August 31, 2009

George Will on Afghanistan: "America should do only what can be done from offshore..."

"... using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters."

53 comments:

Sy said...

To this day, I have no idea why Obama wanted to emphasis Afghanistan except perhaps to be a contrarian to Bush's foreign policy. He is chasing an inconsequential shadow that is Osama Bin Laden. Hell, he may have already died.

bagoh20 said...

Many people seem to forget that bad things happen whether you engage the enemy or not. Often when you choose to just walk away, the thug follows you out of the bar anyway.

Seems to me if you are gonna run, then run fast and far, Then accept that you are leaving behind others on whom the thugs take out their psychosis.

If you decide to fight then be brutally effective to get it done and discourage other thugs.

Everything in between results in worse outcomes for all innocent parties. In the long run: longer wars, higher casualties and repeat business.

paul a'barge said...

George Will == loser.

rhhardin said...

I don't know what Obama has in mind, but you want to be in Afghanistan to keep a rein on Pakistan.

bagoh20 said...

Maybe this is why Afghanistan has always been untamable; eventually the invader asks himself what the hell he's hoping to get out of it.

We have more at stake than anyone in the past because of Pakistan and the demands of Exceptionalism. Our president does not subscribe to that so this could get uncomfortable for him.

WV: "prick" wtf, I take offense at that.

Maguro said...

He's got a point. Afghanistan is a landlocked, stone-age shithole and is not of much strategic or economic value. However, what he's proposing isn't very realistic, because you can't really get actionalble intelligence unless you're in fairly close proximity to the bad guys.

So, really, the choice is between staying in Afghanistan and fighting the terrorists there or walking away and letting them go about their business. They can't be fought successfully from Qatar and Diego Garcia.

Tough call for Obama, hope he gets it right.

The Drill SGT said...

I have to part company with my conservative friends and agree at some level with Will.

A war in Afghanistan is ultimately unwinnable because at a very basic level, there is no country called Afghanistan. It is a collection of tribes, still mired in the 19th century.

What we can do is keep a damper on Taliban efforts and AQ camps.

Randy said...

It is a collection of tribes, still mired in the 19th century.

Drill Sgt: I tend to agree with your comment, except that particular sentence above. I think it is off by a few centuries.

traditionalguy said...

Good news that someone is talking about this disaster strategy. I was anxious that Obama wanted to stop Patreus even at the cost of throwing away a perfectly good Marine Corps in a replay of Peleiu Island, which was a suicide mission with no stategic value whatsoever except in a McArthur/Nimitz military rivalry.

The Drill SGT said...

Randy,

I said the 19th century because the tribemen have clearly mastered the rifled musket and more. I'm thinking Kipling here and how the Brits finally managed their losses in the Hindu Kush. (Killer of Hindus). By playing off one tribe against the others, and being prepared to conduct brutal cleansing opersations when one of the tribes went off the reservation, as it were.

I leave you with the last two stanzas of:

Rudyard Kipling's poem: The Young British Soldier

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!

G Joubert said...

What Obama, like many on the left, never got was that there were solid and legit reasons why Bush de-emphasized Afghanistan, and some of them had to do a seriously steep application of law of diminishing returns in war efforts there brought on by outsiders, an amply demonstrated phenomena with an established baseline going back into antiquity.

Focusing on Afghanistan "where we never should've left" instead of Iraq made for a nice little red meat sound bite to dangle over the snapping leftoid base, but Obama was dumb --really dumb-- to actually do it.

wv=osershe

David said...

Unwinable. Wrong war. Untamable, Stone age shithole. Everything but "Omaba Tried, People Died."

All this sounds vaguely familiar. Oh yeah, the Daily Kos, Iraq, I remember.

John Lynch said...

We said all this about Vietnam, and then all the offshore support went away, too.

See, once we leave, there's no reason to stay.

Skyler said...

When did George Will suddenly become a military expert?

Heck, when did he become a political expert?

What an idiotic plan.

chickenlittle said...

I wonder how much time will pass before the strategy of slaughtering AQ on more favorable terrain will be reinvented.

