September 30, 2009
How to Lose a War in 180 DaysBy Trent Hickman
Throughout the duration of the war in Iraq, one thing remained constant: support for the war in Afghanistan. However, the tide against is turning much quicker than its Queen Mary cousin on the other side of Iran, and the people of America begin looking at the fight in Afghanistan with much of the same disdain and mistrust we saw only two years ago in Iraq. Ever fickle and heedless of prudence, public opinion unfortunately rules the day where the safety of this nation and its foreign policies are concerned.
Gone are the days when generals were allowed to prosecute wars as if they were wars rather than dog wagging election tales. Since the weary end of the Vietnam War we haven't seen such a situation where every major engagement proved victorious for us and still we lost ground at home. In those days, we defeated ourselves, gathered up our traitorous salivating media hordes and went home to further batter and shame our beaten warriors.
Today that same shameful loss of fortitude rears its ugly head and threatens to defeat us in Afghanistan, a replay of Vietnam's historic dishonor of our troops.
Mr. Obama quoted his predecessor's statement of five years ago about Iraq, describing Afghanistan as a "war of necessity" only a month ago. Since then, this has become a fresh battle against public opinion. And unlike his predecessor, Obama caves to it.
The average voting aged citizen is a high school graduate with no martial training and is even less likely to have experience in a combat zone.
On the right sleeve of his uniform, Gen. McChrystal wears as his Former Wartime Service - Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (FWS-SSI) the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) insignia. Soldiers around the world respect that unit as the preeminent expert organization on Unconventional Warfare. That is to say, they are experts at fighting an insurgency and General McChrystal was in charge.
Despite the fact that the average citizen has no more idea what it takes to win against an insurgency than it knows the last four digits of ∏, President Obama appears to lend more credence to public opinion than to the opinions of General McChrystal, an expert on insurgent combat -- the very man Obama charged with winning the war only three months ago.
We have been playing whack-a-mole with terrorists, insurgents, Taliban, and Al Qaeda for years with little effect. People with very little training are very easy to kill and our soldiers and Marines have proven that aptly. That's not how you win against an insurgency. In fact, it's been effectively argued that ‘winning' in the traditional sense is impossible and that the only successful end to a conflict such as this is to successfully disengage from it.
That does not mean we run away with our heads intact. It means we devote enough boots on the ground and enough of the right kinds of boots to create an acceptable level of stability conducive to a functioning society.
General McChrystal understands this process intimately and when Mr. Obama publicly announced reconsidering his top general's request for more troops, McChrystal said, unequivocally, that without more troops to stabilize that nation, the war in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure".
Without more troops, the war is lost.
Gen. McChrystal knows that if we protect the people of Afghanistan, then the people of Afghanistan will protect our soldiers on the ground. In order to protect the people, we need more troops. If the people of Afghanistan aid us in stabilizing the territory, then we can increase the number of trained Afghans who will in turn lend legitimacy to a struggling government. With a stable government in place and a force to legitimize its power base, we can then perhaps begin to disengage and get as close to winning as would be possible in low intensity conflict.
But it all comes down to more US troops who are equipped with the skills necessary to safely and securely replace our own presence with local forces.
In a democracy, it is the function of the citizenry to choose a leader, rather than a candidate. Mr. Obama has yet to learn the difference. Harried by polls and slipping support, he has forgotten that he was entrusted to make decisions in support of our interests, irrespective of public whim. He seems more afraid of not ending the war in time for his reelection bid than he is with wasting the lives of our men and women in uniform on a war he has no intention of winning.
Choosing the hard right over the easy wrong is a time tested indicator of a good leader versus a good politician. Looking at the facts of his life, one couldn't be confident in this trait as part of Mr. Obama's ethical toolkit. From ACORN association to Communist advisors, time and again, he's been on the left side of right and wrong. The next few days will speak volumes as to whether our troops will be allowed to keep their honor and protect us from terrorism.
Here we are on the raggedy edge. Lives have been lost and many more will be tested. Will Mr. Obama take the road to Vietnam's end and dishonor those sacrifices? Or choosing the harder road, which, though not guaranteeing his reelection, may go far toward ensuring a better world tomorrow.
Trent Hickman spent 18 years in the US Army and has completed two tours of duty in the Global War on Terror, among several deployments throughout his career. The past five years of his service were spent in a USAR Special Operations unit.