Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Impossibility of Being in Afghanistan

President Obama met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday Oct. 30 for another skull session on Afghanistan. Another reason not to escalate: long term consequences on personnel and equipment of land warfare services that have been strained by eight years of dual wars.

Obama has not made any decisions regarding Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops, and it is unlikely he will before he leaves Monday on a weeklong tour of Asia. So we’re safe for another week, anyway.

I hope that at some point in the Joint Chiefs meeting, Obama ran a cheese grater across Adm. Mike Mullen’s face. Mullen had been part of a media blitz designed to box Obama into acceding to McChrystal’s demands, telling Congress that he endorsed McChrystal’s plan while Obama’s security team was still in deliberations. Gen. David Petraeus also publicly endorsed the McChrystal plan.

McChrystal himself pulled a string of MacArthur-class stunts that he should face discipline for: the leaked classified assessment on Afghanistan to Bob Woodward, the Newsweek profile, the 60 Minutes infomercial, the Dexter Filkins hagiography in the New York Times Magazine, the dog-piling by congressional hawks like John McCain demanding that Obama snap to and obey McChrystal ASAP or troops already in Afghanistan would be in peril. Leaks galore: McChrystal might resign if he didn’t get his way. The military was “frustrated” with Obama. There was the op-ed at the right-fright outlet Newsmax encouraging the military to conduct a coup to resolve the “Obama problem.” Then we had monster laureate Dick Cheney chime in with his “dithering” comments. It was shameful. Don’t think for a second McChrystal and Petraeus and Mullen didn’t know what they were doing. They’re as media savvy as any movie studio executive (Mullen’s father was a Hollywood publicity agent). It’s tough to say how much of the media madness was planned and how much was spontaneous, but these guys know how echo chambers work. You shout “fire” a few times and pretty soon everybody’s shouting it along with you.

McChrystal now admits that even if he gets all the troops he wants, it will take more than a year to get them on the ground and into the fight against the Taliban. The first additional brigade couldn’t get to Afghanistan until Jan. 2010. So all the anile hysteria—“more forces or mission failure”—was (ahem) exaggerated. Maybe McChrystal hadn’t thought about that before. Maybe the guy needs more sleep. Or better advisers. He could stand to scrape off the likes of pseudo-counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen and larded neocon prince Fred Kagan.

John Kerry, having sweet talked Afghan President Hamid Karzai into accepting a run-off election, now seems to be in charge of putting lipstick on him. He recently described Karzai, possibly history’s most crooked politician in charge of the world’s most corrupt government, as a “patriot.” After a lunch with CIA director Leon Panetta, Kerry said he didn’t believe there was a direct relationship between Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali and the U.S. spy agency. Sure. This is a non-denial denial. Ahmed’s been on the CIA dole for most of the past eight years, and he’s suspected to be Adam’s apple deep in Afghanistan’s drug trade to boot.

Kerry is putting what’s left of his credibility on the line by backing the Brothers Karzai. They’re as crooked as the Missouri River. I’m not sure why Obama let Kerry get involved in the Afghan issue in the first place. Kerry doesn’t exactly have a reputation for knowing how to put together winning strategies.

The Joint Chiefs are putting a company front behind McChrystal, the handpicked darling of “King David” Petraeus. Rumors abound that Obama will bow to pressure from his supposed subordinates and order some sort of escalation in Afghanistan. Too bad. What he should do is follow Joe Biden’s advice and opt for a small footprint anti-terror strategy.

An even better strategy would be to pull the plug on the whole operation. Stop pouring guns and graft into a violent, corrupt society. Stop giving them American targets to attack in their back yard. Just walk away.

All we’re doing in the Middle East is making more jihadists. We need to roll back. Let those people fight among themselves if they want to. We don’t need to stick American kids in the middle of it.

A great neocon myth says that if we withdraw from Central and Southwest Asia, a regional war will break out. It won’t. None of the countries in that region are capable of projecting significant military force much beyond their borders. But even if a regional war did break out in that part of the world, so what? The death and destruction would be lamentable, but it could hardly be worse than the death and destruction we have caused.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Afghanistan “is not an open-ended, never-ending commitment” Friday morning on the Today Show. Somebody start leaving Hillary a trail of breadcrumbs, please. A commitment to nation birthing of the kind McChrystal wants to execute will take 20 years or more.

A singular lunacy of McChrystal’s proposal is his plan to train up 400,000 Afghan security troops as part of the counterinsurgency force. Maj. Gen. Richard Formica related a story in the Filkins article that illustrates the futility of that objective:

“When I was down in Helmand where the Brits were training police officers, they said not only could none of them read but they didn’t understand what a classroom was. How can you train officers if they can’t write arrest reports?”

Answer: you can’t.

You also can’t win the hearts and minds of Afghans when the government you’re backing is the most corrupt regime on the planet, perhaps in the history of the world.

It’s an impossible mission. Let Tom Cruise have a crack at if he likes, but bring our troops home.

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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bob Gates’ Bad Bet

Author Victor Sebestyen notes in a recent New York Times editorial that in 1988, then deputy director of the CIA Robert Gates bet $25 that the Russian army would not leave Afghanistan. Now, Gates is assuring our NATO allies that the US “has no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan or abandoning our core mission there. It is a mission we deem critical to our national security and vital national interests.”

It’s worth mentioning that Gates is a bureaucratic twit who got where he’s gotten by accommodating up and down, knowing how to make both his seniors and subordinates happy and not knowing much of anything else. Every time he makes a public announcement you get a good feel for who talked to him last, his boss or his underlings. He is, for the most part, a stooge for his long war flag and general officers: David Petraeus, Ray Odierno, Mike Mullen and Stan McChrystal. On occasion, he’ll take direction from above—when he absolutely has to. He’s a wind-direction checker and a tealeaf reader who butters both sides of his bread.

