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Tom Callen
Member
Username: Tc2642

Post Number: 127
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 01:15 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Sorry for being so late in acknowledging this (my apologies Bill), I would like to start a discussion on why people think the war in Afghanistan and Iraq are occurring, I shall add my own thoughts, but from the evidence I have seen it's not about oil or American imperialism, rather an ideal which the Bush administration is trying to push (rather badly in my opinion) in democratising the middle east. Your thoughts gentlemen?
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 7828
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 02:53 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The war in Afghanistan was primarily a reaction to the 9/11 attacks. The stated goal was to capture Osama bin Laden and depose the Taliban regime that harbored him. At the first goal the US and its allies failed due to incomplete intelligence and reliance on Afghan tribal militia to do much of the job. The second goal was overtly successful, but the fact is that the country remains nearly ungovernable and the Taliban still have the loyalties of some of the population. The result is something of a stalemate, and the Taliban are counting on a long war of attrition to wear down the will of the allies. These are the classic tactics of insurgency, and both time and history are mostly on their side.

Iraq is a more complex matter. The stated rationale was to depose the tyrant Saddam Hussein, destroy the present and future capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and eliminate the ability to aid terrorist activities. Because there was no credible Iraqi opposition to Saddam, the first had to be accomplished militarily. This was done in relatively short order; no third world nation can match the military strength of the US in a direct confrontation.

The second reason turned out to be either an intentional fiction or a major intelligence failure, depending on whom you choose to believe. All of the evidence that has come to light indicates that Saddam had indeed (however reluctantly) complied with the orders to destroy weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Gulf War.

The third reason was also largely a false creation. Apart from very informal contacts with a few individuals and general moral encouragement of those whose goal was to humiliate the US, there is no evidence of a formal connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the result of the US invasion has been to destabilize the country so as to create a vacuum of power that allowed terrorists to infiltrate Iraq and create a base of operations there. Additionally, it alienated much of the Arab world and made it easier for terrorist groups to recruit members and support.

The supposed unstated reasons for the Iraqi invasion seem both sinister and naive. Because the country possesses either the world's second or third largest proven oil reserves, there are those who say "it's about the oil, stupid!" While American and other Western oil companies have participated and profited from work after the invasion, the current output of oil and gas remains below pre-war (even with UN sanctions) levels, and the revenue is not even close to being enough to support the country.

There are also claims that groups in the G.W. Bush administration wanted an opportunity to show that some type of democracy could be established in a key nation in a politically important region. If this is true, the effort has been a nearly total and abject failure.

Iraq has sunk into what borders on chaos and anarchy in a semi-permanent state of low grade sectarian civil war. The number of American troops is at record levels as the war continues well into its sixth year. US deaths far exceed 3000 and the wounded nearly nine times that number. Indications are that the war has compromised the readiness of the US military against threats elsewhere in the world. Less than one-third of the American public now supports the war, and Congress and the Bush administration seem deadlocked about any way to extract the US from the morass. Bush's personal popularity has also plummeted, and Democrats sense their best opportunity to seize control of the both the White House and Congress in more than 15 years. Bush seems destined to leave office with his reputation in shambles to all but his core supporters.

It's not a pretty picture. No wonder you're asking why this happened.
 

Tim W
Member
Username: Timw

Post Number: 225
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 10:57 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

My thoughts; This war is an attempt to beat down the spread of faschist islamic terroristic regiuems to the point that they will be unable to kill mass amounts of people. I fear the task will never be finished, but must be continued if freedom can prevail. Gone is the time that we can sit back and let them build their networks of hate. If the U.S.A. does not do this no one will.
 

Paul Hayslett
Senior Member
Username: Paulhayslett

Post Number: 1376
Registered: 02-2002
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 02:03 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tim,

I think that many people in the government did honestly believe exactly what you state. Where they went off the rails was in concluding that a "war" would be the way to get it done. "War" is a good word for politicians trying to sound active and tough. There's the "war on terror", the "war on drugs", the "war on illegal immigration", etc. Unfortunately, it makes for really bad policy decisions.

