Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Barack the Conqueror
Only Barack could get away with extending a war and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in a 10 day span. The deification of Barack the Conqueror/Peacemaker continues unabated.
It was a funny reaction after Barack declared a Surge in Afghanistan on December 1st. "Surge" seems to be the new favorite word for TV pundits to sound like military strategists. I don't remember there being a "When to Surge, When Not to" chapter in The Art of War. Maybe the Chinese don't have a word for Surge.
The basics of the plan outlined by Barack is that the US fighting strength in Afghanistan will increase by 30,000 troops within the next 3 months. And in 18 months, we would begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Remember when Dwight D. Eisenhower set a timetable for US withdrawal from Germany? Wait, that never happened.
But I actually don't think Barack's plan is that bad. Essentially, he's giving a deadline to the Afghan people to put up or shut up. If they can't handle their own shit in 18 months, then they're on their own.
What's funny was how unhappy EVERYONE was with Barack's decision here. Of course most people on the left were pissed that we'll still be in Afghanistan for years to come. But the conservatives who agreed with him were pissed that his speech wasn't zealous and zestful enough to inspire his soldiers. They unfavorably compared it to George Patton, Winston Churchill, even Henry V.
Except, Patton didn't roll through North Africa, Sicily, France and Germany because he gave good speeches. He did it because he was a ruthlessly aggressive expert in armored warfare.
The British didn't fend of Nazi Germany's Blitz because Churchill was a fantastic orator. They did so because of radar, an efficient organization of their fighter command structure, and outright blundering on the part of Germany's Luftwaffe.
The British didn't win at Agincourt because Henry V gave an inspiring speech. They won because it rained, and the heavily armoured French were immobilized and even drowned by a deluge of mud.
In the movie Braveheart, William Wallace gives this rousing speech before the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
You may remember that in the ensuing combat scenes, there's no bridge present. The REAL Battle of Stirling Bridge took place on a bridge. The Scottish allowed some of the English/Welsh to cross, then slaughtered them piecemeal, before the entire English army could come over. But that's not very cinematic, is it?
You don't have to know much about history to know this: no war has ever been won by a speech. No war has ever been lost by a speech. Wars are won or lost by men (and sometimes women), equipment, and decisions.
In an effort to please everyone, by extending the war in Afghanistan but also establishing a deadline, Barack has pleased almost no-one. There's a good lesson there. Yet he'll still have that Peace Prize. If by some miracle the Afghans figure out how to run a country (something they've never even tried to do, ever), I'm sure Barack will be given the credit, not the soldiers, not the Afghans.
If in 18 months, things are no better in Afghanistan, we'll begin the withdrawal, and Barack will still get credit for keeping the war "short." Even though it will be over 10 years old at that point. So Barack's taking a hit right now, but eventually he can claim credit for a victory, or for minimizing a loss. It's political genius, not military genius.
This whole war on terror is still fucked up and unwinnable in any traditional sense. Imagine playing chess against someone who moved his rook diagonally, or moved pawns 3 spaces at a time, or shifted his white bishop to black squares?
When countries like Iran and Pakistan willingly or unwillingly harbor terrorists, and yet no American soldier sets foot in them, you simply can't hope to win. In fact, these countries are the more dangerous in this War on Terror. When the Taliban and al-Quada were buddies, it was easy to go into Afghanistan and obliterate the Taliban. But when the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia simply look the other way, it's a lot harder to go into there and crack some skulls.
So what strategy should we implement for the War on Terror? An old one, but an effective one. The War Party. Kill your enemy, then leave. Simple, brutal, cheap, and safe. In Iraq, for instance, we could have left once Saddam had been captured, and the countryside scoured for those nonexistent WMDs.
But then you get the bleeding hearts worried about rebuilding countries after we destroy them, worried about military strongmen filling in the power vacuums. So be it. Who cares who runs Iraq so long as they stay in Iraq?
I don't care who the Governor of Rhode Island is, a state only 17 miles from my house. Why should I care who runs Afghanistan?
So here's the Zeitz Doctrine:
1. Establish a set of Commandments for foreign leaders to follow. Things like "Thou Shalt Not Train Terrorists to Attack the US or its Allies."
2. Forcibly remove any foreign government that breaks a Commandment.
3. Abrupt exit.
It'd be a whole lot more effective, and a whole lot less deadly (for everyone really), than trying to police the world.
Posted by rob at 9:30 AM