Sorry to but in Wayne, but I thought your post was probably a fair reflection of the military anxiety about not being appreciated or understood by the general public. That is a sad state of affairs, and deserves a response, so here goes.
I agree with you about our ignorance of strategy and tactics, but I think that civilians should step back from the military analysis and all the jargon and planning that is done by the armed forces, the Defense Department, and the White House.
We civilians may not have much appreciation of the detailed objectives that you have been given, but we remember well the rhetoric that accompanied the decisions to deploy you in that way. I think we are still entitled to judge progress of this enterprise, that has been so expensive in blood and treasure, by the objectives presented to us in those emotional speeches by our President. It must be frustrating for you that we are critical when we clearly don’t understand your goals, or how you have been instructed to do your job, and we do not make the effort to inform ourselves from publicly available source documents.
We can see for instance how much of Afghanistan is still controlled by the Taliban and therefore form a judgement about how effective our military intervention has really been. Perhaps we can even do that better if we are not familiar with all the day by day achievements and set backs. This may not lead to a fair assessment of the value of the contribution of the military, but that is a secondary consideration – unless you have been part of the military effort..
We know it is hard and dangerous work and we are grateful for the sacrifices being made, but we know that the military was basically sent there to drain the swamp. It seems to us that there have been many alligator fights but after all these years our forces are confined to a few islands with alligators snapping at their heels. We see a corrupt national government and a military and police that are still unable to even protect themselves. This does not look like great progress from here.
If we read all those documents you refer to we might have a better understanding of why this is so and more appreciation of the valiant efforts by our servicemen. No doubt that would make us civilians more accepting of the situation than we are, but would that really be a good thing? We can’t expect military men to give up in defeat, recognizing that they are never going to achieve an unrealistic goal of a prosperous peaceful democracy in Afghanistan. That would be counter to the aggressive culture that we want our military to have. I think it is civilians who should develop the kind of perspective that allows them to take such a pragmatic view of the situation. Then public opinion can get our young men out of that hell hole and save many of their lives. I think that is the best way to show our respect and gratitude to those who have served.
I think also that the connection with the war on terror has been lost. Most of us cannot see how the intervention in Afghanistan has made Al’Qaeda weaker or less likely to attack the USA and succeed if it chooses to. We can observe, as many do, that there have been no serious terrorist attacks in the USA since 911, and attribute it to the success of the war on terror. That may be the explanation, but there could be other reasons. It may be an indicator of the success of the military actions in Afghanistan or it may be due to the FBI, CIA, diplomacy, or even airport security: who really knows. We know that at home our people are still extremely vulnerable to bomb attacks and find it hard to believe that the terrorists are refraining from doing that because of what our military is doing in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan we see a huge number of relatively lightly armed religious fanatic Islamic warriors controlling the country, and we see a government and people who hate that, but are unwilling or unable to confront them. The people of that country have become dependent upon us to defend them, but neither they nor we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for an all-out decisive war on the Taliban. I am sure that NATO could defeat an irregular force of light infantry in an environment like Afghanistan if it was properly resourced for it and unleashed. It is not a lack of courage or commitment in our soldiers that is holding us back, rather it is the civilians in charge, and they do seem to lack courage and commitment on this war.
Perhaps that is how it should be, when the military are properly under the control of the state, but there should come a time when we stop messing about, wasting lives and money, and make a political decision to go for it, or get out.
We know that all of the 911 terrorists were Saudi Arabian nationals as is their leadership, command and control and supply. That seems to this ignorant civilian to be a highly significant indicator that the USA has a serious problem with that Country. We don’t see any signs at all that anything has been done to root out the Al’Qaeda organisation in Saudi. We continue to allow them to dictate the terms of our war on terror.
I usually get pounced on by our veterans at this stage. Before that happens this time let me say that I mean no disrespect. In my way I think it shows more appreciation for our fighting men to take the view that their lives should not be wasted by indecisive NATO leadership.
