Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reading Af-Pak Tealeaves

It’s tough to tell what’s going to happen with Af-Pak. We get so many conflicting reports.

For a time, we heard that President Obama was leaning toward sending 30,000 additional troops there, and that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were encouraging him to do so.

Then we heard from National Security Adviser James Jones who said not to expect Obama to make a decision on Afghanistan troops levels until the first week in December.

Somewhere in between came a story from Pakistini Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad that said Hillary had cut multi-dimensional dope deal with Pakistan’s military and intelligence service and the Indians and the Taliban and Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah that would give us a plausible exit out of Afghanistan.

President Obama has told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the rest of his security team to come up with an exit plan before he decides on a course of action. It’s remarkable that Obama, who has no direct military experience, should have to tell his military to include an exit plan in any strategy they bring him.

Or maybe it’s not. The Pentagon’s Long War philosophy is based on lack of exit plans.

Is it possible that Obama is willing to take a walk on the political wild side, admit that Afghanistan is anything but a “war of necessity,” and walk away from it?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s insistence that we need to commit up to 80,000 more American troops to the Afghanistan fandango and train up 400,000 Afghan troops and get more NATO Shemps involved in the effort is a pile of used oats.

Even our phony-baloney counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine admits “The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.” We’re never going to get legitimate, effective governance in Afghanistan. We just let one of the biggest political crooks in history—Hamid Karzai—steal two elections. He’ll never be seen as a legitimate leader, no matter how many times President Obama exhorts him to begin a “new chapter.” (Dear diary, my brother Ahmed made another million dollars U.S. in the heroin trade today, and the CIA sent him another fat check besides. Boy, does Ahmed owe me!)

The COIN doctrine has become the false military promise of the 21st century, having eclipsed naval power and air power and nuclear weapons as the ultimate answer to America’s security requirements and the leading excuse for our country’s distended military budget.

The difference between COIN and its militaristic philosophy predecessors is that its predecessors offered the promise to the end of war. Our foolhardy intercession in World War I—the war to end all wars, the war that would make the world “safe for democracy”—did neither. The lamentable end state of that horrible war set conditions that brought about Fascism and World War II, and the end state of World War II brought about global communism and the Cold War and the nasty little third world wars (Korea, Vietnam, etc.) that accompanied it.

After World War I, airpower was going to make all other forms of military power obsolete. After World War II, nuclear weapons were going to make all other forms of military power obsolete. Now we have COIN, which promises to make all forms of military power relevant for as long as our COIN wars last, which, if the American warmongery has its way, will be forever.

Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker says Obama’s refusal to rush to judgment on Afghanistan “could be huge,” that maybe Obama is “putting his foot down.”

If so, it’s about time. Obama’s general and flag officers, specifically David Petraeus, Ray Odierno, Mike Mullen and Stan McChrystal have been used to getting their way for too long. I still wish Obama had transferred them to civilian command when he first came into office.

Hersh also makes note of the objection that US Ambassador to Afghanistan, former Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, has made to “deploying additional troops to the country." That apparently has McChrystal “fuming,” the poor guy. McChrystal should try getting some sleep.

If Obama is putting his foot down, that’s a good thing. If Obama goes along with McChrystal’s desire to escalate the war in Afghanistan, it will be a very bad thing. We’ll be stuck there forever. It will make Vietnam seem like a minor chapter in our history.

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. Lets not forget that tea is the beverage of choice in Asia. I am sure Obama is reading a lot of tea leaves about Afghanistan courtesy of our Asian friends.China is well invested in Afghanistan. They also do not want Gwandar in turmoil.

  2. Anonymous8:06 AM

    LIsten to George Washington.

    US lives and treasure need not be involved in South Asia, as they were in Europe for most of the 20th century.

    China and India haggling requires the US get out of the way of their real politik as Af/Pak is involved. The US is worng to pick up that tar baby so those two are not stuck. Let them be stuck, Afghanistan can be their graveyard.

    If it goes China/Pak versus Israel/India then the US has no business there. No more than in Europe with Napolean tilting with the Tsar in 1800.

    Were China and India to become the new Germany against France (over the Lorraine or Gwandar) the US is best to stay out of it like the Franco Prussian tilt of 1870 (which fooled the Europeans into believing that the trenches around Petersburg, Va in 1865 were a mere aberration).


  3. Apparently the COIN strategy is spreading like an oil slick as the idea of choice for military plans "going forward" or whatever the current buzzword is.

    Funny. I thought that a country's government was supposed to decide the role of the military. Ha, ha. Silly me.

    This from the commander of Canadian land forces:

    "Counter-insurgency operations will eventually displace the army’s traditional peacemaking capabilities as it prepares for life after the Afghan mission, says the general in charge of Canada’s land forces.

    Now, if someone could tell me exactly what this next little gem means, I will be profoundly grateful.

    “Peacemaking still saw the diplomatic political powers interacting with protagonists who were willing to sit down at a conference table with essential force being almost a last resort,” Leslie said in an interview with The Canadian Press during a recent trip to Afghanistan.


    Never mind. Things are looking up, as shown by this combination of architecture and optical physics demonstrated here.

    "Counter-insurgency will not form the cornerstone of our operations, but it’s right in the centre of our spectrum of capabilities we’re going to train for.”

    So...right in the centre of the spectrum would be green, no? The army is going green? Do they give these guys courses in how to speak in cliché-ridden phrases, or what?

    Statement by the commander of Canada's land forces

    Meanwhile, there's this story:

    Space clown got more attention than Afghan mission

    Canadians send first clown into space. Oy.

  4. Short follow-up to the above.

    Actually, they should send all clowns into space...and leave them there.

  5. IMO; Counter insurgency is just a guise, a justification for endless wars, and further empire bulding.

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