War! ‘He Who Picks A Rose’

October 24, 2009

UPDATE/ADD-ON BELOW

Yes, the Edwin Starr song paraphrased is the counterinsurgency of fighting dumb-shit wars.
Last month on PBS‘ “Frontline,” an interview with Andrew Bacevich, a retired US Army colonel and a level head in this era of military idiots.
He’s also a professor of international relations and history at Boston University, a Vietnam veteran and the author of the 2008 book “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.”
The US military’s fog-horning a counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan is baffling:

I am baffled by the fad of counterinsurgency, and I’m especially baffled by the extent to which the American officer corps has embraced this fad.
Now, I say that from the point of view of somebody who comes from a generation when counterinsurgency was anathema to the United States military.
In the era after Vietnam, the officer corps believed with something close to unanimity that long, protracted campaigns were very much at odds not only with the well-being of the military as an institution, but frankly at odds with the interests of the country.
Post-Vietnam, the officer corps was committed to the proposition that wars should be infrequent, that they should be fought only for the most vital interests, and that they should be fought in a way that would produce a quick and decisive outcome.
What we have today in my judgment is just the inverse of that.
War has become a permanent condition.
I mean, we’ve been at war now for eight years, and for all practical purposes, nobody can say with any accuracy when war will likely come to an end.
In my judgment — I know people that would disagree with this — we are now engaged in wars where we do not have vital interests at stake.
And … we’ve now abandoned the notion that we can win wars quickly or cheaply.
Our approach to war is one in which we now accept the notion that war is an open-ended proposition and that if someday out there some outcome is reached, it’s likely to be an ambiguous outcome that really doesn’t resemble in any sense the traditional definition of military victory. …

And this shit is generational?

It’s probably generational in that perhaps young people — and this is not necessarily a bad thing — have bigger dreams, have bigger ambitions. Older people tend to perhaps be more given to pessimism or cynicism.
I mean, I would like to call it realism, but others might view it differently.
I hesitate to say that older people have a better understanding of the human consequences of unrealistic and naive projects, because I know that these younger fellows like Nagl and [CNAS fellow Andrew] Exum have lost friends.
But at the same time, I puzzle over why their personal losses don’t cause them to question the implications for the policy proposals that they support.
We’ve lost over 5,000 American soldiers over the past eight years between Iraq and Afghanistan.
We think Iraq is now finally winding down.
At the same time, we ratchet up Afghanistan.
So if we do indeed have a full-court-press application of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, certainly at least several hundred more American soldiers are going to die.
And I think it’s very, very important to be absolutely certain that no alternative exists that would enable us to achieve our interests in Afghanistan without all those soldiers being killed.
And I think the people who insist that it has to be done through counterinsurgency have not seriously examined all the alternatives.

Is President Obama boxed in with regards to an Afghan escalation?

I think so. … I don’t think the president has to worry too much about being criticized from the right.
I mean, he’s going to be criticized from the right on, if not on the war in Afghanistan, on any number of other issues.
By staying the course in Afghanistan, he’s not going to get more Republican votes for health care or anything like that.
But if the president alienates the core of his support, plunging more deeply into this war when many on the left or people like myself, … wary of an overly militarized foreign policy, then I think he could find the enormous public support that he had during much of the first year of his term in office collapsing pretty quickly. …
There are many glib comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam.
And maybe we’re beyond making glib comparisons. But I do think that’s one of the areas where the Vietnam comparison still has merit.
The Vietnam War destroyed the Johnson presidency, and it destroyed the Johnson domestic reform agenda. And to the extent that Obama’s war becomes this costly, open-ended proposition with no end in sight, then one possible consequence that he has to consider is that his own very ambitious and important domestic reform agenda could be placed in jeopardy. …

And is this Obama’s war?

I think so.
And the question is whether or not [it is] going to be Obama’s war in the same sense that Iraq became Bush’s war, that Vietnam became Johnson’s war; that it’s going to be the one issue that consumes his presidency; the one thing that, … for the rest of his time in office, reporters [are] going to be asking: “When is it going end? When will light become visible at the end of the tunnel? How many more soldiers are going to have to die? How many more hundreds of billions of dollars are going to be spent?”
That’s what I fear he is inviting if he allows himself to be sold this counterinsurgency program.
But the president is a smart guy, and the president, I believe, is a very shrewd man in the best sense of the word.
And so I retain at least a smidgen of hope that he will understand the trap that he’s being led into here and therefore avoid it.

Read the entire interview here.

And to highlight the coup-like seriousness of the problem, yesterday NATO indeed boxed Obama.
From the UK’s Independent via antiwar.com:

Nato defence ministers signalled their backing for the Afghan strategy put forward by the American commander General Stanley McChrystal yesterday in an implicit rejection of the alternative plan proposed by US Vice-President Joe Biden.
The general had made an unscheduled appearance at the meeting of ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia, to give a presentation behind closed doors. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, said: “What we did today was to discuss General McChrystal’s overall assessment, his overall approach, and I have noted a broad support from all ministers of this overall counter-insurgency approach.”

Real-bad moon rising — an insurgent War, What is it good for?

Update/Add-On:
Just discovered this evening — a way-little noted story of Seymour Hersh’s speech at Duke University 10 days ago, in which he said the US military, along with working hard in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Somalia, etc., are also “in a war against the White House — and they feel they have [President] Obama boxed in…They think he’s weak and the wrong color. Yes, there’s racism in the Pentagon. We may not like to think that, but it’s true and we all know it.”
According to the Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina, Hersh also had this to say (h/t HuffPost):

“A lot of people in the Pentagon would like to see him get into trouble,” he said. By leaking information that the commanding officer in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says the war would be lost without an additional 40,000 American troops, top brass have put Obama in a no-win situation, Hersh contended.
“If he gives them the extra troops they’re asking for, he loses politically,” Hersh said. “And if he doesn’t give them the troops, he also loses politically.”
The journalist criticized the president for “letting the military do that,” and suggested the only way out was for Obama to stand up to them.
“He’s either going to let the Pentagon run him or he has to run the Pentagon,” Hersh said. If he doesn’t, “this stuff is going to be the ruin of his presidency.”

If anywhere near reality, and Hersh has been so-many times around the military block, he’s got a shitload of DOD sources — what a US-constitutional catastrophe.

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