A "war" is something you can "win". That requires a monolithic adversary with some sort of control over a cohesive fighting force. There has to be someone who can cry uncle and tell his forces to stand down. It's a two-party dance. One party wins, the other surrenders, and both armies stop fighting.

Terrorism, like drugs and illegal immigration, is not something that can be won by a "war". You need police, not an army. Police gather evidence to try and deter crime and punish criminals. They work against a many players without a single head or organization. The job has no end. They are trained to do their job with minimal damage to the rights and safety of the innocent.

It's unfortunate that saying "we need to beef up Interpol to be more effective against terrorism" just doesn't sound as good on TV. So we start unwinnable wars against amorphous foes, getting our soldiers killed and destroying innocent bystanders and eroding our own civil rights in a struggle without end. And, of course, if we don't "win", that means we "lost", right? So no politician will ever end it.

We need to pick our "wars" more carefully and leave everything else to the police.
 

Tom Callen
Member
Username: Tc2642

Post Number: 128
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 02:18 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Bill, I agree with your argument here, the Afgan war was totally justifiable. It was a big mistake not to get the US forces to hunt down Bin Laden rather than those who could have been actively supporting them. There is no connection between Iraq and 9/11 (although some have tried to make it). I do think that the US govt did believe that Saddam still had WMD (why trundle across the desert in a rubber lined tanks in blistering heat?). The Bush administration forgot to take into account people will take any kind of leader over anarchy (Hobbes I do believe). Poorly planned and poorly executed, they would have done better reading a bit of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz beforehand. I'm afraid troops are going to be in Iraq for many, many years to come.

I also tend to agree with you Tim, although you don't state which war? But I do think you over-estimate the power of Al-Quaeda, they will never achieve their aims of a Caliphate, it's just very sad that many more people will die before they go the way of Hitler and Stalins ideology (two people who were far more dangerous).
 

Denny Conn
Senior Member
Username: Denny

Post Number: 6485
Registered: 01-2001
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 04:26 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm in agreement with Paul in that I feel this war is basically unwinnable, not due to any failure of our troops, but due to the failure of our leaders to realize that this is a different type of war than they've been fighting. As Paul states, there is no monolithic enemy that we can kill off or have surrender to us. I found Gen. Sanchez's comments yesterday to really speak to this, and let's face it, he should know. The other thing about this "war" that baffles me is the slogan "fight them there or fight them here". Do people seriously believe that the "enemy", however you define it, is only capable of attacking us on one front at a time? This seems sheer folly to me. There is no single organization, so why would they concern themselves with only one place of attack at a time? The "enemy" is basically a franchise operation these days, with no single leader. Does McDonald's only run one restaurant at a time?
 

Paul Hayslett
Senior Member
Username: Paulhayslett

Post Number: 1379
Registered: 02-2002
Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2007 - 05:28 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've talked about all this at length with my cousin Rob, who is a Lt Col in the Marine Reserves. He's done 2 tours in Iraq, one right at the start and a second later on in Fallujah, and he talks a lot about the differences.

The first tour was "normal" in that it fit Marines training and goals. Go in, kill the enemy, get back safe. They had an identifiable army to fight and rules of engagement which allowed them to do what they had to do. This is what they are trained for and it is what they are very good at.

The second tour was more like being cops on the beat, except that a lot of people were trying to kill you, you don't speak the language, and there are no prosecutors to take over when you've caught someone. The goals were amorphous and conflicting and changing constantly, as were their allies and enemies. They couldn't use heavy weapons or air support. Everything about it went against their training and experience. They felt out of place and wrong for the job.

This is just not what Marines are for. It's not what they do. And it won't stop terrorism, even if you call it a "war".
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 7832
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 02:15 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Denny's right about the comments of retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was unusually candid about the situation in Iraq and the prospects for the future. One of his statements stands out in my mind: "America is living a nightmare with no end in sight."

