Streetwise Professor

June 16, 2010

This Too Was Predictable

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 1:49 pm

While I’m in I Told You So mode, there is a dawning recognition that Obama’s setting of a withdrawal deadline for Afghanistan was a blunder of the first magnitude.   Hmm.  Didn’t somebody call Afghanistan “The Graveyard of Timelines“?, writing “any thoughts of ‘time lines’ or ‘exit strategies’ in Afghanistan are delusional.” Or what about this?

Good American soldiers and Marines are getting killed and maimed for no good reason.  This is a crime.  It is a crime because men are dying for nothing, and the outcome was eminently predictable.  Obama’s whole “plan,” such as it was, depended on getting the Afghans to “stand up”: but with a time line inevitably raising questions about the credibility of the American commitment, any Afghan with half his wits about him would hedge his bets, and be very, very leery about standing up.  Winning a counterinsurgency depends crucially on getting the locals on your side–to provide intelligence, and to not support the enemy with intelligence, shelter, or supplies.  But again, no villager is going to risk his neck for the Americans if the Americans are going to be gone in months.  The Obama approach was doomed to failure, and that failure is looming.  No wonder Patraeus passed out before testifying in Congress.  And no wonder allies, most recently the Poles, are bailing.  (The fact that Obama bailed on them recently probably had something to do with that as well.)

As Adam Smith said, there is much failure in a nation.  And America is more resilient and stronger than any.  But it is not without its limits.  Those limits are being tested.  A disastrous health care bill.  Fiscal diarrhea (the latest: a request for $50 billion of emergency funding for states–a big wet kiss to public sector unions and employees).  A string of foreign policy fiascos, all born of utter fecklessness mixed with complete cluelessness.  A fumbling response to a massive oil spill, culminating in an otherworldly speech that said precious little about responding to the spill in the here and now, but instead dissolved into vaporous fantasies about green energy.

All of that is discouraging.  But nothing as compared to the criminal waste of American lives due to a plan founded not on military reality or strategic wisdom, but on political expediency and short-sighted political calculation.  Given that the result was completely foreseeable, that is utterly inexcusable.

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  1. Indeed, this outcome was baked in in February 2003. President Obama is being far more careful about winding down our wars than his predecessor ever was about getting into Iraq. Yet, from SWP, there has never been a word of criticism of the policy that put the Afghan war in it’s present losing position. By contrast, SWP began criticizing the present President’s policies on Afghanistan before election day 2008.

    Comment by rkka — June 16, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  2. The sooner the Americans leave Afghanistan, the better for the world. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 16, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

  3. I was disappointed by Obama’s speech as well. Obama should have used the opportunity to attack the fossil fuel industry and their Republican strongmen and Teabagger flunkies, and made a commitment to a massive rebuilding of US energy infrastructure. Instead he pandered to the pigs at the trough while only throwing a few crumbs the way of environmentalists and visionaries who understand what real change is all about.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — June 16, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

  4. How does American presence in Afghanistan negatively affects world, comrade Leos?

    To Prof: You have to admit it is not hard to play “I told you so” with short-sighted people and Obama is second to none when it comes to that.

    Comment by deith — June 16, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  5. Well deith, you will not meet a more staunch anti-Marxist than myself, so please reserve the title comrade to your relatives, they might appreciate it more. 🙂

    It is now common knowledge that the opium production in the country soared after the American led invasion. The US is propping a clan (the Karzai family) known for being into the drug trade. The drugs are then exported to the countries of the region, especially Russia and China. Even in faraway Britain the prices of heroin dropped. What is the US doing about it? Not much, they were not even able to get rid of the drugs in Marja, even though they claimed that was their purpose for going there. The US is simply not serious about eradicating the drugs, the way the Taliban before they were deposed.

    Is that good enough for you?

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 16, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

  6. Hmm, and this nonsense which you call common knowledge is based on what, commie?

    Comment by deith — June 16, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

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    Pingback by Tweets that mention -- — June 16, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

  8. Hmm, and this nonsense which you call common knowledge is based on what, commie?
    The “War on Drugs” is rather hypocritical, if you can’t even curb opium cultivation in a country nominally under your control. The US went to great lengths to destroy RICE production in Vietnam with Agent Blue, yet cannot do the same to opium 40 years later in a landlocked country which it occupies against a pitiful opposition with ZERO state sponsors. The illiterate inbred Taliban managed it in less than a year, yet MIGHTY America, the sole superpower, the hyperpower cannot do the same despite its great moral crusade?