According to the American Forces Press Service, a branch of the Pentagon’s propaganda ministry, Gates finds it “very heartening” to hear “mounting endorsements” from NATO of Gen. Stan McChrystal’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has become NATO’s reason to exist.

Our mission in Afghanistan has no bearing on our national security or vital national interests. If we really wanted to root out the source of the 9/11 attacks, we’d invade and occupy Germany, home of the Hamburg cell where the attacks actually originated. But wait; we’re already occupying Germany. We have been since the end of World War II. That didn’t prevent 9/11 from happening, did it? Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the supposed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was in the Philippines when he proposed the plan to Osama bin Laden. We occupied the Philippines for a long time, but they kicked us out. Most of the 9/11 thugs came from Saudi Arabia, who don’t want us in their country, and kissing the Saudis’ keister is our virtual national pastime. And we’re sort of leaving Iraq, so we have to put more troops into Afghanistan, right?

Journalist Gareth Porter shows us another reason why investing deeper into Afghanistan is such a bad bet. The news that President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai is on the CIA payroll is just the tip of the iceberg, Porter says. We’ve been relying on Afghan warlords for security. One of them—a private army commanded by Col. Matiullah Khan—receives $4.1 million per year to get two convoys from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt safely each month. Tony Soprano never had it so good.

The warlords are widely reviled by the Afghan population, and our forces are tainted by their relationship with them. But it is impossible for McChrystal’s forces to operate forward bases without help from the warlords.

What’s worse, if we cut off the warlords, they become the enemy. It’s the same situation Petraeus created in Iraq; once you pay off bad guys to act like good guys, you have to keep paying them off or they become bad guys again.

Our counterinsurgency doctrine describes a lot of hi-falutin’ gibberish, but it all boils down to one thing: take along a lot of cash and a lot of guns. Arm private armies and pay them off. That’s how Petraeus created the illusion of a “successful” surge in Iraq, and it’s how McChrystal hopes to repeat the performance in AfPak. It’s balderdash.

Hillary Clinton is hawkish on AfPak, which is another reason to be wary of further involvement there. Secretary Hillary is keeping up the tough girl act Candidate Hillary put on so the Republicans and the neocons wouldn’t call her a girly man. At a press conference in Pakistan she said that the advance of extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a threat to America’s security. What kind of extremism is she talking about? The kind of extremism the Taliban espouse or the extreme corruption and abuse and incompetence that our supposed “partners” in the supposedly “legitimate” governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan practice?

She said that the Pakistani government’s current offensive in Waziristan is of “vital interest” to the U.S. My aching Adam’s apple it is. Waziristan is no more vital to us than any other spot where al Qaeda or other terror groups may be plotting against us, and in the iPhone age, that could be anywhere from the Marianas Trench to the Sea of Tranquility. If we’re reliant on the Pakistani government to protect our vital interests, we’re ewed-scray.

The ancient Chinese warfare philosopher Sun Tzu admonished that no nation ever benefitted from a long war. Yet a Long War is exactly what our military wants to lead us into. Our never-ending quagmires in Asian rabbit holes are about little more than giving the U.S. military, specifically the Army, an excuse for hogging the federal budget. They want to escalate Afghanistan so they have a place to play war for a generation or so.

Gates has repeatedly said we’re going to stay in Afghanistan. Let’s hope he bets $25 on it.

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.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

AfPak: Immoral, Illegal, Fattening

Missing from the debates regarding our wars these days is their moral and legal aspects.

UN human rights investigator Philip Alston says the U.S. needs to explain the legal basis for assassinating suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan with drone strikes. That’s an explanation I’d like to hear. It probably starts with “hamana, hamana, hamana…”

Alston says the CIA needs to be accountable to international laws that ban arbitrary executions. The CIA won’t be able to do that, nor will the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s old outfit that whacked people in the Middle East on the arbitrary orders of Dick Cheney’s office.

I’m uncertain whether drone strikes, per se, are the primary issue. The JSOC and, I’m sure, the CIA, have been doing assassinations of suspected terrorists the old fashioned way as well—with snipers.

While taking someone down with a bullet can seems cold, it’s actually quite a bit more humane that dropping a bomb on the individual that will smithereen all the other individuals in the vicinity. The problem with using snipers is that it takes a lot longer to put the snipers in place. Drones move fairly quickly.

But in either case, we’re talking about what Alston describes as “arbitrary” and “extrajudicial” executions. There’s no denying that that’s exactly what we’re doing.

The U.S. says the Human Rights Council has no business sticking its nose into killings related to an armed conflict. Alston calls that assertion “simply untenable.”

Much of our problem is that what we’re in the middle of is barely recognizable as an armed conflict. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly, we’re conducting nation-building projects that involve counterinsurgency and counter-terror combat operations. At what point are we conducting war, and at what point are we just whacking people?

Moreover, on what basis are we determining which suspects to whack? Our intelligence in the Middle East is goosey at best. We crawl into the sack with a lot of scumbags. So we give Willy the Warlord a crate of guns and a stack of greenbacks to be our buddy, and ask him to tell us who the bad guys are, and he gives us a list of his lifelong enemies, and we kill them for him. Is that any way to do business?

In so many of our dirty little conflicts since World War II we’ve looked back to see we were probably on the wrong side. We backed Saddam Hussein against Iran, we backed Manuel Noriega before we invaded Panama to remove him from power. And we supported al Qaeda and the Taliban in their fight against the Soviets.

The Taliban were able to take power in Afghanistan because of the corruption and brutality of the Mujahideen warlords, the same warlords who presently back our puppet ruler, Hamid Karzai.

The only legal basis of our AfPak war is the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress on Sept. 18, 2001. Viewed by many as a “blank check,” it was condemned as an abnegation by Congress of its constitutional responsibilities to dictate when and where a president can wage foreign wars. In the Obama era, these concerns have vanished. If Obama, or any other president, can create any loose connection between terror and whatever aggressive military action he wants to take, he can take it.

That’s not what the founders had in mind when they gave Congress, not the executive, the power to declare war.

