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 24 Apr 2009 @ 10:12 PM 
 

On The Same Day, A Different Game

 

As War On Terror News pointed out in comments, and I have said in the past, not all of the Obama initiatives regarding Afghanistan are worthy of praise. Undermining President Karzai is not, in my opinion, what a loyal ally does, regardless of how irritating he can be. The Afghan government must not be, regardless of folk lore or propaganda, a puppet. It must be an Afghan government. It must be the legitimate government of Afghanistan, chosen by its people. They have elections; they have the vote. We must respect it as we respect our own if anything we say is to be taken seriously.

So, putting together a dream team must be accompanied by practicing what we preach. Given the President’s “initiative” to unilateral introduce a new office to “balance” Karzai, that remains to be seen. So, good point WOTN, and one we would all do well to bear in mind.

That said…

It was interesting to note that on the same day that the House Armed Services Committee was receiving testimony from three wise men, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was having hearings of its own. Titled “Voices of Veterans of the Afghan War,” Committee Chair Sen. John Kerry that the purpose of the hearing was to get the perspective of the Afghan veteran, the soldiers who had experienced the challenges of Afghanistan.

They promptly called forth Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich.

More after the jump

The upshot is that with the eighth anniversary of the Long War now approaching, fundamental questions about this enterprise continue to be ignored. My purpose today is to suggest that the members of this committee have a profound duty to take those questions on. In his testimony before this committee, the young John Kerry famously – or infamously, in the eyes of some – asked: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

So it’s not worth dying for…

The mystical war against communism finds its counterpart in the mystical war on terrorism. As in the 1960s so too today: mystification breeds misunderstanding and misjudgment. It prevents us from seeing things as they are. As a direct result, it leads us to exaggerate the importance of places like Afghanistan and indeed to exaggerate the jihadist threat, which falls well short of being existential. It induces flights of fancy, so that, for example, otherwise sensible people conjure up visions of providing clean water, functioning schools, and good governance to Afghanistan’s 40,000 villages, with expectations of thereby winning Afghan hearts and minds. It causes people to ignore considerations of cost. With the Long War already this nation’s second most expensive conflict, trailing only World War II, and with the federal government projecting trillion dollar deficits for years to come, how much can we afford and where is the money coming from?

It’s not a real threat, and it’s too costly. That, of course, is Bacevich in a nutshell. Always.

There is a simple question that just screams to be asked: What in the hell does Andrew Bacevich have to do with Afghan Veterans? This man is beyond unhelpful in the national conversation regarding Afghanistan, other than to be some sort of straw man. Having him testify with the other four was akin to introducing a blind owl in the middle of the lion tamer routine at the circus.

Performer: “Now I will have Simba jump atop this pedestal and roar!” *CRACK*

Lion: “ROAR!”

Performer: “Look at this rare blind owl. Isn’t he odd?”

Owl: “WHO?”

Performer: “Simba, roar!” *CRACK*

Lion: “ROAR!”

That wouldn’t even make sense at the circus.

One problem; this is not the circus. It is the United States Senate. This was the day for the lions, not to trot out the embittered owl blinded by loss. This was the day that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee set aside to listen to the voices of veterans of the Afghan War, and 20% of those who testified were not Afghan veterans or even veterans of Iraq, but instead of Vietnam. One out of five. That is a waste of limited bandwidth; a failure of your declared mission that day. Are there so few Afghan Vets that they couldn’t fill five out of five with the real deal?

Bacevich, a professor and no doubt an educated man, served in Vietnam and lost a son in Iraq. He is an outspoken critic of “The Long War,” basically counseling that we should quit and go home, that there is no real “existential” threat here, and he completely separates the Taliban and AQ, as if they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. When looking for coherent insight into this war, Bacevich should not be on the recommended reading list, because we only have so much bandwidth available. Other than being a strong critic of the war, and being a professor, Mr. Bacevich brings no specific knowledge to the table other than a skewed understanding of the specific situation in Afghanistan. His very presence was such an anomaly to the stated purpose that there had to be some underlying reason for it, relevance being lacking.

