Tuesday, February 11, 2014

After Afghanistan

Some wars are lost in a matter of moments, others stretch on indefinitely. The defeat in Afghanistan crept up silently on the national consciousness and even though we are negotiating with the Taliban, the "D" word is hardly used by anyone.

According to Obama, in one of his interminable speeches which all run together and sound the same, there really isn't a war, just a mission, and the old mission is now becoming a new sort of mission, and the missions, all of them, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, have been successful which is why we are wrapping them up, except that we aren't really. And that's about as clear as the message from the big white building with the neatly mowed lawn out front gets, except for the part about how its occupant singlehandedly parachuted into Pakistan, killed Bin Laden, and then stopped off for some curry and a humanitarian award.

Had McCain won in 2008, we would no doubt he hearing a lot about the "D" word and the quagmire in Afghanistan. But the "Q" word doesn't really get mentioned either. No war has been lost. Only a mission is ending. And missions, unlike wars, can be defined in so many creative ways that it's hard to know what to make of them. It's easy to tell when a war has been lost, but a mission can never be lost, only renamed. And renaming is what Obama did to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Those wars weren't lost; they're only hiding out in the history books under new names and identities.

Wars are usually remembered according to the proclivities of their historians. The history books tend to record the Republican presidents of the last hundred years as either losing wars or winning wars that weren't worth winning. Democrats however usually win every one.

The Korean War and the Vietnam War were not that far in perception at the time, but are worlds apart in the history books. Had John F. Kennedy lived to serve out two terms and then passed on the big chair to his brother, would the history books even record that the United States lost the Vietnam War? Or would it, like Afghanistan, have gone down as a story about a difficult temporary intervention that ended successfully under the leadership of a wise and caring president?

It is difficult to imagine the left's narrative of the last century with such a big and meaty chunk taken out of it. What would have become of Oliver Stone's career without the JFK assassination and the mythology of a cruel and senseless war in Vietnam? Or imagine the last decade if Biden and Gore had managed to talk Clinton into going after Saddam. As entertaining as such speculations might be, renaming missions and tampering with the history books does not alter the outcome of wars.

From the early days, the left had gloated that Afghanistan would become another Vietnam. And like the appointment in Samarra, in attempting to escape that Vietnamness, it repeated many of the follies of Vietnam and few of its triumphs, failing to press the advantage while expending thousands of lives based on abstract theories hatched by the bright boys in Washington and fraudulent books passed on by the wives of generals to their husbands.

We are now in the Afghanistanization stage, hanging around a country for no particular purpose, except that we aren't very good at departures and the men who made this mess still think that Karzai and his crew can make this work if we provide them with some more training and air support without being shot in the back.

And when we have finally left and Karzai's cobbled together government collapses, its ministers absconding to Paris and Pakistan with suitcases full of stolen aid dollars, what comes after the war?

The old conflict aimed at denying Al Qaeda one base of operations had been outdated a few years after it began. That was something that Bush instinctively understood and that his critics have only slowly become aware of. Al Qaeda is not a country or an ethnic group. It is a religious vanguard that was always meant to serve as the core of an international Islamist terrorist movement. That function had been fulfilled long before an old man watching porn in a covert compound with no authority over anyone except his many wives was finally put down the hard way.  

Al Qaeda, like the Communist Party, can rise anywhere. It rose in Iraq, in Somalia, in Mali, in Syria and in countless other places. Like Burger King, the franchise possibilities are endless and the brand name recognition is universal. And unlike Burger King, you don't even need to pay for the privilege of using the name. Set off a few bombs or kill a few foreigners and watch the money start rolling in from the fat sheiks of the oil-swollen Gulf who have never slit the throat of anything larger than a goat, but like having their own terror armies.

Obama, despite his third culture cred and his ability to carry around important books about world events while on vacation, has no clue what to do about any of that. Obama at War is really a dumber Bush at War, rehashing Bush era ideas and tactics with completely botched implementations. With Kabul in the rear-view mirror, all he has left is Bush's policy of targeted drone strikes on Al Qaeda terrorist leaders.

