The Wasted Valor of the Navy SEALs

Last week, 30 American service personnel, including 22 Navy SEALs, died when their helicopter was shot down by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

The event was big media news, but it will soon be forgotten by the public as just another bit of media content right along with the death of Amy Winehouse or the British riots or raising the debt limit to an obscene $16 trillion.

The fact is that the SEALs died in vain, and their valor was squandered by a nation led by incompetents and craven political hacks that have no idea how to win the war in Afghanistan after a decade of trying.

There is something sickeningly wrong with a country that sends it finest, fittest, most disciplined young men into combat for ten years straight while legions of welfare cheats and stock-market Ponzi schemers lounge about and the government borrows trillions from their yet-unborn grandchildren.

There is something sickeningly wrong when honorable, valorous, disciplined, elite men are sent to their deaths by an effete commander-in-chief who spent his own youth not parading at Annapolis, fast-roping out of helicopters, or crawling through the mud under barbed wire during live-fire training exercises, but rather, according to his own admission in his autobiography, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, contemplating shooting heroin with a needle, and hanging out with Marxists, radical blacks, and structural feminists so as not to appear to be a "sell-out."

President Obama could not pass a background check to be a $12-an-hour deputy sheriff in a county jail, let alone become a Navy SEAL, but it is he who commands them to their deaths.

The truth is that Obama has no idea what to do in Afghanistan.  His only strategy is to blame the war on his predecessor and engage in electorally driven propaganda -- like the fake "withdrawal" of American forces that supposedly began this summer.

Consequently the war continues to drag on, justified by empty and unexamined platitudes, like "they are fighting for our freedom" or "we need to keep Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base."

If Afghanistan is so crucial to our freedom, then let's start conscripting able-bodied young men and women off the welfare rolls and send them there.  Let's start conscripting students from Harvard, Yale, and Brown and send them over there.  We'll find out really quickly if Afghanistan is a true security threat or not, won't we?

Afghanistan has not been a base of terrorist operations for nearly a decade now.  Theoretically, it could become such a base in the future, but theoretically so could Canada (or Dearborn for that matter).  But we're not sending SEALs on raids to Toronto because of what might happen, are we?  If Afghanistan becomes a terrorist base in the future -- like Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia are right now -- we'll deal with it then.

Further, the Taliban are not, strictly speaking, a direct enemy of the United States.  It's true they gave Osama bin Laden sanctuary between 1996 and 2001, but that was quite a long time ago.  Does that justify the SEAL deaths last week?

The Taliban are odious people, but I'm not sure we really need to be fighting them right now.  According to the account of former New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins, the Taliban got its start during the Hobbesian anarchy that followed the Soviet withdrawal.  Gangs and warlords set up armed checkpoints and demanded bribes and assaulted women every couple of blocks in Kabul, until one day Mullah Omar, a veteran of the anti-Soviet war, got sick of it and went to the first checkpoint he found and shot the gangsters dead and kept going until he restored order under Islamic law.

I'm not so sure I blame him, frankly.

But somehow the war has morphed into an anti-Taliban nation-building crusade.  After a decade, it isn't working.  According to ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran Bing West:

[O]ur military became a giant Peace Corps, holding millions of shuras, drinking billions of cups of tea, and handing out billions of dollars for projects... Senior officials fantasized that the war would be won by protecting and winning over the population. The tribes, however, were determined to remain neutral, while the Afghan president tolerated corruption[.][1]

West describes the effort to build democracy as "futile." Even more futile in my view is the ridiculous effort to build an international coalition around NATO and our Afghan "partners."  Nothing disgusts me more than hearing news reports that "NATO troops" or "coalition forces" were killed in Afghanistan.  Of the 38 men who died on that helicopter, how many were from NATO countries like Iceland, Denmark, Norway, or Belgium?  None.  And the number of American troops who died on that chopper was almost four times the number of Afghans.  Some "partners."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not an anti-war dove.  I'm a hawk in the Curtis-LeMay-nuke-'em-'til-they-glow school of warfare.  In all seriousness I believe we should have blown the mountaintop off with a tactical nuclear bomb when we were chasing Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in 2001.  That would've sent the world a message to not attack us.  If you think that's crazy, consider the fact that if the Soviet Union had ever caused the damage to the U.S. that terrorists did on 9/11, we would have obliterated them with nuclear weapons.  The fact that we didn't even consider using a small tactical nuke in the remote mountains where civilian casualties and fallout would have been nil shows that we are not taking our national security seriously.

Wars will always need to be fought, but they need to be fought intelligently.  Any war that has dragged on for ten years and is planned for at least another three years is, by definition, not being fought intelligently.  The Afghanistan war is now beyond ridiculous.

The Navy SEALs did not die for our freedom.  They died because they have a clueless commander-in-chief who, upon visiting a military base last year, told the troops, "You guys make a great photo-op."

This country, and in particular its political leadership, does not deserve a military as loyal, valorous, and courageous as the one it now enjoys.

[1] Bing West, "The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan," p. xiii

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