It was recently reported that President Trump has authorized the Department of Defense to determine the number of American troops to be committed to Afghanistan.
It strikes me as somewhat inordinate to expect Secretary Jim Mattis to set troop levels without first spelling out the military mission to be accomplished.
Just what are we doing in Afghanistan? Why are we there? What are we trying to accomplish?
Those are political, not military questions.
I had thought that fifteen years in Viet Nam with over 50,000 casualties would have taught us that trying to subjugate a hostile indigenous population is a fool’s errand.
We paid a terrible price to learn that Viet Nam belongs to the VietNamese. Why can’t we understand that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans?
It took the Russians nine years to learn it. Acting under Leonid Breshnev in 1979, the Soviet Union sent more than 100,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. Nine years later, Mikhail Gorbachev brought them home, more in exhaustion and frustration than in victory. It was the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Our soldiers in Korea and Viet Nam used the word ‘gooks’ to define the locals. They learned that it was too often impossible to distinguish the good gooks from the bad gooks.
When we take sides in someone else’s civil war, we redefine our allies as traitors and our enemies as patriots.
When we invaded Iraq in 2003, it was on the supposition that Saddam Hussein, the fifth President of that country, had weapons of mass destruction which he was expected to use for no good purpose. Our goal was to depose him, and we did.
Then candidate Barack Obama decried the Iraq War as “dumb” and promptly dubbed the invasion of Afghanistan as a ‘smart’ war. By the end of his first year in office, President Obama had authorized upwards of 38,000 troops in Afghanistan, without spelling out exactly what they were supposed to accomplish.
By the end of his second year in office, Obama’s administration had issued a an awkwardly titled report called “An Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review” which earned the comment from Yale Law Professsor, Stephen Carter, that it “actually leaves us with less information about the goals and plans for the Afghan War than we had before.”
The Obama administration made much of the assassination of Osama Ben Laden. The American people were convinced, through media reports and public statements, that Ben Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack.
Did Obama suppose that the American people thought the Afghanistan War was being waged for the purpose of killing everyone responsible for terrorist attacks in the United States?
Indeed is there any statistical evidence or other proof that our military adventures in the Middle East have in any way reduced the threat of terrorism in our homeland?
Certainly no thinking patriot subscribes to the notion that it is better for our young men and women to be maimed and slaughtered on the Arabian sand than for fans of the Boston Marathon or patrons of an Orlando night club to die on our soil. Indeed, nobody has ever a seriously asserted that our Middle East efforts represent a sacrificial offering to the Islamic terrorist demons.
What then? Are we committed to capturing the entire nation of Afghanistan and turning it into another Guam or Puerto Rico? Do we really think it possible to subdue the Afghan people and install a Vichy type government that will be agreeable to the United States of America?
The experience of the French people during WWII with the impotent government headed by Marshall Petain ought to convince us that puppet governments don’t last.
History is a wonderful teacher, if only we will listen.