This approach has been rebranded as the smarter and smaller war. A true conflict for the 21st with Muslim grad students in Yemen chatting on XBox Live with Muslim teenagers in Jersey City to convince them to make and carry liquid explosives on board a plane in tiny shampoo bottles while overhead a drone piloted by a formerly unemployed middle-aged professional skier with a degree in drone piloting from Kansas State hunts for them silently in their clan territories

The targeted strike approach was largely borrowed from the Israeli playbook. Like Israel, the United States is in a tangled conflict that won't end any time soon. And like Israel, it's relying on saving some lives and weakening the terrorist infrastructure by taking out a few leaders here and there. Israel's targeted strikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders never ended the conflict, but aborted more than a few terrorist plots by killing the bomb-makers and planners who were making them happen.

The actual conflict did not end. Neither did the attacks. Rather than shooting soldiers, Israel was shooting officers, because shooting soldiers required extended ground engagements and occupations that had become politically untenable. The United States has embraced the same strategy for the same reasons using technology that came out of Israel. But it hasn't given much thought to what comes after that.

The failure of the targeted strikes and arrests of terrorist leaders led Israel to pursue a physical separation through barriers and fences. The terrorists compensated for that with rockets and shelling. That led Israel to develop the Iron Dome, a defensive anti-rocket system. The suicide bomber, once ubiquitous, became a rarity, but the attacks have grown more powerful as the terrorists used the territory that they gained through Israeli withdrawals to deploy heavier long-range weapons that can reach major cities.

If the United States follows this same pattern of withdrawal and fortification, then by 2028, there might be an actual Fortress America guarded by anti-missile systems against Pakistani, Iranian and Egyptian nukes. And that scenario, as troubled as it sounds, is probably one of the better ones.

Israel withdrew from physical territories opening the way for a Hamas takeover of Gaza. Obama withdrew from geopolitical territories, announcing in Cairo that the United States would no longer support the undemocratic dictators of the Muslim world unless they had oil. Hamas, or its Egyptian parent organization, took over Egypt. Across the region, Islamist regimes rose and American allies fell. The Islamist winners of democratic elections turned into dictators leaving the United States in the awkward position of supporting new dictators while being jeered and denounced by the Arab Street.

What's the next step? It doesn't appear that there is one. Geniuses like Brennan only thought as far ahead as draining Muslim anger by rewarding political Islamists while using drone warfare to decimate violent Islamists. Not only is this distinction mostly imaginary, but the rise of political Islamists has made for more Al Qaeda takeovers and more work for the drones in North Africa.

The plan has failed and the second term is underway. It is very doubtful that Obama, whose big plan for Afghanistan was to copy the Bush plan for Iraq that he denounced in the Senate, has a backup plan. Brennan certainly does not. Secretary of State John Kerry is spending a lot of time talking about Global Warming while waiting a week for a callback from Russia. It's hard to think of a worse bunch of people in whose hands to put the fate of the nation and the world.

Both Bush and Obama largely missed the point of September 11, which is that it matters less how many training camps Al Qaeda has in some desert where there are more drugs and RPGs than people, but how many operatives they have in the United States. The terrorist attacks carried out by Al Qaeda in America all required that their operatives either be in the United States or have permission to enter it. The truly dangerous training camps aren't in Mali or in Afghanistan; they are in Jersey City and Minneapolis. The easiest way to stop the next Al Qaeda terrorist attack is to end immigration from the Muslim world.

That is not a position that any presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, is likely to run on any time soon. Instead anyone who wants the job is salivating at the prospect of pinning Green Cards to anyone with a university degree. Articulating it is taboo even in Israel. And yet after Afghanistan, the United States might find that it has no choice but to build that southern border fence and to slash immigration from the more explosive parts of the world. That revelation may not come tomorrow, but it likely will come.

In Israel, it was Rabin who stated that Gaza had to be taken out of Tel Aviv and who began the construction of the West Bank security barrier because he realized that terrorism would destroy the peace process. An American Rabin may well be a liberal who is forced to come to the realization that the only way to avoid constant conflicts with the Muslim world is to begin cutting off the flow of Muslim immigrants to America.

Such a realization, if it ever comes, is still a long way off. For now the drone war remains a clumsy fallback position. As long as there are no major terrorist attacks, the limited drone strikes are enough to satisfy most Americans. But when one of the Al Qaeda franchises begins poring over blueprints of a major American landmark and another September 11 follows, then the question that has been held in abeyance after Afghanistan will suddenly reappear. What do we do now?


Anonymous said...


