Afghanistan: A quagmire of our own making - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Afghanistan: A quagmire of our own making

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Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2009 12:29 pm | Updated: 1:24 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Brad Harrington: The objective of a war, it must be remembered, is to obliterate the enemy: to kill them all and break up all of their stuff. And if it is our goal, then let’s act on in completely; send over a few hundred thousand troops and wipe the targets off the map. If we have chosen military force as the instrument to employ to achieve the objective, let’s not play around: accomplish the mission through absolute, overpowering attack, and then come home.

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” — Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Republican National Convention Speech, 1952

In September and October of 2001, as a result of the 9-11 al-Qaida terrorist attacks, Americans overwhelmingly supported the war in Afghanistan, the purpose of which was to eradicate as much of al-Qaida and the Taliban who was harboring them as possible.

Eight years later, we find ourselves in a quagmire of our own making. Distracted for years by the war in Iraq, the original front in Afghanistan — and the much more proper and appropriate front of the two — languished, and most of the gains made there in 2001-2003 have been reversed. What do we intend to do about it?

President Barack Obama, in a speech given at West Point on Tuesady, has given us our answer: 30,000 new troops within the next six months, followed by a phase-out by the summer of 2011. This, I submit, is a travesty, and will only result in the senseless loss of more American lives with nothing to show for it in the end but another major defeat for the United States to pile on top of Korea and Vietnam. And for exactly the same reason: half-measures instead of decisive, overwhelming strength.

The objective of a war, it must be remembered, is to obliterate the enemy: to kill them all and break up all of their stuff. That is what war is; that is what war does. If that is not our goal, then we have no business being over there in the first place; better to just pull out now and be done with it.

And if it is our goal, then let’s act on in completely; send over a few hundred thousand troops and wipe the targets off the map. If we have chosen military force as the instrument to employ to achieve the objective, let’s not play around: accomplish the mission through absolute, overpowering attack, and then come home.

In typical weak-sister fashion, however, Obama has decided to hem and haw, which is the worst kind of strategy we could possibly implement: it does nothing but embolden the enemy by telling him that we are not really serious at all. And to add to that an actual departure date is nothing less than treasonous folly: for the enemy will simply outwait us — and hold the civilian population, who could be our greatest asset in fighting this war, as hostage to deadly reprisals should they assist us prior to that date.

Envision, if you will, al-Qaida or the Taliban revealing their strategy in such an incoherent fashion. No? No — it is only our waffling, indecisive, irresolute, fence-straddling president who tries engaging in such militarily imbecilic maneuvers. Whose side is this guy on, anyway?

So: when fighting a war, when is it proper to leave? When all of the enemy are dead and all their stuff is broken — and not a moment sooner. If that takes years, that is what it takes: or have we lost our will to win? Apparently so — and, if so, why bother sending over more troops? What does that accomplish?

Nothing, militarily, since victory no longer seems to be our objective in Afghanistan. But it allows Obama a political out, an exit strategy, a way of looking tough while paving the way to failure. Then, in 18 months, with a few hundred or a few thousand more of our soldiers lying dead or maimed on the mountainsides for no good reason, Obama can pull the plug in favor of running his next presidential campaign. How’s that for strategy? Can you imagine employing that strategy against Hitler or Hirohito?

The total result, of course, will be a half-hearted attempt and catastrophe that will please nobody, stain the reputation of the United States for decades to come, and leave us ever more open to future terrorist attacks. Maybe we have decided to not be serious — but you can bet your bottom dollar that al-Qaida’s not making that mistake. They have sworn to kill us all. And, given this kind of wanna-be-war stupidity on our part, they are probably going to eventually pull it off.

You do not negotiate with the enemy; you do not turn a war into a political football; you do not reveal your weaknesses for all the world to see and expect to accomplish your mission: you fight to win — or you lose. Which is it going to be?

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Bradley Harrington is a former United States Marine and a freelance writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyo.

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