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.