Sanchez placed the blame for what occurred on a broad range of targets, from the Pentagon to the State Department to the intelligence services to the White House to the Congress. At this point most of the original architects of the invasion no longer hold power, although George W. Bush and Dick Cheney still prevail at least for the next 15 months.

Nor does his advice for the future course in Iraq seem very promising. "The American military finds itself in an intractable situation ... America has no choice but to continue our efforts in Iraq," is his conclusion.

I agree that the US is likely @#$%^& (there is really no other way to put it) whether it stays in Iraq or leaves, but it strikes me that as long as you're @#$%^& anyway, you might as well get out of there. That's almost precisely what happened in Vietnam, and it's something out of a Greek tragedy for history to inevitably repeat itself.
 

Tom Callen
Member
Username: Tc2642

Post Number: 129
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 09:50 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

"I've talked about all this at length with my cousin Rob, who is a Lt Col in the Marine Reserves. He's done 2 tours in Iraq, one right at the start and a second later on in Fallujah, and he talks a lot about the differences.

The first tour was "normal" in that it fit Marines training and goals. Go in, kill the enemy, get back safe. They had an identifiable army to fight and rules of engagement which allowed them to do what they had to do. This is what they are trained for and it is what they are very good at.

The second tour was more like being cops on the beat, except that a lot of people were trying to kill you, you don't speak the language, and there are no prosecutors to take over when you've caught someone. The goals were amorphous and conflicting and changing constantly, as were their allies and enemies. They couldn't use heavy weapons or air support. Everything about it went against their training and experience. They felt out of place and wrong for the job.

This is just not what Marines are for. It's not what they do. And it won't stop terrorism, even if you call it a "war"."

Sounds like the marines are doing a good job, insurgency is about winning the support of the population rather than fighting the insurgents. I'm a believer in Fourth Generational warfare(4GW), the first tour was useful in its aspect to get rid of a Third Generational state enemy, but the second tour against Insurgents is about winning the support of the people at a 4GW. If your interested, take a look at Col. T. X. Hammes, 'The Sling and the Stone'.

Terrorism will always be with us, we can only limit the effect that it has. Bear in mind that insurgencies can go on for decades.
 

Bill Pierce
Moderator
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 7836
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2007 - 11:27 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tom, can you give an example of a situation where a Western power won the hearts and minds of the local population in a third world country and prevailed over a homegrown insurgency?

It seems to me the one very faint glimmer of hope in Iraq lies in the fact that the insurgency is not really of local origin. Foreign groups (al Qaeda and Iran) have taken advantage of the vacuum and exploited deep-seated and longstanding ethnic and tribal divisions. In fact, it can be said that the only thing that unites the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds is their dislike of the Western (i.e., non-Islamic) occupation.

In this sense Afghanistan may ultimately be more problematic because the Taliban arose out of the native population, even if they had significant foreign assistance.

(Message edited by BillPierce on October 14, 2007)
 

Tom Callen
Member
Username: Tc2642

Post Number: 130
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 08:31 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The British in Malaysia, obviously there were a lot of differing factors here but it was won after a number of years. Check out Learning to eat soup with a knife by John Nagl for a comparison of that conflict and Vietnam. I think Afghanistan is more winnable than Iraq for a number of reasons but the military will have to learn to adapt.
 

Paul Hayslett
Senior Member
Username: Paulhayslett

Post Number: 1382
Registered: 02-2002
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 01:29 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tom, if my post in any way seemed to validate the idea of 4GW and using the military to "win" the "war on terror", then I must have been more than usually unclear. It was intended to show the futility of trying to use the military, and quasi-military thinking, to do so. I'll try to restate my point in a way that cannot be misunderstood.