In an excellent op-ed piece titled “Blood for Nothing,” military affairs pundit Ralph Peters notes, “We enforce rules of engagement that kill our own troops to avoid alienating villagers who actively support the Taliban and celebrate our deaths.”

This is the moral and legal point that offends me the most. We send these kids into wars that our top military and civilian leadership can’t coherently justify, and send them out on offensive missions, and give them rules of engagement that essentially say “kill the bad guys if you can, but get killed yourself before you kill any civilians.”

There are no civilians in AfPak. Everybody’s in on the action, or is related to somebody who is.

We are not the good guys in this war. As Peters aptly observes, “The Taliban are the patriots. We're the Redcoats.”

The “classic” counterinsurgency operation McChrystal wants to mount is based on lies. Again from Peters: “Our counterinsurgency (COIN) theory—hatched by military pseudo-intellectuals and opportunists—has no serious historical basis. It ignores the uncomfortable lessons of 3,000 years of fighting insurgencies and terrorists. Its authors claim Vietnam and Algeria as success stories.”

“As for the claim that COIN worked in Iraq,” Peters writes, “it's nonsense.” The “successful” surge in Iraq was a crafted illusion that Gen. David Petraeus created by bribing everybody not to use the weapons he gave them. That’s what COIN doctrine boils down to: attempting to tame a corrupt and violent society by pouring graft and weapons into it. It’s an excuse to make the fat cats in the U.S. military industrial complex fatter. It’s a sin.

We don’t need to fight this kind of war. We have enough dirt and blood on our hands. We need to become the nation of enlightenment that our founders meant us to be.

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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cockamamie Coin

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s insistence on a total of 650,000 counterinsurgency troops—including NATO and Afghan forces—is based on a ratio in the military’s new counterinsurgency manual. Isn’t that convenient?

Rupert Murdoch’s TIMESONLINE reports that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff are preparing to persuade President Barack Obama to approve an Afghanistan surge. Another surge justifies a bigger Army, and guarantees the success of the Pentagon’s Long War initiative.

On FOX News, neoconservative icon Charles Krauthammer argues that if we don’t stay the course in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda will get its mitts on the nukes in Pakistan. That’s precisely the kind of logic we normally get from right-wing psychiatrist Krauthammer.

Editorial vice-boob Colbert King of the Washington Post accuses Obama of being in an “analysis paralysis.” If you hadn’t noticed, the Post has become the main mainstream media cheerleader of all things Pentagon. That’s largely a result of Thomas E. Ricks’ reach-around relationship with Gen. David Petraeus.

Our COIN doctrine is a mirage. It’s a slapdash combobulation of claptrap plagiarized from older documents that weren’t particularly coherent to begin with. The 2.5:1000 counterinsurgent troops to population ratio the manual calls for came straight from the gas horn of somebody like neocon darling Fred Kagan.

Unfortunately, it looks like McChrystal’s going to win and get his re-escalation, and it looks like we’ll be fighting another senseless war forever.

I had such hopes that we would become an enlightened nation.

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.

Alas Afghanistan

The New York Times tells us that Obama’s advisers are curling themselves around a strategy that will protect “about 10 population centers” in Afghanistan. The debate is no longer over whether to send more troops but over how many more to send. Obama hasn’t made his mind up yet, the Times reports, but the story is a sanctioned leak, so you know he’s pretty close to a decision. This is a propaganda technique known as “desensitizing.” By the time official word comes down the pike, we’ll already be used to the idea and will have moved on to caring about something else.

The Times story comes on the heels of the news of the resignation of Matthew Hoh, a senior foreign service officer who’s resignation letter said in part, "I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we're doing there. I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we are occupying them—not for any ideological reasons, not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any fundamental hatred toward the West. The only reason they're fighting us is because we are occupying them."

Lamentably, it looks like we’re going to keep occupying them. But then, we all knew that was going to happen. Obama can’t back down from his “war of necessity” statement. The right-wing press and the hawks in Congress would shoot his face off.

At first glimpse, the strategy being considered doesn’t look bad. We clear and hold and build in Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters (according to unnamed official leakers). From our bases of operations there, we strike remote pockets of Taliban with drones and special operations forces.

That’s all very lovely, but it has problems. However the runoff elections turn out, assuming they take place at all, Hamid Karzai will win because he handpicked the election officials. We’ll be backing one of the most corrupt governments on the planet. As Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan told the Times, “If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves.”

Another twist of the knot: it turns out that Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a suspected major player in the Afghan opium trade, is on the C.I.A.’s payroll. The drug trade is the major source of funding for the Taliban. The C.I.A. pays Ahmed to recruit for an Afghan paramilitary force that operates in the vicinity of Kandahar, which is the first place new U.S. troops would be deployed.

Does it sound like anybody making decisions in this Boolean goat rope knows what they’re doing?

Syndicated columnist Gene Lyons asks the question “Why are we still in Afghanistan?”

“One of the enduring oddities of the American foreign policy debate,” he writes, “is that asking the most obvious questions is all but forbidden. For example, how does Afghanistan pose a threat to the United States?”

It doesn’t.

The 9/11 attacks were an aberration. So many people in our internal security and law enforcement structure were asleep at the wheel that it’s downright criminal. An attack like 9/11 shouldn’t occur again. Nobody in our Homeland Security apparatus wants to be the schmo who let it happen on his watch. “Fighting them over there” has nothing to do with national security. They don’t have an air force or a navy that can get them over here.

As Lyons says, “Terrorists can't defeat the United States; they can only cause American politicians to self-destruct in fear of taking blame for future atrocities.”

That, unfortunately, is precisely why Obama is going along with this cockamamie escalation. Imagine how Dick Cheney and the rest of the war banshees would wail if Obama stiff armed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s escalation demand and somebody snuck through the Homeland Defense screen and blew up a school or a stadium or something. Ouch!