    Comment by So? — June 17, 2010 @ 2:09 am

  9. deith – Although I can’t verify Leos’ comment about the Karzai family, it is true that the Taliban did significantly reduce the world production of heroin. Prior to the invasion there was a severe world-wide heroin shortage for some time. Although the US are in Afghanistan for the right ideological reason (fundamentalism in any form is not cool), it seems like the world has worked in balance this time around. A terrorist organisation has been thrown into disarray, and a harbouring government has been overthrown, but the world has to deal with effects of heroin use (crime, social disharmony, death). The US and the coalition now need to stay in Afghanistan for the next couple of decades (minimum) and help the Afghani’s develop the trillion-dollar’s worth of resources that they are now purported to have. The world would be a better place with lower iron prices and less heroin.

    Comment by Mike — June 17, 2010 @ 2:15 am

  10. Here’s what Tony Cordesman has to say about where we are in Afghanistan, and how we got there:

    Money quotes:

    “The definition of victory is as much at issue as the question of whether victory is possible. One thing seems clear: The impossible goals and dreams of rapid political and economic development, creation of a Western-style rule of law, and quick progress in human rights was never going to take place even if the challenge had really been post-conflict reconstruction and the insurgency had not been allowed to fester without serious opposition for half a decade. The Afghan Compact, a badly drafted Western constitution, and the Afghan National Development Plan were little more than idealistic dreams decoupled from Afghan realities and Afghan desires.

    The case is very different, however, if victory is defined in the way that General McChrystal and other have done in ISAF. They are talking about a much less ambitious end state that would offer most Afghans major benefits as well as achieve a meaningful form of victory. The ISAF command brief defines both the campaign goals and this endstate as follows:

    * Purpose
    o Assist GIRoA in defeating the insurgency.
    o Protect the Afghan population and separate insurgent influence.
    o Gain popular support for the government.
    o Allow sustainable progress and promote legitimacy.
    o Prevent the return of transnational terrorists and eliminate potential safe havens.

    * Method
    o Conduct the operation in three stages: A) Gain the Initiative; B) Achieve Strategic Consolidation; and C) Sustain Security.
    o Gain the initiative and stop insurgent momentum in the next 12-18 months.
    o Establish closer cooperation with the International Community.
    o Achieve improved integration and CIV-MIL operational cohesion.

    * Endstate
    o Insurgency defeated to within GIRoA’s capacity.
    o Legitimate governance extends to local levels.
    o Socio-economic programs benefit the majority of Afghan people.
    o GIRoA, with ISAF support, is capable of assuming the lead for security.

    The campaign design and desired end state for Afghanistan is shown in more detail in the chart below, and it effectively limits the goal to effective governance and justice as perceived by Afghans, a stable society free of significant insurgent violence and threats, and a suitable condition for development by Afghans on Afghan terms.

    This may fall far short of the goals that the US and other nations set in 2002 and the years that followed, but it is credible and would serve US strategic interests by denying Al Qa’ida, the Taliban, or other insurgents control of the country or major operational areas and sanctuaries. In short, it is “Afghan good enough,” and not “Afghan impossible,” and is at least a pragmatic definition of the mission and a set of conditions that the US and its allies have some hope of achieving.

    This does not, however, alter the fact that even this much more modest definition of the mission — and of victory — may still prove to be beyond our ability to achieve. There are several major areas of risk and uncertainty where there simply are not enough facts or precedents to make a credible prediction.”

    “The current situation is the product of more than eight years of chronic under-resourcing, under-reaction, spin, self-delusion and neglect. It is the result of one of the worst examples of wartime leadership in American history. There is no magic route out of this situation, and the timing of an effective campaign has been complicated by a wide range of factors”

    RKKA: Of course, SWP never breathed a word of criticism of this feckless Afghanistan policy while Dubya was running the show, though his criticism of Obama’s views on Afghanistan started before Election Day 2008.

    “These are not likely to be popular conclusions. They require considerable leadership on the part of the US, as well as close and frank coordination with our allies. Moreover, they require acceptance of the fact that the case for the war is not based on some certainty of victory, but odds that may well be even — or worse. It is time, however, to come to grips with the sheer scale of the US mistakes that led to the rise of the insurgency in Afghanistan, and to start addressing the reality that we may face many wars in the future against extremists that exploit the weakest and most divided states, fight similar wars of political attrition, and force the US to commit forces and money to weak governments and nations that do not meet many Western expectations.”

