Crossing the Rubicon — Or How Not to Shit in Your Mess Kit

October 10, 2009

US troops slugging through Afghanistan are sick of it and according to their chaplains:

“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families,” said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion.
“They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern,” said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion.
“They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through.” The chaplains said that they were speaking out because the men could not.

And they’re about to get more of the same.

(Illustration found here).

Adding thusly:

Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: “If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don’t.”
The only soldiers who thought it was going well “work in an office, not on the ground.”
In his opinion “the whole country is going to s***.”

The word above is ‘shit — in case dear reader is unfamiliar with asterisks.

Right now there’s about 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, with more than 65,000 of them US GIs, and head of the operation there, Gen. Stan McNasty — oops, sorry, I keep doing that — Gen. Stan McChrystal has requested another 40,000 soldiers and just recently a surprise ante-up: An open-ended possible option of 60,000 more to be funneled into the Afghan countryside.
Despite all that, and the morale of the GIs, the US public views the war as one without end — according to a Clarus Research Group poll earlier this month: Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said the United States will not win or lose the war which will go on without resolution, Clarus said.
Couple such a message from the public with an actual deteriorating Afghan war and you’ve got yourself a reverse-history/time-travel episode of the Twilight Zone, featuring Viet-fuckin‘-nam (that’s a whole ‘nother country).

The current Afghan condition and LBJ’s decisions on how to handle Vietnam are similar, especially how there’s no winning to either one.
Historian John Prados has an excellent piece at History News Network on a similitude between LBJ in 1967/1968 and President Obama’s upcoming way-weighty decision on an Afghan strategy/troop build-up.
A couple good snips:

Then came the Tet Offensive and America was visibly shaken. We need not engage the argument about the true outcome at Tet to make the point that the Vietnamese adversary could carry out their country-wide initiative because the measures possible for Johnson were not ones that actually affected the adversary’s capability.
And such real progress as there was could not alter the final outcome of the war, except for adding to the toll in blood and treasure.

The best U.S. force may be able to accomplish — like Vietnam — is likely to be prolonging stalemate. And the longer that persists — worse if deterioration becomes evident — the more restricted become the options for President Obama.
This is the real Afghan problem.

As Lyndon Johnson saw in 1967, escalation had few prospects.
He did not see, as President Obama needs to realize, that an escalatory course now actually accelerates America’s new march into quagmire.
In Vietnam the greatest mistake was to avoid looking at the full range of options — withdrawal was repeatedly kept off the table.

And in a point of Twilight Zone-like mirror, Obama frontman Bob Gibbs told Helen Thomas earlier this week withdrawal from Afghanistan is not an option — “That’s not a decision that’s on the table to make.”
Yet one must remember why the US is in Afghanistan in the first place — Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
So the comments last weekend by Obama’s national security advisor, James Jones, seemed to convey a message that it’s now stupid to be there.
From AFP:

But the retired general insisted that the presence of Al-Qaeda — which launched the September 11 attacks on the United States — was “very diminished” across Afghanistan, with fewer than 100 members of the group operating there and “no bases, no ability to launch attacks.”

This should indicate something, huh?

And what of the Taliban?
Obama has said he would accept some Taliban involvement in governing Afghanistan, though, will “not tolerate their return to power,” but at least that’s a peephole in which to view a possible future for the US without a huge troop buildup, but who’s to really say.
A good source on the history and current status of the Taliban is found here.
The problem is everyone is scared that once the Taliban take over, al-Qaeda will return and start creating shitfires all over the place, including the US homeland.
Which is bunk…

This morning it was reported another US serviceman has died in Afghanistan, bringing the total to 871 since 2001, but 241 of those just in this year alone — eight in one fell swoop last weekend when the Taliban attacked an isolated outpost in mass — and the entire US military operation since last summer has been a bust, a deadly bust.
And don’t underestimate the Taliban — they’re much stronger than anyone anticipated earlier this year, just look at the power in that outpost attack — a “shock” in how many fighters were involved in the assault.

Former Naval aviator Jeff Huber has a right-on blog at Pen and Sword, and on Thursday wrote the US should get the shit out of Dodge (Afghanistan) with a post extremely-aptly titled: Just Say No to McChrystal.
The real bottom line:

It’s time to bring our troops home.
They’re not doing any good.
That’s not their fault. At the tactical level, the level at which combat occurs, they’re unbelievably competent. But strategically, use of military force by global hegemon America has become a losing proposition.
We need to let the Afghanistan conflict blow itself calm at the nearest opportunity.
We can best do that by fading away and letting the natural political forces that exist in that part of the world duke things out among themselves.
We don’t need to send any more kids over there to get killed or have their legs blown off, or to take part in the slaughter of innocents that they’ll experience trauma about for the rest of their lives.
We need to shut down this madness now.

And with a Nobel Peace Prize in his grip, Obama should think peace, should use what the Nobel Prize committee was thinking in laying that surprise prize on his ass — how would it look if  death and destruction was attributed to the guy given a peace award.

The best way to not shit in your mess kit is watch what the fuck you’re doing!
Obama’s big, shinning hope, or is he entangled in another LBJ moment.
Time is not on his side, but a decision to do the right thing is most certainly.

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