Military pundit Ralph Peters is on the right side of the Afghanistan issue. “Even if everything went perfectly in Afghanistan—which it won't—the results would be virtually meaningless: Our mortal enemies (above all, al Qaeda) have dug in elsewhere, from Pakistan to Somalia,” he wrote recently in the New York Post. “Our soldiers are dying for a fad, not for a strategy. Our vaunted counterinsurgency doctrine is the military equivalent of hula hoops, pet rocks and Beanie Babies: an oddity that caught the Zeitgeist. Indeed, counterinsurgency (COIN) is the “it” strategy now, the Army’s reason for being. There won’t be any big tank battles in the Fulda gap. COIN is the only kind of war left; without it, there is no Long War.

Of course, if we don’t need the Long War, we don’t need to do COIN in Afghanistan.

And we don’t need the Long War. But it looks like we’re going to get it.

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.

Hurrah for Hoh!

“I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan.”

--Matthew Hoh

Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh’s resignation letter is a stunning refutation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s proposal to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Hoh, a former Marine officer who fought in Iraq, was a senior civilian official in Zabul Afghanistan.

"I feel that our strategies in Afghanistan are not pursing goals that are worthy of sacrificing our young men and women or spending the billions we're doing there," Hoh wrote. "I believe that the people we are fighting there are fighting us because we are occupying them -- not for any ideological reasons, not because of any links to al Qaeda, not because of any fundamental hatred toward the West. The only reason they're fighting us is because we are occupying them."


That summarizes the delusion of American neoconservative foreign policy since World War II: that we can make the rest of the world follow us by kicking everyone’s teeth in.

One can safely argue that America saved the world three times in the 20th century, by winning the two World Wars and the Cold War. What we’re doing now amounts to nothing more than keeping our military industrial complex afloat.

There is no hope of making the official government in Afghanistan legitimate. The runoff election will be every bit as crooked as the previous one. There is no reason for us to waste more national treasure or blood there.

As Hoh notes, “The September 11 attacks, as well and the Madrid and London bombings, were primarily planned and organized in Western Europe; a point that highlights the threat is not one tied to traditional or geographic boundaries.”

And as I have said repeatedly, the only sanctuary modern terrorists need in order to plan and coordinate operations is a pocket big enough to hold an iPhone.

We have no stake in Afghanistan, other than the fact that President Obama foolishly called it a “war of necessity,” a mistake the neocons have flung in his face at every opportunity.

Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the Washington Post he disagreed that the war "wasn't worth the fight," but did agree with much of Hoh's analysis. This is the same Richard Holbrooke who, when asked what success in Afghanistan would consist of, replied, “We’ll know it when we see it.”

That’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” warfare. Don’t ask us what we’re trying to accomplish because we can’t tell you, because we don’t really know.

The self-satirizing “strategy” for Afghanistan that Obama’s security team jiffy-popped back in March was a disgraceful piece of pedantic carpentry. We’ll disrupt terror networks, we’ll turn Pakistan and Afghanistan into real countries, and we’ll get the rest of the world to help us do it. Squirt!

McChrystal’s proposal would have us put a World War II level of effort into Afghanistan. We’d need two or three soldiers in country to protect every thousand local civilians, and we’d need to send over at least as many of our own civilians to build the country up from the Stone Age to the 21st century, then we would require more combat troops to protect the civilians. We’d need more diplomats to smooth over ill feelings created among the locals because of all the collateral damage all these extra combat troops caused, then we’d need to hire mercenaries to protect the diplomats who would create even more collateral damage.

Once escalation starts, it never stops. Missions creep until they come to a crawl, and then they destroy the empire. Hitler could have had his thousand-year Reich if he hadn’t committed history’s most egregious example of strategic overreach.

There was no reason for Nazi Germany to invade Russia. Russia has always known how to defend itself: give up space for time, wait for winter to come, then counter-attack. The strategy worked on Napoleon as well as it worked on Hitler. But the Russians never made a major invasion of Western Europe until the end of World War II, and it wouldn’t have been able to do so then if we hadn’t been foolish enough to allow them to. Russia was a non-threat that two megalomaniacs impaled themselves on.

Even Alexander the Great never really conquered Afghanistan. Attempts by Britain and Russia to subdue the country proved to be their downfall.

Matthew Hoh’s actions were indeed brave. Almost nobody wants to walk away from this bad war because of the signal it sends the troops: your sacrifice is in vain. You are being used. The officers above you are wrong. Your president is wrong about what you’re in being a “war of necessity.” But that’s the truth of the matter. In Hoh’s words:

I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. Military has received in Afghanistan. The tactical proficiency and performance of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines is unmatched and unquestioned. However, this is not the European or Pacific theaters of World War II, but rather is a war for which our leaders, uniformed civilian and elected, have inadequately prepared and resourced our men and women. Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner that has become a cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure.

We’re about to repeat the nonsense we pulled in the Iraq surge. $1.3 billion of the defense budget will go toward bribing members of the Taliban into switching sides. We’ll hand out guns and money to bad guys, and then wonder why they turn on our puppet government and us when the handouts dry up. How is it that we think we can reform a corrupt, violent society by flushing bribes and guns into it?

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.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Stan McChrystal’s Flying Circus

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander in Afghanistan, has put on quite a show of insubordination in the past month or so in an attempt to cram his escalation plan down the throat of the America public. He has waged open information warfare in the media, right wing and otherwise, against President Barack Obama. I wonder how much longer Obama will up with it.

More to the point, I wonder if he can stand up to it.

The main thing to remember about McChrystal is that he’s part of the “King David” Petraeus court, and Petraeus is now a de facto Praetorian governor as head of Central Command (CENTCOM). McChrystal was his handpicked choice to replace Gen. David McKiernan, who apparently didn’t spend the night in Petraeus’s tent often enough.

About halfway through Sept., media leaks suggested McChrystal might resign if he didn’t get his way on the Afghanistan escalation. Then he leaked his grim assessment of Afghanistan to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post that warned the mission in Afghanistan would fail if he didn’t get more troops assigned there.