    And SWP is no help at all on coming to grips with the US mistakes that led to the rise of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

    He’s far more interested in partisan political haquery directed at the guy who inherited the losing situation from Dubya.

    He may even be so deluded as to think the guy who inflicted Palin on us would be doing better.

    Comment by rkka — June 17, 2010 @ 4:07 am

  11. @ deith

    I think I have provided you with enough information to feed the google for the rest of the day. Seeing the way you write, I’m afraid you need someone to show you how to do something so trivial as internet research. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 17, 2010 @ 6:00 am

  12. Commie Leos:

    So what you posted is based on… nothing? Cannot you name even one source? Do you at least sell heroin in Britain that you know about drop of prices there, so I could take you as a source? Karzai family is known for being a drug clan? Known from where? Share with me your wisdom, please! And btw, lets assume for a while your statements are not pure fantasy, can you answer how American withdrawal makes the situation with drug export from Afghan better? As the one who made some statements it should be you who supports them with statistics. Seeing the way you want others to believe your statements, I’m afraid you need someone to show you how to do something so trivial as to argue correctly.

    Comment by deith — June 17, 2010 @ 9:04 am

  13. I love people like you deith, I have no obligation to provide you with links for what is now a story so large that it is considered common knowledge. There is google for your ignorance. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 17, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  14. Ok deith, I penned this yesterday and it is dedicated to you. Some interesting links there, most of them coming from mainstream American media, the one that isn’t is RT.

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 17, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  15. When you grow up and start to specialize you realize almost everything that is “common knowledge” is totally wrong. And you base your opinions on mainstream medias and Russia Today, that explains a lot. When it comes to your article, you did not provide the most important link, one supporting your claim Taliban almost eradicated opium fields. One of your links actually says the opposite, Taliban uses profit from opium to fund their operations. And the link about Karzai is especially funny, do you really believe CIA officials would show CLASSIFIED documents to some writer and journalist because they are “FRUSTRATED” as is claimed at official site of that journalist? Do not you realize those “CIA officials” would be tried for treason?

    Comment by deith — June 18, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

  16. “made a commitment to a massive rebuilding of US energy infrastructure” this would require putting hordes of icky males back to work in less than cool locales. While we’re at it, why don’t we just build the dang bridge to Chuhotka from Alaska? That would create thousands of jobs and actually leave a lasting legacy, compared to the Gigabucks printed just to hire a few more 100k a year drones in D.C. and bail out the banks.

    Comment by Mr. X — June 18, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  17. And the whole story about Afghanistan being the Saudi Arabia of lithium reads like it came from the latest James Bond movie, what with the Quantum (name of Soros hedge fund, cough cough) organization planning to take over some country to control a natural resource.

    Comment by Mr. X — June 18, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  18. @ deith

    I said when Taliban was in power, they eradicated the crops. This is not saying they might be making use of drug money now and I explained how that could be done. As to leaked classified documents, LMAO, that thing happens all the time. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 18, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

  19. Leos:

    Yes, I understood you. But opium was still made in Afghan during Taliban’s rule, so they really did not eradicate it. Or do you want to tell there was 90% less heroin in the world before Americans came to Afghan? And when it comes to classified documents, you have no clue. If you really think someone would risk trial for treason just because he is “frustrated”, that someone would PERSONALLY (as is mentioned in your link, did you bother yourself with reading it?) give classified documents to some writer, so he could finish his book, LMAO! Guess your opinions about handling of such documents come from Clancy’s novels.

    Comment by deith — June 18, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

  20. A lot of people were already tried for leaking out documents, so that means there are people who have the guts to bring things out. However there are ways of going incognito while doing it. So to say that it cannot or does not happen and reducing that to Clancy’s novel is not quite correct.

    Not speaking about the fact that you do not address the rest of the information.

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 19, 2010 @ 9:00 am

  21. There is no other source used in the article except for quote of some “senior official”. That is what you consider a reliable source, single sentence of some anonymous guy with unknown position in the office? Not speaking about the fact that you do not address rest of the comment.

    And yeah, documents leak but very, very (I mean VERY) rarely compared to opinion of spy thriller fans such as you. Never said they don’t (you are just not able to read) but certainly never in the history of secret services someone gave a classified document to writer because he was “frustrated”. If you really believe someone would risk his career and 20-30 years in prison because of temporary frustration, there is no reason to continue in this discussion.

    Ad “guts to bring it out” – translates as Swiss banking account with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Comment by deith — June 19, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  22. Who cares? Good bye! 🙂

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 19, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

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