Give War a Chance

Predictably, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham take to the pages of the Washington Post to argue for increasing our troops in Afghanistan and continuing the war there:

Make no mistake: Afghans are fighting ferociously to defend their country from our common enemies. At the same time, we must recognize that the United States is still at war in Afghanistan against the terrorist enemies who attacked our nation on Sept. 11 and their ideological heirs. We must act accordingly.

Unfortunately, in recent years, we have tied the hands of our military in Afghanistan. Instead of trying to win, we have settled for just trying not to lose.

Time and time again, we saw troop withdrawals that seemed to have more to do with U.S. politics than conditions on the ground. The fixation with “force management levels” in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq and Syria, seemed more about measuring troop counts than measuring success.

I wish they’d put a little meat on those bones. How many U. S. soldiers do they think are needed in Afghanistan? Why will more soldiers be able to succeed where they weren’t able to succeed in the past? It’s not as though we’ve made much progress. We’ve been fighting the war there for 16 years and arguably where we were 8 years ago except for the dead. Nearly 2,000 young Americans are dead now who might otherwise be alive.

What is needed in Afghanistan is a change in the mission rather than just mindlessly increasing our troops and fighting on. I don’t believe there is any hope of counter-insurgency succeeding there and there never has been. We need to think hard about why we’re there.

While I think there’s a case for an ongoing counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan, I believe that the evidence supporting the possibility of success in a counter-insurgency mission is something between slim and nonexistent.

10 comments… add one
  • Andy

    “Unfortunately, in recent years, we have tied the hands of our military in Afghanistan. Instead of trying to win, we have settled for just trying not to lose.”

    This is particularly ignorant and McCain, at least, should know better.

  • TastyBits

    How many U. S. soldiers do they think are needed in Afghanistan?

    Is this a trick question? As many as it takes to do the job.

    Why will more soldiers be able to succeed where they weren’t able to succeed in the past?

    Is this a trick question, also? The previous non-success is due to lack of soldiers, and with the correct number of soldiers, they will be able to succeed.

    To-date, the US military has been successful in proportion to the number of troops, and with a substantial increase, the success rate will increase. Sending an infinite number of troops will result in an infinite amount of success.

    Do I need to mention the Boojum, the Bellman, or the Beaver, who makes lace?

  • CuriousOnlooker

    Ah as always McCain and Graham are good for a laugh. Those Afghans who are fighting very ferociously to defend their country against whom, ah right, their fellow Afghans!
    If only the two assumptions in that first quoted sentence were true; the task would be so much easier.

  • michael reynolds

    The US military is a sledgehammer. We don’t win limited wars, we win brutal wars where we apply massive military-industrial power. Since WW2 we’ve been fighting limited wars and losing or scoring fragile draws – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. The fact is we are not good at limited war, and we don’t have the stomach for more Hiroshimas.

    Nor should we contemplate more total war when, as in Afghanistan, we have no freaking plan. If we were going to go Hiroshima on the Taliban the time was 16 years ago, not now. Half the Afghan population wasn’t even alive when this started.

  • steve

    I believe it was McCain who implied we should be willing to stay there forever. After 16 years I don’t think we are going to change much more. Maintain a limited counter-terrorism ability, but get out.

    Steve

  • Gray Shambler

    All true, but remember, Bin Laden himself said he was encouraged to act against us by our retreat from Somalia in 1994.
    We may find our interest in a particular military action waning, but the world watch’s.

  • Andy

    It’s important to remember that war is a political activity and like any political activity it must have an achievable political goal. No amount of combat power can achieve something that cannot be reached through the use of warfare. So the problem with our “limited” wars is that our political goals are either not achievable, not achievable with military force, or not achievable with military force alone.

    In Afghanistan it’s not a question of force levels, or the use of brutal violence. Look at the Soviet experience. Rather, we need to examine more fundamental questions: What are our goals and how will military force achieve those goals? Such questions must be evaluated in terms of suitability, feasibility and acceptability.

  • I can only offer my own view of creating states in the Middle East and North Africa. I think that when you combine the conflicting loyalties of tribe, clan, and family with the hovering spectre of illegitimacy that any state other than the caliphate has in Muslim societies, at least a sizeable fraction if not a majority or even a consensus of the people don’t really want a modern pluralistic liberal state. What level of force would we need to apply to force modern states into being under the circumstances?

  • Gray Shambler

    Despite what i said about Bin Laden, We should go.

  • TastyBits

    @Dave Schuler

    … What level of force would we need to apply to force modern states into being under the circumstances?

    For Sen. McCain, Sen. Graham, Hillary Clinton, the interventionists – neocon & liberal, etc., the answer is infinity. They may not phrase it that way, but it is the logical conclusion of their evasions of a concrete answer. It does not matter how many troops are committed to the effort. They will always be willing to commit more.

    They believe that the goal is achievable and that they are “on the right side of history”. For the righteous, there is no end to doing good, and because of this righteousness, whatever they do or support is good. For the righteous, the means and ends are not separate, and they will not accept the goal being separated into ends and means.

Leave a Comment