He did his 60 Minutes gig, a puff piece designed to make him look like a thoughtful, sensitive superman (he barely eats or sleeps, he runs six miles every morning, and he’s a great guy). In the 60 Minutes infomercial he cried that since he took command in Afghanistan he’s only talked to Obama once. That’s how things are supposed to work; Petraeus is in between Obama and McChrystal in the military chain of command, something you need to use in the military to avoid rampant chaos. Petraeus, of course, is used to ignoring the chain of command. It barely existed in the Bush/Cheney administration.

As commander in Iraq, Petraeus consistently went behind then CENTCOM chief Admiral William Fallon’s back to get what he wanted directly from the White House. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Middle East assassination team that McChrystal ran as a three-star, appears to have been taking orders directly from Dick Cheney, who as vice president had no legal standing in the military chain of command at all. Journalist Seymour Hersh called the JSOC “an executive assassination ring.”

McChrystal has gotten a near total pass on his involvement with the Pat Tillman cover-up, as well as for his involvement in torture. This guy is used to getting away with anything and everything he feels like doing. No wonder he doesn’t care what his boss, the president, thinks about him.

At a speech to a war-centric think tank in London, McChrystal derided Vice President Joe Biden’s proposal to adopt a low footprint counter-terror campaign. Obama apparently took McChrystal to the woodshed over that, but didn’t seem to do much good.

A Dexter Filkins’ October 14 New York Times Magazine article “Stanley McChrystal’s Long War” was an even bigger piece of war pornography that the 60 Minutes infomercial was. “Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal stepped off the whirring Black Hawk and headed straight into town. He had come to Garmsir, a dusty outpost along the Helmand River in southern Afghanistan, to size up the war that President Obama has asked him to save. McChrystal pulled off his flak jacket and helmet. His face, skeletal and austere, seemed a piece of the desert itself.”

Filkins is gargling on McChrystal’s precious bodily fluids. He has turned into a bigger camp follower of McChrystal than Thomas E. Ricks has been of Petraeus.

McChrystal flew in unannounced to a NATO summit and sweet-talked Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen into endorsing his cockamamie counterinsurgency plan.

The biggest problem with McChrystal’s surge plan is that won’t work, any more than the surge in Iraq did. As Boston University professor and retired Army officer Andrew Bacevich notes, Iraq “is bizarrely trumpeted in some quarters as a ‘success’ and even more bizarrely seen as offering a template for how to turn Afghanistan around.”

Afghanistan is a far more complex problem than Iraq, and Iraq is plenty complex. Gen. Ray Odierno, now commander in Iraq, says the insurgency there may go on for another 15 years. The insurgency in Afghanistan may go on for another 50 years. As Bacevich says, the war there is one “we can’t win.” I couldn’t agree more.

That suits the long war cartel just fine. As tax dollar rip-offs go, it’s as good as the bank bailout. Defense contracts for all my Facebook friends!

McChrystal says job one in Afghanistan is to protect civilians, yet we keep killing them, and we’ll continue to kill them. Among the harshest untruths of our counterinsurgency doctrine is the myth that you can separate the civilian population from the insurgents. You can’t. Insurgents are not formal military forces who leave their families and deploy as major maneuver units. They live where they fight; they have nowhere else to go.

Our war on terror never really had much to do with terror. The neocons, who wrote the template for the foreign policy collision with the brick wall of destiny that we are presently on, merely wanted to turn America into a 21st century version of ancient Rome. Like Rome, we are about to become captives of our Praetorian Guard, our military elites, the likes of Stan McChrystal and his mentor Petraeus and their puppet boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

As renaissance political scientist Niccolo Machiavelli noted, the ascendency of the Praetorian Guard caused the fall of Rome. As he noted in The Art of War, the Praetorian Guard became “insolent and formidable” and “put many emperors to death and then disposed of the empire as it pleased.”

We’re at a perilous point in the American experiment. Unless Obama can get control of our Praetorians, our republic will become, once and for all, a militaristic oligarchy. That would sadden our founders no end.

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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

All Things Neocon

Despite the public relations campaign that has so many folks convinced the surge in Iraq was a success, the country is still a zoo. It has been almost three years since the surge strategy was announced and David Petraeus was installed as commander in Iraq. As Professor and retired Army officer Andrew Bacevich puts it, Iraq is “now bizarrely trumpeted in some quarters as a ‘success’ and even more bizarrely seen as offering a template for how to turn Afghanistan around.”

Explosions in central Baghdad on Sunday killed at least 25 people and wounded 40. Gen. Ray Odierno now in charge of the war in Iraq, says he may not be able to stick to the withdrawal timeline because of the increasing violence, and he thinks the insurgency may go on in that country for another five, ten or 15 years. Political reconciliation, the objective of the surge, has not taken place. The Iraqis can’t even pass election laws. The government and security forces are corrupt and incompetent. Our $700 million embassy in Baghdad has “considerable construction deficiencies” according to the State Department’s Inspector General’s Office.

Ain’t nothing going on right in Iraq.

As complex as things are in Iraq, they’re simple as pie compared to how things are in Afghanistan. It’s difficult to say what President Obama will decide regarding future troop deployments there. The media blitz underway by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his allies to pressure Obama into a major escalation may be too much for Obama to stand up to politically. If we double or triple the numbers of troops we have in Afghanistan, we’ll be in a more inextricable situation than the one we have in Iraq.

Stan McChrystal’s flying-circus plan to conduct a “classic” counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will never work. Regardless of the results of the runoff election, Afghanistan’s government will remain more crooked than Iraq’s. The closest thing Afghanistan has to a legitimate government is the Taliban, and we’re not going to defeat them. They live there. They have nowhere else to go. We, on the other hand, do have a place to go: home to the States.

Preserve NATO? Not.