SteveR said...

Once again, the Great Campaigner has trouble converting to the office. Maybe he'll pull it out but noy by using the feckless Clintonian strategy.

Cedarford said...

rhhardin said...
I don't know what Obama has in mind, but you want to be in Afghanistan to keep a rein on Pakistan.


Except for the fact we are dependent on Pakistan and determined to give them the billions they want and turn a blind eye to them releasing AQ Khan, their playing footsie with radical Islamist groups...well...because we have to put all our shipborn then overland logistics through Pakistan, get permission to overfly for any sea carrier strikes. All so we can Save the Noble Freedom Lovers! and help Women Shed their Burquas.(Note, slogans copywrited by Dubya, sadly out of date since 2003..)
Saying we are in Afghanistan to keep a rein on Pakistan makes sense only if you believe phone calls from US officers promising fresh bribes if ONLY they would do more to stop the Taliban from burning or stealing 100s of millions in supplies intended for Afghanistan fits your definition of "reining in Pakistan".

-------------------
G Joubert - Focusing on Afghanistan "where we never should've left" instead of Iraq made for a nice little red meat sound bite to dangle over the snapping leftoid base, but Obama was dumb --really dumb-- to actually do it.

Well stated. It gave Lefties great little frissons of delight when The One needled Hillary, then the Republicans with his canned line that Iraq is the BAD war, but Afghanistan is the good noble war to find one guy, bin Laden, and "bring him to justice in American courts".

Despite how unbelievably stupid
that was. Fortunately, Obama then went against a Guy orders of magnitude stupider on entangling wars. McCain. That not only agreed with him about Afghanistan, but wanted to stay in Iraq forever, AND was threatening to go to war with Russia over the Noble Freedom-Loving Georgians. Then surgically bomb Iran - to help Israel's regime demanding we do it -but also to aide the grateful Pro-Democracy Iranians.

No matter. McCain has one foot in an assisted living facility for early onset Alzheimers..and Obama is Prez.

But now the Lefties that got him in fully expecting he'd stop the dumb "I'm a tough guy and I want to escalate to find the White Whale" rhetoric as soon as he was elected..find that he actually IS escalating. He sort of promised the military and the Euros that he would..of course the morally superior Euros that Obama was supposed to be so simpatico with blanched when he asked them to supply more people.

And while the MSM media dutifully backs their Messiah, the Left is getting a little consternated seeing "The Road to Vietnam Redux".

BHO=LBJ

JAL said...

Don't know the answer. Don't know enough.

I did read Michael Yon's most recent post this morning.

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/
"Precision Voting"

Must read.

Big Mike said...

The tactics that worked in Iraq won't necessarily work in Afghanistan, but some variation on them will, if we have the right strategy and enough troops.

But George F. Will's strategy has no chance of doing anything but exhausting the treasury and enriching the manufacturers of fighters and cruise missiles.

Rialby said...

I am so torn as to what to do about Afghanistan. I will say this though - for all of those who denigrated the Bush strategy which Steven den Beste summarized so well back in 2002 or 2003, this is the time to revisit it. If I remember correctly, being in Afghanistan was not about nation-building, it was about destroying the presence of al Qaeda in that country and about denying them a base.

And, yes, it's still online.

AST said...

Every time I start to be impressed by his erudition, he goes and says something like this. What a load of nardsfu!

Synova said...

Oh geez... only if we want to LOSE, in which case we shouldn't be using drones, missiles or air strikes or assassination squads AT ALL.

Afghanistan was NEVER important for us strategically and Bush knew that but he understood that it was WRONG to abandon Afghanistan just because Afghanistan doesn't actually matter. It might have had to be moved to a back-burner for a while, but not forgotten there.

The whining from the "anti-war" crowd about the "good" war and about (a long ago dead and rotted Osama Bin Laden) supposedly hiding in Pakistan was the usual opportunistic outrage. Taking care not to destabilize Pakistan WAS the way to fight the war on that front, a non-military solution squandered by those who don't really care if villages are bombed so long as they can hate on Bush. Obama lets Pakistan fall into disorder... our overland supply of Afghanistan goes on roads through the middle of Pakistan. Obama loses at least one of our staging bases for air supply to the North of Afghanistan.

