Who would have guessed we’d have a national conversation about urinating on corpses? And worse yet to have people with a media megaphone attempting to defend it. The video of four marines desecrating the remains of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan surfaced on YouTube last week.
The first thing worth noting is this treatment of war dead is absolutely against the Geneva Convention. The second thing is we threw out the Geneva Convention when we invaded Afghanistan.
Which leads me to the following conclusion: It’s time to end this war. It’s time to leave.
President Dwight Eisenhower, in his 1963 memoir, noted that in Vietnam “the mass of the population supported the enemy.” This was an insurmountable obstacle (at the time) for the French and an ominous foreshadowing for a full-scale American conflict to come. A war the U.S. would engage in for 20 years through five presidents and an estimated 200,000 dead or wounded American soldiers.
Yet that is where we are with Afghanistan: The population is not on our side. I was recently on a television program with Michael Hastings, a reporter at Rolling Stone on Afghanistan. He said some of the Afghans still think they are fighting the Soviets (a nine year war which ended in 1989).
That is the best indication this war, for us, is unwinnable: We don’t really know who we’re fighting there and they don’t really know who they’re fighting there.
We’d actually have to educate people as to who it is they are trying to kill first…in order to “win their hearts and minds.”
We’ve been in a country called the graveyard of empires for a decade. Last year General David Petraeus announced his COIN or counterinsurgency strategy, integral in Iraq, would be implemented in Afghanistan too. The pillars of a COIN strategy are “security, political and economic.” Or as Petraeus wrote in the field manual “Success in COIN operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people.” Basically, nation building. We have to build a nation that will be stable, legitimate AND support the U.S. How does that happen? More time; more soldiers; more money.
Just one decade is not enough to make little progress in a country whose last successful conqueror was the Mongols…roughly 800 years ago. And whose type of government historically can be best described as tribal.
Front-runner for the Republican nomination Mitt Romney said in his New Hampshire primary victory speech, “He [Obama] doesn’t see the need for overwhelming American military superiority. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would think of challenging it.”
We have the largest navy in the world (twice as big as the second largest) and we’re in a ten-year-long struggle in a landlocked country.
This is a Romney “let them eat cake moment.” Oh we’re not winning with the biggest military in the history of the planet? The solution is to make it bigger!
Enough. Eisenhower, the last five-star general to be President of the United States, warned Americans upon his leaving office of the “military industrial complex.” Part of this complex is the insistence of “listening to the commanders on the ground.”
The commanders still insist we can win if we just try harder, stay long and commit more troops. But this is in their nature. Asking commanders on the ground if we should continue with a war is like asking a football coach if we should continue to have football games. Of course they say yes, they’re professionals and this is their livelihood. Their opinion should be treated as such.
In 2008, Obama was the recipient of more donations (6:1) from soldiers serving overseas than his opponent, former POW, John McCain. It was specifically because then-Senator Obama spoke of ending the Iraq War.
Iraq is over. Let’s end our involvement in Afghanistan too.
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far