I never dreamt I’d support an idea of Joe Biden’s, but his proposal to adopt for a small-footprint, counter-terror strategy makes a ton of sense. That’s all we need to do if the objective is to keep al Qaeda on the run. If there is another reason for being in that part of the world that has to do with national security, I’d love to hear it.

Please don’t tell me we need to occupy Afghanistan to keep terrorists from getting their mitts on Pakistan’s nukes. If we’re worried about that happening we can blow up Pakistan’s nukes. Suitcase nukes made from fissile material taken from weapons are an urban myth. A Soviet colonel claimed the USSR had hidden suitcase sized nuclear devices throughout the U.S., but nobody’s ever actually seen one. The technical difficulties involved are enormous. Terrorists will build a suitcase nuke about the time they design a hand-held photon torpedo.

An malevolent argument exists that if, by divine intervention, we ever do withdraw from Iraq, we’ll need to have troops in another country that borders Iran so we can invade it too if we decide to. I highly suspect neocon war wonk Fred Kagan suggested this very idea to McChrystal as they worked together on McChrystal’s leaked assessment of Afghanistan. But if we ever decide to whack Iran, we’ll do it from the air, not with boots on the ground.

The non-proliferation process with Iran seems to be progressing. Our politicians and media continue to muddy the waters on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, and there are many in this country—mostly the same wrecking crew responsible for Iraq and Afghanistan—who want to see the process fail (See, we tried diplomacy and it didn’t work).

We’ve been threatening Iran with attacks for years. It has good reason to be wary of us, and of and our ally Israel. Inspectors are visiting the Qom site that we accuse Iran of keeping secret after it had already revealed its existence. They’ve made a counterproposal to the offer to let Russia upgrade the majority of their uranium for medical purposes. (It will still be far below weapons grade quality.)

The neoconservatives and the Pentagon were beside themselves when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down? How would they justify their budgets? The neocons came up with a plan to turn the Middle East into a mini-Cold War, something they could keep going for another fifty years. Iran plays the role of East Germany, a low level threat that justifies keeping conventional forces in the region (well, “justifies” in the minds of the warmongery). Neocon tank thinkers would like to go back to the big-Cold War too, or something close to it.

That’s the other angle on preserving NATO and occupying Afghanistan. It shoves a stick in Russia’s eye. The neos would love nothing better than to taunt Russia into embarking on another arms race with. That won’t happen; the Russians spend about ten percent as much as we do on defense and the U.S. and its western allies account for roughly 90 percent of the world’s arms sales. The Russians can never catch up; they won’t try. The same holds true for the Chinese who also have a defense budget about ten percent the size of ours.

As long as there’s a NATO, and as long as it keeps encroaching into the former Soviet satellites, the more the Russian regime will need to worry about an invasion from the west (they had a bad spot of that in the last century.) That’s why the war mob howled like banshees when Obama decided to cancel Bush’s deal to put a missile defense system that won’t work into Poland and the Czech Republic. That would have put U.S. troops on the ground one country away from Russia’s border (we could go through Belarus from Poland. They wouldn’t put up a lot of fight.)

Afghanistan fits in nicely with the neocon grand strategy, which is essentially to occupy as much of the world as we possibly can. The reason for invading Iraq had nothing to do with terror or weapons of mass destruction or even Saddam Hussein. He was just a convenient excuse. Invading Iraq gave us a global-strategic coup, a base of operations in the center of the oil rich Gulf Region from we could attack just about anybody else we wanted and enjoy internal lines of communication. That’s why the long warriors keep digging their heels in on Iraqi withdrawal dates. Odierno is on record as wanting to keep 30,000 or more G.I.s there well past the December 2011 deadline called for in the Status of Forces Agreement.

The more we give in to the agenda of a very bad group of people who should have been discredited years ago, the more difficult it will become to turn back from the path they have set us on.

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.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Four-Star Wars

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has supposedly cautioned his generals against publicly challenging the White House, but it looks like Stanley McChrystal didn’t get the memo. McChrystal’s unrestricted information warfare against President Obama continues.

The rift between the Pentagon and the administration has grown so wide it may never close during the Obama’s tenure. This has been coming for some time; President Obama’s failure to clean house at the Department of Defense when he took office is catching up to him.

The military and its supporters have been maneuvering Obama into a box trap since before the election. Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen all spoke out against Obama’s campaign pledge to get U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Gen. Ray Odierno, now commander in Iraq, went on record with Tom Ricks as wanting to keep 30,000 or so troops in Iraq until 2015, years after the 2011 withdrawal deadline called for in the Status of Forces Agreement. He did so in March 2009, after Obama had taken office. Only recently, Odierno noted that the insurgency in Iraq might drag on for another five, ten or fifteen years.

In an Oct. 20 story in Rupert Murdoch’s TimesOnline, Odierno said he might not be able to live up to Obama’s withdrawal pledges due to increasing levels of violence in Iraq. This pronouncement came out the same day Obama promised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that he would pull troops out on schedule.

McChrystal has been openly derisive of Joe Biden’s idea to go with a small-footprint, counter-terror strategy in Afghanistan.

As Professor Andrew Bacevich notes, Afghanistan is a “war we can’t win.” Unfortunately for us, it’s the only war the military has to bank on for its Orwellian long war strategy, one that hopes to keep us in a constant state of low level conflict in order to preserve the military institution and its supporting infrastructure. As President Dwight Eisenhower cautioned us, the unwarranted influence of the military industrial complex has persisted. It has become our national monster.

Even more alarming is how our supposedly “mainstream” media have contributed to the latest surge of militaristic propaganda. McChrystal has enjoyed five-star celebrity status ever since his Senate confirmation hearing. He’s gotten a complete pass for his involvement with torture and his part in the cover-up of the Pat Tillman scandal.

The obvious leak of McChrystal’s “assessment” on Afghanistan to Bob Woodward, the hagiographic 60 Minutes puff piece, the 13 pages of oral sex Dexter Filkins gave him in the New York Times Magazine: these are signs of a savvy information operative. (Filkins appears to have turned into McChrystal’s press slave, much in the way Thomas E. Ricks became a journalistic concubine for David Petraeus. McChrystal’s personal public affairs officer is one-star admiral Gregory Smith, a career bull feather merchant who has been awarded medals they wouldn’t give to Sergeant Rock.)