"The War On Terror" is an effort by governments to protect their countries and peoples against terrorist acts. Its most visible aspect is currently the effort by governments, mostly Western and non-Islamic but including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, among others, to protect themselves and their peoples (including Muslims) from attacks by militant Islamist groups. But in the past it was the Brits vs the IRA, Israel vs the PLO, Peru vs the Shining Path, Spain vs the ETA, the Hapsburgs vs the Anarchists, and the US vs home-grown right-wing separatists like Tim McVeigh, just to name a few.

We can mine all this history for a few lessons. Only the most obvious is that military action has never, ever done more than buy a little more time for other processes to work. Usually, it has done more harm than good, radicalizing the apathetic and entrenching everyone's hatred.

What HAS worked is a combination of good police work, patient diplomacy, some recognition of the radicals' grievances (without accepting their methods), and sharing out of enough goodies among the rest of the population to get them to stop supporting the terrorists. All of that, plus general exhaustion with war and fear, have sometimes been enough to quiet a resistance. It always takes a long time. It always takes a lot of compromise. And once one group is quiet, there will always be another somewhere else with another grievance, so there is no end and no "victory".

A Neo-Con truism is that the US military has to be "transformed" to do the kinds of things which fight insurgencies. This will involve lots of new technology and changes to training and deployment. This may be a valid plan; I don't know. I do know that it will require a complete overhaul of military education, starting with much more training in languages, diplomacy, engineering, police work, etc. It will also mean a huge rise in the relative sizes of the Military Police, the judicial branches, and the Army Corps of Engineers and a redirection of their mission.

But until this is done, we don't have that kind of military. For better or for worse, we still have soldiers, the kind that know how to use a rifle and go kill the enemy. They are tremendously good at the job they have been trained for. (My cousin likes to point out that they DID win the war AGAINST Iraq, and in only a few weeks. The army had surrendered, the government had fled, the country was ours. It was only when the war AGAINST Iraq became the war IN Iraq that victory became quagmire.) They are not trained or equipped or prepared to do this other job, the policing and pacifying one. Expecting them to do it is demoralizing for them and doomed to failure.

I'm not sure we'll ever know for sure if the war in Iraq was an honest, if stupid, blunder by an incompetent US government hoping it would stop terrorism or if the linkage to terrorism was only cynical manipulation by people bent on topping Saddam Hussein anyway. At this point, I'm not sure it matters. But the take-home message is that we now have yet one more data point (as if we needed it) that the military is the wrong tool for this job, and that military metaphors (with the inevitable over-simplifications of "victory" and "defeat") are utterly inappropriate to the reality.
 

Tom Callen
Member
Username: Tc2642

Post Number: 131
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Monday, October 15, 2007 - 02:22 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Not misuderstanding you Paul rather disagreeing with you too some extent and agree with you to a point Paul, but while you don't have that military I'm afraid they will have to learn if they want to win the insurgencies that are likely to go on for the forseeable future (the trouble with any army is that it is monolithic and very slow to change, I don't particually accept the Revolution in Military Affairs or technology being the answer to everything either), take a look at the role the British Army played in Northern Ireland, they couldn't call in heavy artillery and had to police more than they fought, it may not be what they trained for but if they were to be more 'kinetic' they would be falling right into the insurgents hands. How do you know who the enemy is when they aren't wearing a uniform? Calling in heavy support in the middle of urban areas enhances the possibility of killing civilians and causing increasing hostility towards the US. Check out the three block warfare that the Marines are trying to put into action.

Its not the war they were trained to fight but do you expect a materially weaker enemy to fight fair? The rules of the game are forever changing and the only way to keep up is adapt, as said in my previous post check out Col. Hammes book, he was a Marine if I remember rightly.

Saying that the solution will always be a political rather than military one, although the trouble we have here is that there isn't really a way of the US extracting itself without a likely civil war erupting or Al Queda gaining a more powerful foothold if the state continues to weaken. I always thought Afghanistan was justifiable, Iraq less so, I'm afraid I think the military will have to take a more policing role (just as the British Army had to do) there is really no other option in counter insurgency.

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