Skip to comments.Why We Lost Afghanistan
Posted on 10/16/2012 5:49:15 AM PDT by expat1000
Regardless of who wins this election in a few years the final planes carrying the last soldiers will shake off Afghanistan's dust and take to the sky. They will leave behind a limited number of advisers, ex-military civilian contractors and a whole bunch of diplomats running out the clock in Kabul. A few years later when Islamist mobs are roaming the streets and rocket attacks on the US embassy have become routine, the helicopters on the roof will be back and the surviving diplomats will be on their way to new assignments in more peaceful parts of the world like Baghdad and Cairo.
The war in Afghanistan is lost and that loss is mostly unspoken. Had Obama never been elected then the left, in coordination with their Democratic big brothers, might have elevated the defeat to the level of another Vietnam. But that dream, nurtured in the early years of the Bush Administration, is a done deal after the Son of Jimmy Carter who ran on a platform of beating the Taliban. Instead of another Vietnam, the long war will be an unremarked defeat.
Neither side wants to talk about it and the American people just want to leave. The ending is written the cemeteries are full and all that's left is to shake off the dust and go home.
Defeats however have to be learned from and no one intends to learn the lessons of Afghanistan. The people responsible for 1,500 deaths in implementing a directive to beat the Taliban without breaking a single fingernail on an Afghan civilian, even if he's a Taliban gunman hiding behind a Burqa, will not pay the price for this. They will go on to lucrative gigs as lobbyists or leadership trainers, herding corporate executives around golf courses and trading on anecdotes about the time they almost came under fire.
They will not be held accountable, because when they sacrificed 1,500 American soldiers they were just following orders and the orders came from generals and the generals were following orders from Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton and the entire diploarchy on a desperate quest to win the war and end the occupation by getting the Taliban to the negotiating table and getting Obama to the Mission Accomplished jet in time for the election.
There's no General Westmoreland to hang here. The closest thing to him is General McChrystal, a man who badly wanted to be the hip cool general, the Obama of Afghanistan, and cost far more lives than General Custer did in the process. McChrystal was just following the new trend that said that wars aren't won by violence, but by winning hearts and minds changing social conditions. The new warrior was no longer a soldier, but a social worker, a diplomat and a comparative religions scholar. And if 1,500 social workers had to die so that the Afghans would come to love us... then so be it.
The war in Afghanistan was lost because it became a kindergarten with guns, a social welfare agency with heavy artillery that couldn't be used in the proximity of civilians. And it was run by the same type of people who turned domestic urban centers into hellholes by pandering to criminals while making it impossible for law enforcement to do their job.
Don't think of Afghanistan as a distant country. Think of it as New York in the 80s. Think of it as Detroit or Chicago. Think of all the social workers constantly shouting about justice and demanding an end to police brutality. Think of the lawyers helping grinning thugs out of prison. Think of the slimy pols pressing the flesh with neighborhood gang leaders and paying homage to them. That's what happened in Afghanistan.
But that's not why we lost the war. It's why we lost so many good men losing it.
We didn't lose the war in Afghanistan. When we went in the Taliban were crushed, driven out and broken down. It took them years to recover, but they were always bound to recover so long as there were neighboring Muslim countries like Pakistan and Iran who were invested in their recovery. The futility of fighting a proxy war against an insurgency in a country with a high population and a low income was known before Vietnam. It was certainly known before we tried to secure Afghanistan.
Ten years ago we didn't beat the Taliban by patrolling roads and having tea with the local elders. We did it by finding people who wanted to beat the Taliban and providing them with supply lines and air support. We didn't do it by winning hearts and minds, we did it by dropping bombs and more bombs. We won by winning.
The idea of winning by winning has become antiquated. The post-everything sensibility is to win by losing. To win by making so many concessions and bending over so far backward that the enemy either comes to love us or is completely discredited. This never works, but it's the properly liberal war to approach any conflict with people who aren't rich white men.
Winning by winning, a deep thinker will tell us, is futile. Trying to win by winning is the road to defeat. You may kill one terrorist, but a thousand will take his place. You may win a battle but by going to war you have already lost the war.
