REFLECTIONS ON AFGHANISTAN.
A FLAWED POLICY
Dr. Rene Menguy
Before entering in medias res, I should mention that I am and have always been a Republican. I spent too many of my younger years fighting communism to be considered a Democrat in my golden ones. What are my bona fides for this topic?
In one of my previous postings about jobs and the economy, a reader commented: “all along I thought you were a doctor but now I’m not sure”. Tinker, tailor, soldier sailor. Ah yes, in my early years, I was one of those.
I grew up in Viet Nam when they called it French Indochina. In 1942, the Japanese invaded us and our Colonial existence crashed. The Governor General negotiated a truce allowing him to continue running the country as long as it remained loyal to the collaborationist Vichy government. However, a clandestine resistance movement against the Japanese was started by Gen De Gaulle in London. At the time, I was a student at the University of Hanoi. I volunteered. After some basic training, we were given the mission of harassing Japanese troops in Northern Indochina.
I believe that my background as a guerilla allows me to hazard an opinion on the direction of the counter insurgency war in Afghanistan. However, I suspect that my words will have no more import than a grain of sand blown by a desert storm.
At the moment, our CIC is trying to decide how to satisfy the request of his Theater Commander and the collective impatience of the country. Will he put 20,000 or 40,000 more “boots on the ground?” He must realize that he is charting a course between Scylla and Scharybdis. He must also know that his decision will have more political than military consequences, which may be why he is taking so long. The larger number will not mollify the right but will anger the left. On the other hand, should he opt for a “McChrystal-light” number, he will be blamed for another kind of Vietnam defeat, if things go badly there, as I suspect they will.
When considering these numbers, we must remember that, given the “teeth to tail” ratio peculiar to our Armed Forces and the nature of counter insurgency warfare, a sizable fraction of those troops will consist of support personnel who’ll be in even greater danger than those on the line. No rear-echelon in this war!
Many believe that a numerical superiority over one’s adversary is a precondition to victory. However, from the Thermopylae to the battle of Agincourt where the French experienced a stunning defeat despite their large numerical superiority, the history of war tells us otherwise. Strategic superiority usually prevails.
The winning warrior uses the weather, a random circumstance, a road, a river to his advantage. It’s the Spitfire pilot, the sun behind him, diving at a wing of Me-101s, or the admiral, with an instinct for the wind, guiding his squadron of ships of the line “across the T” of the enemy.
The concept of “boots on the ground” is meaningful only at the point of engagement. The Taliban, watching and waiting, always aware of our movements, will emerge from the shadows and strike; at the time and place of their choosing. And strike again, and again, trapping us in an endless war, an endless human and financial hemorrhage, and a war that the entire country will come to loath
We won WW II in part because, toward the end, the Reich began to run out of men and materiel. The Taliban won’t have that problem, given Iran’s willingness to wage their proxy war against us by supplying them with weapons. Because of the forbidding terrain, we won’t be able to use our air and armored forces to the same advantage we did in Iraq.
Still and all, we do have the means to end this war decisively. However, we won’t use them. We won’t because our hands are tied by the kind of political correctness that prevents us from dealing effectively with something like the cold blooded murder of our Fort Hood soldiers.
I believe that war is the ultimate obscenity, a refutation of the parable of Cain and Able. We did not start this war. And yes, we should rage and roar like the lion we are so the whole world hears us and gives us the respect we deserve. That we deserve because we are good people.
By the way, I’ve had it with tin-pot South American dictators insulting my country.