And this is taking the "good" war seriously?

Afghanistan needs transportation infrastructure. It needs ROADS most of all, and to keep those roads secure so that people can get their crops to market.

It needs for the US agriculture lobby to stop being asses because they're afraid someone will grow a little bit of barley.

Not because Afghanistan *matters* in any geo-political sense whatsoever, but because human beings matter.

But in the end... do it or DON'T. And for God's sake don't do it by half-measures and by asking my Air Force to bomb villages when you don't even intend to win.

traditionalguy said...

Someone in Al Queda must have a good friend in our government if we are really going to send 30,000 new targets into the Tribal mountains for their benefit. The terrain is unreachable except for a single road going anywhere you and the next day's supplies need to go, and that road has more bombs planted in it every night than NYC restaurant kitchens have roaches. The strategy being followed by Obama is designed to cripple war support by causing deaths to as many many National Guardsmen and Marines there as possible; and as a bonus he gets to destroy the reputation of David Patreius. George Will has turned on the lights to this new strategy for the first time in his opinion piece. We need to accept these truths and deal with them. Macho illusions are not an acceptible option in Afghanistan anymore.

EDH said...

Some think much of the conflict is explainable by the fact that Pakistan has a strategic interest in a permanently unstable Afghanistan as a counterbalance against the rising influence of India.

Endangering Afghanistan's Stability
Pakistan's concerns that India is trying to encircle it by gaining influence in Afghanistan has in part led to "continued Pakistani ambivalence toward the Taliban," argues a new report by the independent, U.S.-based Pakistan Policy Working Group. The report says Pakistani security officials calculate that the Taliban offers the best chance for countering India's regional influence. Pakistan's support for the Taliban has led to increased instability in Afghanistan, from the growth of terrorism to upped opium cultivation. But Islamabad denies any support for the Taliban and says it is committed to fighting terrorism. U.S. military and intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghan border continue to serve as safe havens for the Taliban and al-Qaeda to stage attacks against Afghanistan. Experts say Pakistan's cooperation in counterterrorism is vital to winning the war in Afghanistan.

Kirk Parker said...

Will continues his long, slow slide into irrelevancy. Ho hum.

wv: hacho -- gesundheit!

Jim Hanson said...

George Will on A-Stan v. Uncle J on baseball.

Equally freaking worthless to anyone looking for intelligent, informed commentary. Up next Will on sub-machine guns and Uncle J on bow ties. Also for free, and worth the money Matthew Yglesias on anything.

Michael McNeil said...

We already abandoned Afghanistan once, after the Soviets departed — and then something happened some years later which reawakened our interest in not allowing the country to just drift into the hands of rabid Islamists. Anybody remember at this point what it was? Hint: it was just shy of eight years ago.

LarsPorsena said...

"Offshore"?? Not quite appropriate for a landlocked country.

Sloanasaurus said...

A better proposal might be to accept the fact that Afghanistan is nearly an unwinnable war. Instead we should fight a maintenance war there.

The Iraq war was a much better strategic alternative into defeating Al Qaeda. If it wasn't for Iraq, Al Qaeda would be beating us in Afghanistan.

Hoosier Daddy said...

A war in Afghanistan is ultimately unwinnable because at a very basic level, there is no country called Afghanistan. It is a collection of tribes, still mired in the 19th century.

Actually I think it would be a major societal accomplishment if that country actually evolved into the 19th century. Hell the Renaissance era would be nice for that matter.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I said the 19th century because the tribemen have clearly mastered the rifled musket and more.

Well I think Randy like me was referring more to their level of societal development rather than any fundamental grasp with 'modern technology'.

I don't think there is really a more dangerous combination then a an 11th century tribesman who has even rudimentary skills with modern weaponry.

RIRedinPA said...