The absolute heart of the fanatics is based around players that have been educated in the West on the government dime.

Atta was being given, essentially, a free ride by Germany.

Every time you turn around, the key players pop up with college degrees FROM THE WEST.

We can even go as far back as Qtb. He was being given a free ride by America. True cultural interchange.

He promptly is scandalized by the mores of USAF wives in a military town -- radical fanatics, all.

Then he flies back to Cairo so as to re-orient the MB from anti-British, anti-Jewish sentiments to raving anti-Americanism.

The MB has never changed their compass since.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"...renaming is what Obama did to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Those wars weren't lost; they're only hiding out in the history books under new names and identities."

Aye, they are part of the witless protection program the media and the left like to run.

Bravo zulu on a fantastic post! You nailed it!

mushroom said...

Very insightful. Border security, immigration control, and profiling would solve our problems without wasteful, interventionist wars or TSA groping. It ought to be much easier here than in Israel since you can't walk across the entire country in a day.

... an old man watching porn in a covert compound with no authority over anyone except his many wives was finally put down the hard way.

I know this makes me like a "Truther" or some other conspiracy nut, and it really doesn't matter one way or the other, but I still have some doubts that actually happened. I really am from Missouri. I believe I would say the same thing if McCain or Romney had handled it the way Obama did.

Brendan McNeill said...

"The easiest way to stop the next Al Qaeda terrorist attack is to end immigration from the Muslim world."

Yes, but that would be a rational response.

Kol Bo Gary said...

Daniel, I'm sure you saw the story of the Iranian student at Georgia Tech who was caught last week. How many bad guys are there in Virginia, Detroit, Minneapolis...? Who knows, and we keep inviting more and more. I don't profess to be any sort of genius here, but I've long believed that the U.S., and the "west" will not wake up and end the pc madness, until something really horrible happens. The Boston bombing was "trivial", the first 9-11 not enough. I shudder to think what it will take to end our slumber.

Anonymous said...

These people however nice they are one on one are not going to change no matter how many McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Rat, grammer schools or convenience stores we build up. It's been this way since the apostles beat these paths and it is not going to change any time soon.........

Empress Trudy said...

We need to herd all the crazies INTO Afghanistan and simply watch it burn to the ground.

Sentry said...

I wish someone would take up the cause of the military members who are still serving in these hellholes. I wish someone would think, when they talk about these defeats-in-all-but-name, that the US military is still fighting and being wounded and killed for this "mission." I wish someone--not to name any bloggers--would consider the Marines fighting in Helmand province, the most hellish of all Afghani hellholes, who come back more battered and morose with every futile deployment.

No one wants to take responsibility for that. That the military was sent to do a job and then not given the support and latitude they need to accomplish it, and that they are still languishing there until it is politically expedient for them to come home. No one in government, none of the highest military leadership, certainly not the voters who CHOSE this government, no, none of them will pick up the ball and say for God's sake, we're wasting the lives of the best, bravest, and most heroic warriors this country has to offer, for NO REASON whatsoever, bring them home now. No one will say that. No one will stop it from happening.

Yes, I am a veteran, and yes, I deployed, which is how I know how our military feels right now. I am the child of veterans, the sister of veterans, the descendant of veterans going back to Trenton, in the Revolutionary War. My ancestors fought on both sides of the Civil War. And I will damned to hell if I let my children follow in my footsteps. Not on behalf of this country. Not on behalf of a people who can't tear their attention from Dancing with the Stars long enough to demand that we NOT waste our military's lives in a futile endeavor. My family's three hundred years of military service ends with me.

Shouting Thomas said...

As you've noted in great detail, the U.S. is collapsing internally from the corruption and decadence that always afflicts affluent societies.

I'm trying to draw a conclusion from this, but it is difficult.

At the moment, we seem bereft of the will to survive.

Johnny said...

We go into a country where nobody likes us. This requires that we control events by the threat of violence or by the use of violence. Over time they like us even less. And so we stay and stay and stay to avoid the appearance of defeat. Until, I suppose, we flat run out of money and have to depart.

So it goes.

Anonymous said...

Re: Sentry's post. Moving and frightening and on target. We have been reduced to a nation of gossips whose own First Hag tweets about the 'bravery' of a football star who came out of the closet. This now passes for heroism here in Wonderland.
Regards and thanks,

Anonymous said...