The four-star junta—Petraeus, Odierno, Mullen and McChrystal—presents the greatest challenge to our constitutional government that we have seen in our history. Gates figures into the equation, sort of, but he’s a bureaucratic twit.

The junta wants to keep its long war going. Objective, decisive evidence provided by the good folks at the Rand Corporation tells us that our best approach to counterterrorism is to “Minimize the use of U.S. military force.”

That kind of talk doesn’t sit well with the junta. If they don’t have terrorism to fight, they don’t have anything to do. Russia and China, whose defense budgets are about ten percent of ours, aren’t going to challenge us militarily. Iran, whose defense budget is less than one percent of ours, doesn’t amount to a pimple on history’s heinie.

McChrystal, and the rest of the junta, aren’t trying to “win” the war in Afghanistan, any more than they’re trying to win the war in Iraq. They just want to keep them going. If we can’t fight in Iraq, we’ll fight in Afghanistan. Or Pakistan. Or Iran. Or Eastasia. Or Eurasia. The important thing is to stay in fights that aren’t much of a fight to justify our budget.

The pismire wars we’re fighting now are a boon for the military-industrial-congressional complex. We can’t win them: Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are clawing at their coffin lids that we’re bothering with them. Nothing good will come from the runoff elections in Afghanistan. Iraq’s parliament can’t even agree on legislation on its upcoming elections. We’re at war with countries at war with themselves. What lunacy.

As I’ve said before, Obama should have called for the resignation or retirement letters of everyone on the department of defense who wears eagles or stars on their collars of has the word “secretary” in their job titles. That wouldn’t have been politically doable, alas. If you thing the right-wing noise generator is blasting Obama now, imagine what would have happened if he canned Petraeus, Odierno, and Gates on his first day in office.

But it’s getting to the point where he needs to stomp on the necks of his subordinates in the military, and to tell the war mafia to take a hike.

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.

Bleep NATO

Tom Shanker of the New York Times tells us that NATO defense ministers have given their “broad endorsement” to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s plan to escalate the Afghanistan war into a full-Monty counter insurgency effort. NATO defense ministers love Afghanistan; it justifies their phony-baloney jobs.

Like much of the U.S. military, NATO became irrelevant when the Cold War ended. Pseudo-counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, who has been an adviser to David Petraeus and McChrystal, says one of the major reasons to press for a larger effort in Afghanistan is to preserve the NATO alliance. He doesn’t think counterterrorism is a particularly important reason to be in Afghanistan. (It’s not at the top of his list.)

To escalate our woebegone war in Afghanistan because NATO wants us to would be the dumbest foreign policy choice our country has ever made, and we’ve made a lot of dumb foreign policy choices. (My favorite example is becoming involved in World War I. We should have stiff-armed that fandango, let the Europeans bleed themselves ashen, then offered to feed them on strict conditions. Alas.)

The world needs NATO like fish need hammers. I had fun galore getting pie-faced with Brits and Germans other Europeans at after-hour planning sessions for international combat exercises, but fun galore isn’t a reason to escalate our war in Afghanistan. How much more blood and treasure do we need to pour into one of the bleakest parts of the world in order to throw a party for our European pals?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been consistently critical of NATO involvement in Afghanistan to date. Gates has danced on a lot of laps in regard to this subject. He always wants more help from NATO, but he doesn’t like the help he gets. NATO doesn’t know how to do counterinsurgency, Gates has complained. But now, they’re all lovey-dovey about counterinsurgency, now that they realize how manpower intensive it is and how much throwing in with the McChrystal plan will defend their defense budgets. NATO, like much of the U.S. military, hasn’t had a reason to exist since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in the early 1990s.

Ludicrous Dick Cheney has asserted that the Obama administration’s “dithering” on what course to take in Afghanistan will “embolden” the evil ones. Everybody who can find the ends of their noses knows Dick Cheney is a dithering idiot; he’s never been right about anything. The only entity that has been emboldened is the western alliance military industrial complex, led by the Pentagon, who are fighting not for the safety of their countries but for their own existences.

The Pentagon’s long war grand strategy is good for everybody’s war business. The Afghanistan conflict is particularly suitable; it’s the kind of Orwellian war that can go on forever without getting too obnoxious, and in the case of America, it’s one that the Democrats, not the Republicans, have ownership of. Or at least it can be sold that way.

Shanker writes, “Mr. Gates, who has kept his views about additional troops close to his vest and has discouraged his commanders from lobbying too publicly for their positions, declined to be drawn out on this assessment.” That’s the biggest lie out of the New York Times since the Nigergate hoax that led to the invasion of Iraq. The media campaign the Pentagon has been waging to pressure Obama into acceding to McChrystal’s demands amounts to a soft coup.

Candidate Obama stuck his nose in the wringer when he deflected criticism of his vote against the surge in Iraq by saying it took vital assets away from the effort in Afghanistan, the “war of necessity.” That may turn out to be the tragic flaw of his presidency. The war in Afghanistan is no more necessary than most other American wars have been. None of the 9/11 attackers came from Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda isn’t there any more. As best we can tell, what remains of al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, and very little remains of it.

America and its NATO allies account for about 90 percent of global arms sales. We have no competitors.

There’s a lot of money to be made now on body and vehicle armor that don’t work. So the more kids we send to Afghanistan to get blown up, the more the folks who make the body and vehicle armor that don’t work make.

The neoconservatives who push our war agenda are invested in it, and they have, incredibly, gained a toehold in intellectually elite circles. That the “dumbest freaking human being on the planet,” Cheney sycophant Doug Feith, managed to become a visiting lecturer at Columbia University gives you an idea of how badly the national brain trust has been damaged by neoconservative influence. He eventually got canned, but he never should have been hired in the first place.