Don't laugh. Such deep thoughts are the intellectual DNA of the diplomats and the generals, the experts in regional studies who sneer at the idea of winning wars instead of lining up all the stakeholders in a conflict and convincing them to build a working society, instead of blowing themselves up outside police stations.
So we didn't try to win by winning. We tried to win by convincing that it was in everyone's interest to let us help them win by living in peace. This has worked out about as well as expected in a society where winning is a zero sum game and cooperation is a temporary truce in which each party waits to stab the other in the back. Instead of winning by winning, we lost by losing. It's the Post-American way.
And yet that isn't why we lost the war either. It's why we don't understand why we lost the war.
Before these pernicious doctrines took hold, we had already adopted a nation building model that relied on restoring stability through occupation, rather than shattering the enemy's main strength and moving on.
We didn't lose the war in Afghanistan. We lost the nation building. We lost the hopeless effort to cobble together coalitions of the corrupt and to patrol the resulting territories while pretending that a democratic election in a country with no concept of legal equality or civil rights meant that we were making progress because the savage lands were now turning out to be just like us.
American soldiers became Karzai's security guards. American soldiers became Afghanistan's army. American soldiers were tasked with trying to keep the peace in a society where peace is alien and life is cheap. We lost that war to stabilize and democratic the land, but there isn't anyone who could have won it. Even the Russians proved not to have the stomach for the kind of massive bloodshed that it would have taken to stabilize Afghanistan under their kind of government. We certainly don't.
Our mistake was resetting our victory condition from inflicting massive damage on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, while empowering their enemies, to turning Afghanistan into a stable and healthy society. We had drunk the stability snake oil and come to believe that Afghanistan was just like Germany and Japan, that if we could teach the natives to build healthy democratic institutions, stability would follow. We were wrong.
We lost Afghanistan because we forgot that we never had it. We lost the war because we forgot that it was a war and decided that it was a humanitarian mission. We lost because we had come to believe that no war was moral unless it ended in the moral redemption of the foe. We lost the war because we could no longer justify a war to ourselves in the interests of our own defense, only in the interests of saving another people and another society from themselves. We lost Afghanistan because we still knew how to fight, but we no longer remember why we fought. Daniel Greenfield is a New York City based writer and blogger and a Shillman Journalism Fellow of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
This is another must read article by the Sultan.
Really good analysis. This is in keeping with Victor Davis Hanson’s “western way of war” approach. Nation building itself isn’t bad-—witness Japan and Germany-—but it only takes place AFTER victory.
I agree with a lot of the article having been in Afghanistan several times.
Looking back - we should have left the place to the Special Forces and Northern Alliance. The ROE should have been “go out and kill the enemy and have some fun.”
Instead, we conventionalized the war, instituted insane ROE policies and brought in PC rules to win over CNN, liberals and Europe. No wonder we lost.
The Taliban will not “win” Afghanistan back. The Northern Alliance were fighting them pretty good without ANY foreign help. With minimal aid, light air support and just a few SF advisers, they will easily keep control over at least half of Afghanistan to include Kabul.
Wrong terrain, wrong strategy, wrong methodology- The center of gravities are split between Iran and Pakistan. Afghanistan is zero-G space, void of anything truly useful to our National Security posture. We gain nothing other than bitter combat experience paid with precious blood and treasure in an attempt to appease and westernize a brutal tribal culture caught up in the death grip of islam. Meanwhile, we pay billions in tribute to our enemies in Pakistan and weak kneed lip service to our enemies in Iran.
Ann Coulter was right - the only way to win over a Muslim country is to kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
Also, I had an instructor in my Warfare since 1945 class point out that the Japan/Germany occupations worked because the Japanese/Germans decided to go along with it (For whatever reason: Perhaps they were so defeated that they couldn’t put up any resistence if they wanted to, perhaps the Soviets scared them more, perhaps Japanese/German cultures value order more, etc).
Yes they will - if not in this life, then in the next. In cases like this (and OJ, for example) that's my only solace.
Even the Russians proved not to have the stomach for the kind of massive bloodshed that it would have taken to stabilize Afghanistan under their kind of government.