Had John F. Kennedy lived to serve out two terms and then passed on the big chair to his brother, would the history books even record that the United States lost the Vietnam War?
Or, JFK would have avoided the mistakes of LBJ and even worse by Nixon.

Anonymous said...

There are Jihad training camps here in US

Anonymous said...

"The easiest way to stop the next Al Qaeda terrorist attack is to end immigration from the Muslim world."

This is unnecessary and would create enormous resentment among Muslims living in the U.S. A large part of the solution would be to take steps to encourage the U.S. Muslim community to rid itself of the bad apples that exist within their community and its institutions (schools, mosques, social groups) by exposing the radicals living among them, shaming them and denying them the protection and anonymity that they can find within the community. Unfortunately, tribal and family ties run strong in this community and persuading the community to do this will be a challenge. Ultimately, however, the community will have to make a decision on whether or not they wish to like at peace with the American polity or whether they wish to be viewed as a disloyal community whose major contribution to society is to incubate and harbor fifth columnists bent of destroying America and Wester civilization.

Anonymous said...

Isolationism (playing only defense) is never a good strategy. AQ and similar groups are able to operate becuase they enjoy safe havens. They are pawns of radical regiemes. As the radical regiemes proliferate and boost theri arsensl w/WMD, they will provide same to their pawns.

"W" got it right in his June 2002 speech at West Point: "Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies."


Anonymous said...

It is not a matter of tribal loyalty and family ties but Islam and it is al-wala wal-barra, loyalty and brotherhood to fellow Muslims, enmity and hatred to the kaffir, unbelievers. This is primal Qur'anic stuff. Muslims are not going to shame, deny, expose fellow Muslims for the kaffir. They don't do it, haven't done it, and won't do it. Who knows what "moderate" today is "radical" tomorrow? Jihad and Shari'ah will never be compatible with the American Constitution, it's great if there are Muslims who ignore these doctrines (or are they do so till they have the upper hand?) but they need to be given those stark choices now. Start by banning the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist entity (as Egypt has done). So much for CAIR, MPAC, NAIT, MSA et al. Stop allowing American Muslims to play both sides against the middle.

Realize Al Qaeda is a proxy army for wealthy Arab governments and start holding those countries accountable, as should have been done after 9/11. Let them pay a heavy price. That's containment. Realize every jihad terrorist attack is associated with an imam and a mosque. Those bearded ones like to live to a ripe old age and send the young fools to die. When they issue a fatwa allowing our murders let them receive a bullet (or drone) in the head (like al-Awlaki). They won't be so quick to speak. This is containment, also.

Some dude said...

I have a feeling no one is going to like what I am about to say, but someone has to say it. maybe it's time to throw Gaza out of Gaza. And I"m not talking about stopping there either.

Maybe it's time, in a world of imperialists and colonialists to stop playing nice and to start playing mean. Maybe it's time we started thinking in terms of our own Manifest Destiny. Our own imperialism, and a real colonialism.

I want to share a story with you guys that will get across where I am coming from. A friend of mine was going to a Chabad school in Boro Park as a teenager. There was a kid on the edge in that school, a bit of a rebel, tough family, loner. Nice guy, people liked him, but he needed time to brood. You know the type.

So this kid is leaning on the outside of the gated fence for the basketball court by the street smoking a cigarette, in his chabad clothes and hat.

Anyway, some puerto rican kids are walking by and they spot him quietly smoking his cigarette and looking at them as they walk by. So kids being kids they turn to him and challenge him "You gotta a problem asshole?" So this kid does something absolutely beautiful. He takes a long drag of his cigarette, looks the lead alpha right in the eye, blows out the smoke directly in Alpha's face, and with total calm says "Me? Nah, I got no fuckin problem."

His friends ran over as fast as they could but as you can imagine he still got his ass kicked.

My point is this, there comes a time when you have to make a call. We want to get along, and play nice, and be loved. But you have to seriously ask yourself, am I playing nice because I'm a nice guy, or is it because I'm really just afraid of getting my ass kicked?

And then you may find yourself having to ask yourself a totally different question - I'm going to get my ass kicked either way. You know what, maybe I'd like to stop keeping this pretense up, since I have nothing to lose either way.

Maybe it's time we stopped being the nice guy. Maybe that's just not a useful strategy.

Just sayin.

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