The Obama administration has finally had direct talks with Iran. As physicist Gordon Prather wrote recently, “Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Secretariat, Mohamed ElBaradei is seeking approval by the Obama-Biden administration of an agreement which ‘could open the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the international community.’”

Is it possible that the war crowd will allow that to happen? Prather notes that we’re on the verge of getting the kind of transparency on Iran’s nuclear program that Iran offered early on in the Bush administration, only to be shunned.

Let’s pray that Obama doesn’t make the mistake of listening to NATO or his generals or the right-wing noise machine, and does the smart thing by beginning to back out of Afghanistan, and continues toward normalizing relationships with Iran.

And oh, mainstream media—especially the New York Times and the Washington Post—stop letting unnamed “officials” drop propaganda into your “news.” That sort of thing gets us into wars we don’t need to fight.

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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Make the World Go Away

It’s high time we adopted the isolationist policy recommended by our founding fathers. I’m not talking about withdrawing from the world as an economic and diplomatic superpower. I’m suggesting that we just say no to strewing our military strength far and wide every time we have a temper tantrum. The past eight years have shown that our military might doesn’t accomplish our national objectives. Let the crazy world take care of itself.

Senior Israeli officials reportedly traded sharp words with Iranian officials at the non-proliferation talks in Cairo in September. Unnamed Israeli officials supposedly leaked the story, a named Egyptian official (Egypt’s Foreign Minister) confirmed the story, and unnamed Iranian officials denied the story. The truest thing we’re able to determine is that if the named and unnamed Israeli and Iranian officials did meet, they didn’t shake hands. It’s doubtful that had anything to do with swine flue.

As Jason Ditz of reports, the meeting was “brief and heated.” That’s not surprising. Ditz writes that “the Israeli official accused Iran of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Israel isn’t even a signatory, while the Iranian official pointedly asked Israel to confirm its nuclear arsenal, which it refused to do.”

Those wacky Israelis, always wanting unfair advantages and, as history proves, always getting them from a compliant American military-industrial complex and its network of allies.

Israel’s right-wing Likudniks cherish the same values as America’s neoconservatives: arrogance, indolence, fear mongering and arms spending. (How dare President Obama not give Gen. Stanley McChrystal everything he wants?)

Iran serves a vital role in the Pentagon’s long war strategy. It’s a neo-East Germany; a pseudo-client state of Russia, plopped in the middle of the Middle East. It gives us a reason to keep troops located in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though none of the 9/11 attackers came from Iraq or even Afghanistan and certainly not from Iran.

Iran is an excuse to keep the war machine rolling.

Iran’s defense budget is less than one percent of ours. It can’t project conventional land power much beyond its borders. Its navy is a coast guard and its air force is a junkyard. It doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. Yet we’re up in arms about it. How senseless.

Speaking of senseless, Dick Cheney is on the rampage again. He is the most dishonest, most misguided villain of the 21st century, but when he speaks, he gets more bandwidth than the World Series, the Super Bowl and Internet porn combined. He’s not even attractive to look at or listen to, and he has a proven track record of not knowing what he’s talking about. He’s a militaristic dipswitch.

He gave a speech on Oct. 21 at a right-wing tank thinkery called the Center for Security Policy in which he accused President Obama of “dithering” over Afghanistan, and bragged about what an impressive job of protecting the country he did while in office.

Cheney was more responsible than any other American for roasting the intelligence that led us to invade Iraq. He ignored the warnings that 9/11 was coming. He also led the effort to demonize Iran with unproven accusations that exists to this day. Dick and his mentor Don Rumsfeld are the ones who cross-threaded Afghanistan in the first place. They’re also the ones who screwed up Iraq. Cheney accused Obama of “giving in to the angry left.” The angry left? That’s big talk coming from Cheney, who is the maddest dog in the rabid right.

Cheney defended his torture program, saying it had “legal underpinnings” and “safeguards.” By legal underpinnings he means that he and his neoconservative henchmen injected lawyers into the Justice Department who told them that anything they wanted to do was legal. Safeguards? Our “interrogators” beat people to death. Even John McCain, who is anything but a dove, admits that our torture program didn’t work and should not have been implemented.

Cheney said, “the United States has never lost its moral bearings.” Our moral bearings have never been more tumbled, thanks to Cheney and his satraps (John Bolton, Scooter Libby, Doug Feith, etc.) Lying our way into wars, torture, treating our Constitution like a hygiene product, allowing big interests to bend the American people over the kitchen table: there has never been a more immoral administration than the one Cheney vice-presided over.

William Kristol, who founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), called Cheney’s speech a “humdinger.” It was more of a neocon hum job. The Center for Security Policy, where Cheney gave his speech, is funded by defense contractors, and is run by the malignant Frank Gaffney, one of the darkest stars in the neoconservative constellation. Gaffney is also a founding member of Kristol’s PNAC. And as journalist Jim Lobe notes, Gaffney has reach-around relationships with Likudnik elements in Israel. Gaffney’s intellectual inputs to the national security debate have the integrity of a blue dollar bill.

The neoconservative crowd reminds one of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, in which Shaw argues that all the good in the world is financed by war and sin. How sad. We Americans are supposed to be better than that. Why do we continue to go along with it? The neocons would have us believe that we can be a force for good in the world by blowing it up bits at a time. Can a belief get any sillier? (If she floats, she’s a witch.)

The oceans and our size provide us with ample security protection, just as they did in the day of Washington and Jefferson and Franklin. No one can invade and occupy us. Nobody would ever be crazy enough to pop a nuclear missile off in our direction, or in the direction of any of our friends (do we have any of those left?)

No one is interested in competing with us militarily, not even Russia or China. Let’s start coming home and fixing our own problems, and take the world off our shoulders. It will get along fine without us bombing it on a regular basis.

It’s time to become that kinder, gentler nation and that shining city on the hill that Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush exhorted us to be.

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.