It's kind of funny to speak of Afghanistan and not to mention the gas and oil reserves in Central Asia. The fight against al Queda/Taliban there is less about making a strong Afghan nation and more about securing the country so a pipeline can be run from CA through Afghanistan to the deep water port in Karachi, Pakistan.

With oil peaking and gas being plentiful and huge gas reserves being discovered in Central Asia this is going to be the potential flash point of wars for this century. With the US, China and Russia vying for control, the potential for Pakistan or some other 'stan' to rise in power as a regional oligarchy similar to Venezula will make India uncomfortable, a belligerent Iran becoming more unstable as its oil revenues decrease and a young population finds itself overeducated and underemployed with no state funding to supplement them and all these players either with or pursuing nukes and unstable governments already with nukes and Central Asia is a nightmare waiting to happen.

Add in Pakistan's water woes and the Kashmir issue and brush fire wars are almost guaranteed, keeping them localized and not having a full on military confrontation with the Chinese or Soviets (er, Russians) will take a steady hand at the till. I'm not sure if Obama is that hand but I am certain that Dick Cheney, er George Bush, wasn't.

LarsPorsena said...

"It's kind of funny to speak of Afghanistan and not to mention the gas and oil reserves in Central Asia. The fight against al Queda/Taliban there is less about making a strong Afghan nation and more about securing the country so a pipeline can be run from CA through Afghanistan to the deep water port in Karachi, Pakistan."

Ted Rall, is that you?

RIRedinPA said...

@Lars...

No, but we are on the Silk Road to Ruin....

: D

AllenS said...

Jesus H. Christ. We're in Afghanistan because of the oil?

Hoosier Daddy said...

It's kind of funny to speak of Afghanistan and not to mention the gas and oil reserves in Central Asia.

You're right, its absolutely hysterical.

/facepalm

Frodo Potter said...

bagoh2o said “Many people seem to forget that bad things happen whether you engage the enemy or not. Often when you choose to just walk away, the thug follows you out of the bar anyway.”

Unless the thug is very drunk and you have two friends waiting outside the bar with baseball bats and knives. Then, all of a sudden, things are looking a lot rosier, because you are fighting on your terms.

traditional guy has it right. We can do more with airstrikes, selectively targeted killings (okay, assassinations), guerilla warfare. Let’s not forget, a lot of the Afghans (particularly the women) HATE the Taliban. They have a great deal to lose and would make a highly motivated, indigenous force. We are trying to kill flies with a sledgehammer when there are plenty of flyswatters available.

LarsPorsena said...

"Let’s not forget, a lot of the Afghans (particularly the women) HATE the Taliban."

NO. The women fear the men; the men fear the Taliban. (The idea that women exert influence let alone power is laughable.)That's why the situation is deteriorating. If you are an Afghani why would you support
the Kabul government when the US is going to cut and run or offering vague promises of 'offshore support'. When the Talib come back it's your throat that's getting cut.

RIRedinPA said...

@Allen

More the gas...and I'm not saying we want it per say, though that would be nice, but we'd rather not see the Russians or Chinese control it...

RIRedinPA said...

@Hoosier...

I'm dying over here...

Honestly, you think we're spending the treasury in Afghanistan because we want to see the spread of democracy, or its time we now get serious about bringing OBL to justice...yeah, we're really concerned about the pistachio and heroin markets and want to keep them solvent...

ok, maybe the pistachio industry is one reason we're there...

http://afghanistan.usaid.gov/en/Article.128.aspx

Hoosier Daddy said...

Honestly, you think we're spending the treasury in Afghanistan because we want to see the spread of democracy, or its time we now get serious about bringing OBL to justice...

No I honestly think we're in over our heads over there trying to civilize a region that has no interest in civilization. Prior to 9/11 no one gave a second or even third thought to Afghanistan.

If you want to hang on to the tired meme of OIL!!! then by all means do so.

wv -toment= what I suffer trying to have a dialogue with liberals

RIRedinPA said...

@Hoosier

I'll hang on to my oil meme, you hang on to your spreading democracy meme...I think we can meet in the middle on pistachios...no?

