McChrystal is concerned that some of Obama’s advisers are arguing that the Taliban are not a threat to the United States. That would be tantamount to Obama’s advisers telling him the sun doesn’t rise in the west. The Taliban want us to leave their country, that’s all. They may or may not get back control of their country if we leave it, but why should we care? Afghans have been controlling their own affairs for thousands of years, and not once have they invaded Poland or France.
The Times quotes the senior military official (he insisted on anonymity because he’s a sanctioned leaker) as saying, “The real question is, do you want the Taliban to be in power in Afghanistan? If you don’t, then they have to be addressed through a counterinsurgency campaign.”
Poppycock. There are ways to address the Taliban other than through the kind of nation-birthing counterinsurgency campaign McChrystal and his allies—who include Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen—are trying to cram up our nose pores. Our counterinsurgency doctrine is a crock of beans to begin with. In the case of Afghanistan, it purports that we can transport a culture from the Middle Age to the 21st century by flooding it with teenagers armed with M-16s, Oakley sunglasses, and inferior body armor.
If the Taliban take back power in Afghanistan, so what? Hamad Karzai, the guy in power who we’re backing now, is a knock-knock joke (Who’s there? Nobody). We’d have been far better off after 9/11 to tell one-eyed, illiterate Taliban leader Mohammed Omar to cough up Osama bin Laden in return for a shiny new Cadillac. At the cost of many million Cadillacs later, we’re no further along in Afghanistan than we were from the outset.
Obama’s National Security Adviser James Jones says al-Qaeda now has fewer than 100 fighters and even McCrystal admits they aren’t in Afghanistan. Someone needs to explain why we should escalate a foreign war to counter a threat that insignificant.
Pouring more troops into Afghanistan would be a travesty. We need to go back to a global security posture that looks like the one we had before we got into the business of nation birthing, one in which we strike surgically with naval, air and special operations forces, and step back. Invading and occupying countries as a national pastime is a grand strategy of fools.
Fred Kagan, the darling of the military-industrial-congressional complex, was a key contributor to McChrystal’s Afghanistan analysis. Kagan is a professional warmonger who, like the rest of the tank thinkers in the neoconservative cesspool, never saw a war he didn’t like or couldn’t justify. (Defense contracts for all my friends!)
The Pentagon’s blatant media assault on President Obama continues. It began around Sept. 18 when a McClatchy article noted that the military is growing “impatient” with Obama on Afghanistan and cited unnamed “officers at the Pentagon in Kabul” as saying McChrystal will resign if he doesn’t get what he wants. The leak of his analysis to Bob Woodward came on Sept. 21, in a story that warned “More Forces or Mission Failure.” McChrystal’s 60 Minutes infomercial on Sept. 27 was a Douglas MacArthur-like act of blatant insubordination. McChrystal followed that with a speech in London to a warfare-centric tank thinkery in which he repeated his position: if Obama doesn’t give me what I want, it will be his fault if we lose.
Among the latest assaults is an Oct. 11 article from right-wing media maven Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London that heralds “Barack Obama ready to pay fighters to ditch the Taliban.” Times doesn’t mention that bribing insurgents is precisely how “King David” Petraeus created the illusion of success in the Iraq surge. The article notes that, “Despite five war councils in two weeks, President Barack Obama has so far failed to come up with a strategy for the conflict.” How amusing. The Pentagon has had had eight years to come up with a strategy for Afghanistan and failed to. Now, the lack of a coherent strategy is somehow the fault of Obama, who has been commander in chief for less than a year, but he brought that on himself.
Nobel winner Obama made an enormous mistake when he called the Afghanistan conflict a “war of necessity.” Few American wars have been necessary. We’d have become the world’s sole superpower much faster if we’d stayed out of World War I. If we had let Europe had bleed itself white in a static, stupid war, we would have been in a position to feed and repopulate it on terms of our choosing. Alas.
Afghanistan is a discombobulated society that couldn’t work itself out of a paper bag. Al-Qaeda consists of fewer than 100 fighters and the Taliban, who our intelligence describes as a “franchise operation,” have no interest in occupying the United States. Following us home would involve some hard-core swimming.
Let’s hope the Nobel winner pulls the plug on our Afghanistan adventure before we mark ourselves as the most foolhardy hegemon in human experience.
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.