Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wacky War

Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen finally told it like it is. "If we don't get a level of legitimacy and governance [in Afghanistan],” he confessed, “then all the troops in the world aren't going to make any difference."

We’re not going to get legitimacy and governance in Afghanistan. We’re stuck with Hamid Karzai, and he’s a moral and ethical shipwreck. As columnist Bernd Debusmann says, “The United States and its NATO allies are fighting on the side of a corrupt and discredited government in a war, now in its ninth year, for which, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, there can be no purely military solution.”

There’s no solution of any kind for Afghanistan. Crooked politicians. Warlords. Multiple flavors of Taliban and other militant groups whose name nobody can remember or spell correctly. A population that hates us worse than any of the local hooligans they have to endure.

The Pentagon, including Mullen, wants us to pour more blood and treasure into this bog even though they know there’s everything to be lost by doing so and nothing to be gained from it.

The Pentagon has also been waging unlimited information warfare against the White House, trying to force Obama to back their desire to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s leak of his Afghanistan assessment to Bob Woodard and his Newsweek, 60 Minutes and The New York Times Magazine infomercials earned him a permanent transfer to civilian command, but he’s still on the job. That Mullen and “King David” Petraeus backed McChrystal’s campaign tells you that the top brass in the Pentagon are out of control.

The latest media sneeze says Obama has narrowed his decision on Afghanistan to four options, the most likely candidate being a surge of 34,000 troops. The other three options are “different mixes” of that one.

The best option is one suggested by Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad and somewhat supported by Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker: that we are negotiating with the closest thing to stable power institutions in the region, Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to find a way out of Afghanistan altogether. That sounds too good to be true. We can’t be doing something that smart.

Dick Cheney cabin boy and national security adviser John Hannah argues in Foreign Policy magazine that we haven’t been “adrift” in Afghanistan for eight years. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s a great guy. Everything that’s gone wrong has been NATO’s fault, and the Pakistanis’ fault, and the absence of Hannah’s neocon pal Zalmay Kahlilzad as Karzai’s mentor. How full of beans can these guys get?

The New York Times reports that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are coalescing around a proposal to send 30,000 or more additional American troops to Afghanistan.

But National Security Director James Jones cautions that Obama hasn’t made up his mind yet.

It sounds like the White House is fed up with Karzai. In a Nov. 9 interview with ABC, Obama said he was seeking “provincial government actors that have legitimacy in the right now.” Yikes. If we’re blowing off Karzai altogether, we’re essentially denying Afghanistan’s existence as a sovereign nation. And if we’re really negotiating directly with the Pakistani military, we’ve pretty much negated that country’s sovereignty too.

Things are going to get mighty complicated if we have to set up separate diplomatic missions for every warlord and tribal elder in that part of the world.

On a brighter note, fertilizer bombs are now the most lethal weapon being used against U.S. and NATO forces. In a pair of raids on Nov. 8 Afghan police and U.S. soldiers seized a half-million pounds of ammonium nitrate, which is enough to make a crud-load of bombs. Ammonium nitrate is illegal in Afghanistan. Most of the ammonium nitrate found in Afghanistan is believed to have come from Pakistan. I reckon we’ll need to talk to the Pakistani military about that too.

This year 6,500 bombs have been found or have exploded. That’s a lot of bombs. 70 percent of those killed or wounded by the bombs are Afghans.

This is a wacky war we’re about to bury ourselves even deeper into, and it’s going to get wackier.

I’m not sure what we’re doing there. We’re not going to disrupt al-Qaeda by occupying a country al-Qaeda’s not in. It looks like we’ve given up trying to get Afghanistan and Pakistan to act like real countries, and while NATO has encouraged us to send more troops to Afghanistan, none of the NATO nations are likely to pony up any more. Opinion polls in Europe show that everybody wants to bring their troops home. The American public’s opposition the Afghanistan war is at an all time high. We don’t have a good reason to fight this war, nobody wants to fight it any more, and the Afghans don’t like us and the bad guys are killing us with fertilizer.

So heck, why not send more troops over there?

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. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Nothing whacky about war profits.

    Nothing whackier than sending 150 marines into Afghanistan on MV 22 Ospreys in 10 missions from a ship where there is only hangar space for 2 Osprey.

    The war is good for Boeing and what is good for Boeing is good for everyone in the US.

    Merely ask the senate why the US has to worry on a couple of billion extra for health for poor kids.................

    War is good for the war profiteers who run the US.

    And 5% of GDP is mizerly.


  2. AH YES, You mentioned one of the uber Neocons that i love to keep tabs on. Khalilzad. I expect we will be hearing from him shortly. Here is a great bio on him.

  3. Anonymous12:08 AM

    Does anyone remember that Russia had more troops on the ground before they got their asses run out of that palce?

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  5. Thanks for the nice words, TP.

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