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'll hang on to my oil meme, you hang on to your spreading democracy meme...I think we can meet in the middle on pistachios...no?

Actually my meme was kill as many Islamofascists as possible. I really don't care about spreading democracy in a region that can't claw itself out of the 11th century.

Roger J. said...

First of all I don't have the remotest idea what to do in afghanistan--Glad I am not GENs Petreus and McChrystal. They are going to earn the money.

It seems to me we do NOT have any well defined strategic objectives--there are potentially quite a few that the commenters have mentioned above, but I don't think they have been prioritized by the administration in order to drive military strategy and tactics.

Obama inherited Afghanistan because it was a conventient stick to bash the Bush administration--chase around trying to find OBL as if somehow that would end our problem with the jihadists. He's trapped in his rhetoric much like JFK got trapped in his "missile gap" rhetoric. At least the amateur in the oval office doesnt have the MSM counting bodies and taking pics of the coffins coming back from Afghanistan (August was the deadliest month there).

Largo said...

Are tactical neutron bombs useful against enemies in caves?

LarsPorsena said...

"...chase around trying to find OBL as if somehow that would end our problem with the jihadists."

OBL is dead. That he is alive and kicking in a cave in the Hindu Kush is a convenient fiction for both sides. Zawahiri is the main man for AQ.

The OBL is alive suits the jihadis meme of having a new Saladin leading them against the Crusaders.

Bush probably had evidence that aerial attack probably turned OBL into some undifferentiated protoplasm in a cave but not conclusive enough to announce it.

BO used the 'they haven't got OBL' after 6 years to flog the Reps as ineffectual. This is going to come back and haunt him as he will now be seen as Mr. Feckless when he doesn't turn up the body.

bagoh20 said...

Obama is a plant of the continuing Bush regime, put in place specifically to make Bush look like a genius. This will succeed, confirming his genuis.

Michael McNeil said...

A better proposal might be to accept the fact that Afghanistan is nearly an unwinnable war. Instead we should fight a maintenance war there.

The Iraq war was a much better strategic alternative into defeating Al Qaeda. If it wasn't for Iraq, Al Qaeda would be beating us in Afghanistan.


Except that as long as we merely waged a “maintenance war” in Iraq, we were losing. It was only after the U.S. military changed strategy and began to fight a vigorous counter-insurgency war to (among other things) protect the Iraqi people from slaughter that we began to win it (and “coincidentally” casualties among our forces dropped markedly).

I certainly agree that we beat the pants off of Al Qaeda in Iraq, killing thousands and thousands of their fighters, largely making the organization, rather than being the “strong horse” in the eyes of the Arab world, a sardonic laughingstock. I suggest that we do the same thing, once again, to the Taliban. In my view the right generals are in charge at this point to do so.

bagoh20 said...

The term maintanence war is very apt; it serves only to maintain war. Not a very good objective.

Roger J. said...

Michael McNeil--I suspect you are correct as wars are seldom won defensively. BTW: Obama could your strategy "The Surge!" That would be amusingly ironic, but that is what you are suggesting. Would drive the libtards nuts.

traditionalguy said...

Reality check: There is no war in Afghanistan. There is an ongoing search and destroy mission. The day Obama declared Afghanistan a winnable war was the day we got tricked again by the Moslems and their new best friend in America. The truth is that we cannot win a guerilla war of attrition in the Tribal Mountains and EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. All we are doing is being offered a bloody cover story while we are pulled out of Iraq for Iran's benefit. This time the Palin adverse George Will looks 100% right on the money.

Synova said...

Has Obama declared Afghanistan winnable?

Last I heard he was hamstringing our troops via new ROE that doesn't let them go after and kill the bad-guys, puts our hamstrung troops on "offensives" into unstable areas, and bombs Pakistan.

And please... please let us not be forming our military and other efforts in that region around Bin Laden's bones. If our strategic goals are erratic, how can any mere tactic be anything but a disaster?

Synova said...

Oh, wow...

_Bin Laden's Bones_ would be a freaking AWESOME title for a thriller.