The lions were played this day by SSG Genevieve Chase, SSG(R) Christopher McGurk, CPT(R) Westley Moore, and former Marine Corporal Rick Reyes.

Two of these veterans, SSG Chase and SSG(R) McGurk are IAVA members. It is unclear if CPT Moore or CPL Reyes have any group affiliations, but for two of the four to be affiliated with IAVA bespeaks their influence in getting before Congress.

The testimonies of SSG Chase, SSG(R) McGurk, and CPT(R) Moore were interesting reads, and completely contradictory to Mr. Bacevich’s testimony. Each of them, without specifically stating it in such language, asked for a balanced counterinsurgency campaign and a dedication to the mission. I found myself in agreement with much of what they said.

Former Corporal Reyes’ testimony was a case study in a young warrior who idealistically went into a war being very well trained in kinetic operations; and completely untrained in counterinsurgency. His story is the perfect illustration of what I have been telling these officers for months about how we don’t train our young warriors in COIN, and it causes problems not only in their performance but in their heads. This man is completely disillusioned, and that’s what happens when your leadership fails you on the level that he was failed.

I will say this again; when your young warriors talk of, “chasing ghosts,” you are not doing the right things, and your young warriors are not properly trained. This is a leadership failure. If you are a leader, this is the foot stomp. This will be on the exam.

An interesting read is Senator Kerry’s statement about Afghanistan. I’ve kept this link until last, because reading the testimonies of those who spoke without knowing beforehand what Sen. Kerry’s frame of mind at the outset made them more dramatic. It brought the immediacy of the influence that words carry home.

Quite a contrast with the activities of the House on the same day and not so far away.

Tags Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Afghanistan
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 21 Jun 2009 @ 04 05 AM

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Responses to this post » (5 Total)

 
  1. Rosemary says:

    I’m getting more and more tired of defending why I support what you guys are doing. Now I think I’ll turn the tables. What would have had us do? They took out two world trade towers, hit the pentagon, and were taken down in a pennsylvanian field. Should we have shivered up and died? Should we have said, “WE’RE SORRY! You’re right. What can we give you to make you stop hating us?”

    Well I say the heck with that! If they want to be crybabies, that’s fine. I don’t care. I even understand it. BUT DO NOT take away from my heroes! I draw the line in the sand right there. It was time for people like YOU to speak, but do they seek you out? NO! Why not? You do not fit their agenda. I hate this. I really do. I pray we don’t get hit again…

  2. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. membrain says:

    I was particularly touched by the testimony of SSG(R) McGurk when he spoke of PFC O’Neill’s last words: “Sergeant, is the squad OK?” and “I’m sorry for letting you down.” And I agree with you that he and SSG Chase, and CPT(R)Moore put forth a case COIN. And even John Kerry though never coming right out and mentioning that what went wrong in Vietnam was not learning and pursuing counterinsurgency seems to be leaving that door open.

    He is however, a very slippery politician and including Andrew Bacevich was insulting.

  4. WOTN says:

    When do we get to install a counter-balance to the party of absolute power in the US?

    Keep the information coming Ole Blue. It astounds me that the things they do in Congress.

    Reminds me for example of the CNBC business news being interrupted so they could investigate why a MLB Pitcher’s butt was bleeding on an elevator a decade ago, but didn’t have time to debate FISA!

  5. WOTN says:

    Concerns:

    There are 24 Items on the White House Agenda, including Iraq, Foreign Policy(all other), Civil Rights, Family, Taxes, and Women. http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/

    There is no Agenda item for Terrorism nor Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not mentioned anywhere a month ago. The AfPak Policy can now be found under Foreign Policy.

    The entire White House AfPak Policy:(White House Page)
    Afghanistan and Pakistan
    •Afghanistan: Obama and Biden will refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security — the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, press our allies in NATO to do the same, and dedicate more resources to revitalize Afghanistan’s economic development. Obama and Biden will demand the Afghan government do more, including cracking down on corruption and the illicit opium trade.
    •Pakistan: Obama and Biden will increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

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