My recollection is that the Russians did have the stomach for it. They were succeeding in suppressing the opposition with helicopter gunships until our Stinger missiles made those gunships useless.
I will never forgive the betrayals and betrayers of our Troops for as long as I live. NEVER. And that includes petraeus who never was EVER what he was cracked up to be.
There's nothing wrong with knowing one's enemy intimitately provided that knowledge is properly used to bring about their complete destruction.
There's nothing wrong with knowing one's enemy intimitately provided that knowledge is properly used to bring about their complete destruction.
Every nation that has tried to win Afghanistan has failed. The Russians weren’t hampered by the same things we were, they failed, same with the Brits. 3 different ways of doing things couldn’t get it done.
Let them figure out what religion they want. Just stamp out Islam as an organizing influence a few times. Cut off Saudi aid to the jihad.
Too much IKE and Bradley and not enough Patton.
Yeah, that’s exactly it. But also, we totally decapitated the leadership in Germany, while in Japan we persuaded the Emperor (at Bomb-point) to order his subjects to cooperate. So in both cases, the people were directed at the highest levels to cooperate. We haven’t yet done that in Afghanistan. We actually came closer in Iraq, with the Anbar Uprising.
Gender apartheid is THE impediment to progress for any Muslim country. PERIOD
Forcing a whole class of people into perpetual subserviance does not work.
Americans can say that, because WE know!
America's military betrayed by America's government...If that doesn't stick in your craw, I don't know what will.
Some close friends have a son serving as a SEAL. He goes out 9 months at a time. They count the minutes until he’s out of theatre on each deployment. He’s been in some serious action, and has a Medal of Valor to show for it.
It’s Vietnam II. Time to go, and let the tribal leaders violently stake out their territories again.
We lost because we wasted time and effort trying to be “nice” to the enemy and the locals (same thing, I suspect). We should made of point that we were the strongest and could do as we wished. For instance, if we wanted to inspect a mosque we should have tromped right in, muddy boots at all - and shot anyone who tried stop us. We should have taught them to fear us a LOT more than any Jihadi.
We lost because we didn't go after the enemy's logistics. Jihadis don't fight for free. They fight for pay and loot. Who is providing them with weapons and ammo? Who is paying them? We should have had death squads ranging the world looking of supporters of jihad, to kill them and destroy their assets - no arrests, just sudden, messy death or maybe a kidnapping, torture (for information), then death. If it is a state actor, we should arranged costly and devastating “accidents” for their infrastructure and messy deaths for individuals within their governments.
We lost because we have a truly warped doctrine. We thought we could teach and bribe the enemy into stopping fighting and buy the locals love. This doesn't work. Wars stop when one side is no longer able to fight for lack of beans, bullets, and bodies. We failed to cut the enemy of from the sources of these things, and to destroy their providers.
That and inbreeding.
If we want to go somewhere to sing Kumbaya and let people shoot at us we should keep the army at home and send the peace corps.
We lost because they didn’t want to be saved.
A scrimmage in a Border Station-
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!
Every officer and NCO should have been issued a book of Kipling’s poetry with “Arithmetic on the Frontier” and “The Grave of a Hundred Head” HIGHLIGHTED!
Afghanistan has long made proxy warfare it’s money product. And it looks as if it will always be so. History will teach if one bothers to learn it, unfortunately 99% of young Americans now have no idea of the history of Afghanistan and if current curriculum is any indication they never will.
Another great article by Daniel Greenfield.
We could still win this. We form a PENTAGON FORWARD and start building housing for the admiral’s and general’s and colonel’s families in Afghanistan. You put their families there, and you’ll never believe what a bunch of tigers we have.
Fight to win or get out.
Another reason the Soviets got out of Afghanistan was - believe it or not - their own public opinion. The war was largely a secret from their own people until the casualties grew too large to conceal. So even a totalitarian society fighting with fewer tactical limitations lacked staying power.
A lesson that Obama and his cohorts never learned.
I prefered the light-footprint strategy where we drew the Taliban into the Afghan interior & killed them with firepower. But Obama convinced the electorate that this was pointless. But it sure killed a generation of jihadis.
Afghanistan will never change so long as muslims are living there.
Could that be because it actually is a muslim country?
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