First, thanks for the response. It was penned in a manner and style that was collegial and smart: a manner of discourse that opens dialoge rather than shuts it down because of emotional and moral filters. Given that, and without necessarily agreeing/disagreeing, I wanted to expand and comment on a few of your points:
We can’t expect military men to give up in defeat, recognizing that they are never going to achieve an unrealistic goal of a prosperous peaceful democracy in Afghanistan. That would be counter to the aggressive culture that we want our military to have. I think it is civilians who should develop the kind of perspective that allows them to take such a pragmatic view of the situation.!
I look at this as a “sensitivity issue” that is akin to …“walking a mile in [our] shoes…” Though it is unreasonable to expect people to fully conceptualize anyone’s reality without physical and mentally enduring the hardships of others, the appreciation for others is gained via education. Recently, government departments have sponsored civil/military affairs seminars with junior politicians in order to begin to frame an appreciation and understanding of military strategy, operations and tactics. This is a relatively new phenomenon; by contrast, the Military has been engaged in training its officers and senior non-commissioned officers (albeit both with varying degrees of success) to appreciate our civilian bosses. A more conscious understanding of ACTUAL military affairs across civil population and political community personnel is what would help most. When the incarceration of Lindsey Lohan gets more attention from the American people than the announcement that the President publishes the National Security Strategy does… well military folks become skeptical about the American peoples set of priorities. We want to promote common understanding of one another so we can believe that the yellow ribbon magnet on the back of your Toyota (don’t get me started…) is sincerely supported.
I think also that the connection with the war on terror has been lost. Most of us cannot see how the intervention in Afghanistan has made Al’Qaeda weaker or less likely to attack the USA and succeed if it chooses to.!
In a consumer culture, we see consume, digest and discard; and all in an express timeline indicative of 21st century society. In the case of the Global War on Terror, what many Americans see as insignificant or trivial skirmishes in a series of consecutive efforts, we, in the military analyze as small, incremental hurdles or milestones in an epic, multi-phased saga. Campaign plans, and strategies define these steps and the indicators that measure these successes. Some of these indicators are very clear while others are more subjective, but in the end…it’s all part of a bigger, internationally strategic picture and usually over a prolonged period of time. When I entered Iraq in April 2003, I was asked by a local, Baghdad man how long he thought we’d be there. As a Lieutenant trying to avoid committing to something I didn’t know, I said, “We will stay until we accomplish our objectives…” to this the man’s reply was… “I think it will be ten years, maybe more…” Well here we are, in our 8th year of involvement there and we aren’t ‘gone’ yet; he wasn’t far off. However, if you tried to tell the American people, politicians and civilians alike, that we want to commit to war for 10 years… well, c’mon, we’d get laughed out of the forum. However, long term National security interest and intent IS communicated in the National Security Strategy and the Quadrennial Defense Review. Neither asks to go to war for years on end, but they do define the President’s vision of the National Security environment he wants to create and the ways he wants to achieve it. Can the bulk of the American people really say they understand more about the President’s vision, than they do about NASCAR, LoLo, or Face book?
It may be an indicator of the success of the military actions in Afghanistan or it may be due to the FBI, CIA, diplomacy, or even airport security: who really knows.!
It is. And the National Security Strategy also isn’t only the military but ALL the alphabet organizations including the domestic ones, i.e. Homeland Security, FEMA, etc… reading it is enlightening.
I am sure that NATO could defeat an irregular force of light infantry in an environment like Afghanistan if it was properly resourced for it and unleashed.!
For NATO, it may be more worthwhile to examine, less the matter of resourcing and more the matter of mission commitment and motivation. Are they involved out of a desire to compel change and progress or a sense of being made to be involved out of a sense of duty to its allies. I don’t know really because for my part I am not a ‘power broker’ in that arena and cannot speak for alone involved… just food for thought.
I usually get pounced on by our veterans at this stage. Before that happens this time let me say that I mean no disrespect. In my way I think it shows more appreciation for our fighting men to take the view that their lives should not be wasted by indecisive NATO leadership.!
Thanks, again. Your comments reflect conscientious concern. We, as military professionals, need to serve people like you. You elect those who employ us for reasonable and relevant endeavors. Please believe that, at least for me, it is as an honor to serve the American people.
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