Saturday, March 3, 2012

Without a Trace: A Decade of Nation-building

protesters at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

This is a follow up to the previous post, where I proposed that the United States follow Bismark's advice and dramatically change their strategy in Afghanistan, I came across this column by Mark Steyn, whose rapier sharp pen has cut to the core of where a decade in Afghanistan has left the United States. Steyn's column is at once both caustic and refreshing in it's honesty.
Say what you like about Afghans, but they're admirably straightforward. The mobs outside the bases enflamed over the latest Western affront to their exquisitely refined cultural sensitivities couldn't put it any plainer:
"Die, die, foreigners!"
And foreigners do die. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Loftis, 44, and Army Maj. Robert Marchanti II, 48, lost their lives not on some mission out on the far horizon in wild tribal lands in the dead of night but in the offices of the Afghan Interior Ministry. In a "secure room" that required a numerical code to access. Gunned down by an Afghan "intelligence officer." Who then departed the scene of the crime unimpeded by any of his colleagues.

Crusader fort
He goes on to compare our current bases as they now exist, to Crusader forts  in the 12th century, but from there the similarity ends.
In the past couple of months, two prominent politicians of different nations visiting their troops on the ground have used the same image to me for Western military bases: crusader forts. Behind the fortifications, a mini-West has been built in a cheerless land: There are Coke machines and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Safely back within the gates, a man can climb out of the full RoboCop and stop pretending he enjoys three cups of tea with the duplicitous warlords, drug barons and pederasts who pass for Afghanistan's ruling class.

The last crusader fort I visited was Kerak Castle in Jordan a few years ago. It was built in the 1140s, and still impresses today. I doubt there will be any remains of our latter-day fortresses a millennium hence. Six weeks after the last NATO soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there...
Steyn then takes aim on our original strategy, and how each year it seems to not just drift, but blindly charge about, like some sightless Leviathan, that instead of laying waste to those who make war; chooses to carpet bomb with dollar bills that conveniently land in the pockets of the ruling class.
As much as any bailed-out corporation, the U.S. is "too big to fail": In Afghanistan as in the stimulus, it was money no object. The combined Western military/aid presence accounts for 98 percent of that benighted land's GDP. We carpet-bomb with dollar bills; we have the most advanced technology known to man; we have everything except strategic purpose.
Read the whole post:America's longest war will leave no trace

Steyn's final paragraph again made reference to the "crusader forts," and the broader symbolism in what he describes as a post-American world. As a nation, we have been blessed to have what Howard Bloom calls the pendulum of repurposing built in to our nation's DNA, which has led us to re-build from the ashes of miss-guided adventures or disasters. We can only hope that this time we have the money to re-start our vision.

I have long supported the mission both in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it troubles me to no end to see that progress is mired in choosing the wrong weapons to deal with what nature, geography, and a people, who only understand the ancient pre-religious tenets of revenge and blood honor, to guide their every move; has seen our best hopes dashed on the rocks of reality. As politically in-correct as it might sound, looking back at the original strategy of surgical strikes, should have also carried the accompanied effort to risk what ever troops necessary in the beginning, too capture or kill every leader from Osama, to the entire Taliban and AQ leadership.

Then make it crystal clear that any future sanctuaries would bring a rain of carpet bombing upon that region until all are gone. That, as harsh as it sounds strategy, would send a "straightforward" message in a language all Afghan's and their allied cohorts understand, and have used to settle disputes for millenniums. An old friend and mentor, whose military and historical credentials are as deep as the sea, predicted the outcome the US is currently experiencing and a decade ago, suggested the most politically in-correct path, would have resulted in surgically cutting out the cancer, much like we rely on radiation and surgery as proven tools. Then following up with check-ups and changes in behavior to keep the cancer from returning. Finally, if the cancer of terrorism returns, more surgery, and if needed, doses of radiation to kill those dangerous cells.

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