Stratfor: The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan

This is a superlative job of myth-making.  Not just fictionalizing the past (the staple work of US geopol experts), but proactively creating a myth to explain future actions.  Nobody does this better than George Friedman.  For instance, the description of the 3 phases of American strategy in Iraq is priceless — painting as a strategy our ad hoc reactions to 5 years of unanticipated developments.   Esp phase 3, which exists largely in the imagination of Americans.

For those oddities in the audience who dislike pleasing myths (the images on the wall), I suggest reading the following.  They provide excerpts written about Vietnam that illuminate our current situation better than anything now being written.

Today’s reading 

The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan“, George Friedman and Reva Bhalla, Stratfor, 20 October 2009 — Reposted in full with permission.

The decision over whether to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan may wait until the contested Afghan election is resolved, U.S. officials said Oct. 18. The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is approaching a decision on the war in Afghanistan. During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Obama argued that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, but Afghanistan was a necessary war. His reasoning went that the threat to the United States came from al Qaeda, Afghanistan had been al Qaeda’s sanctuary, and if the United States were to abandon Afghanistan, al Qaeda would re-establish itself and once again threaten the U.S. homeland. Withdrawal from Afghanistan would hence be dangerous, and prosecution of the war was therefore necessary.

After Obama took office, it became necessary to define a war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan. The most likely model was based on the one used in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, now head of U.S. Central Command, whose area of responsibility covers both Afghanistan and Iraq. Paradoxically, the tactical and strategic framework for fighting the so-called “right war” derived from U.S. military successes in executing the so-called “wrong war.” But grand strategy, or selecting the right wars to fight, and war strategy, or how to fight the right wars, are not necessarily linked.

Afghanistan, Iraq and the McChrystal Plan

Making sense of the arguments over Afghanistan requires an understanding of how the Iraq war is read by the strategists fighting it, since a great deal of proposed Afghan strategy involves transferring lessons learned from Iraq. Those strategists see the Iraq war as having had three phases.

The first was the short conventional war that saw the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s military.

The second was the period from 2003-2006 during which the United States faced a Sunni insurgency and resistance from the Shiite population, as well as a civil war between those two communities. During this phase, the United States sought to destroy the insurgency primarily by military means while simultaneously working to scrape a national unity government together and hold elections.

The third phase, which began in late 2006, was primarily a political phase. It consisted of enticing Iraqi Sunni leaders to desert the foreign jihadists in Iraq, splitting the Shiite community among its various factions, and reaching political — and financial — accommodations among the various factions. Military operations focused on supporting political processes, such as pressuring recalcitrant factions and protecting those who aligned with the United States. The troop increase — aka the surge — was designed to facilitate this strategy. Even more, it was meant to convince Iraqi factions (not to mention Iran) that the United States was not going to pull out of Iraq, and that therefore a continuing American presence would back up guarantees made to Iraqis.

It is important to understand this last bit and its effect on Afghanistan. As in Iraq, the idea that the United States will not abandon local allies by withdrawing until Afghan security forces could guarantee the allies’ security lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, e.g., before local allies’ security could be guaranteed, would undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. To a great extent, the process of U.S. security guarantees in Afghanistan depends on the credibility of those guarantees: Withdrawal from Iraq followed by retribution against U.S. allies in Iraq would undermine the core of the Afghan strategy.

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy in Afghanistan ultimately is built around the principle that the United States and its NATO allies are capable of protecting Afghans prepared to cooperate with Western forces. This explains why the heart of McChrystal’s strategy involves putting U.S. troops as close to the Afghan people as possible. Doing so will entail closing many smaller bases in remote valleys — like the isolated outpost recently attacked in Nuristan province — and opening bases in more densely populated areas.

McChrystal’s strategy therefore has three basic phases. In phase one, his forces would fight their way into regions where a large portion of the population lives and where the Taliban currently operates, namely Kabul, Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The United States would assume a strategic defensive posture in these populated areas. Because these areas are essential to the Taliban, phase two would see a Taliban counterattack in a bid to drive McChrystal’s forces out, or at least to demonstrate that the U.S. forces cannot provide security for the local population. Paralleling the first two phases, phase three would see McChrystal using his military successes to forge alliances with indigenous leaders and their followers.

It should be noted that while McChrystal’s traditional counterinsurgency strategy would be employed in populated areas, U.S. forces would also rely on traditional counterterrorism tactics in more remote areas where the Taliban have a heavy presence and can be pursued through drone strikes. The hope is that down the road, the strategy would allow the United States to use its military successes to fracture the Taliban, thereby encouraging defections and facilitating political reconciliation with Taliban elements driven more by political power than ideology.

There is a fundamental difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, however. In Iraq, resistance forces rarely operated in sufficient concentrations to block access to the population. By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength. If Iraq was a level one conflict, with irregular forces generally refusing conventional engagement with coalition forces, Afghanistan is beginning to bridge the gap from a level one to a level two conflict, with the Taliban holding territory with forces both able to provide conventional resistance and to mount some offensives at the company level (and perhaps at the battalion level in the future). This means that occupying, securing and defending areas such that the inhabitants see the coalition forces as defenders rather than as magnets for conflict is the key challenge.

Adding to the challenge, elements of McChrystal’s strategy are in tension. First, local inhabitants will experience multilevel conflict as coalition forces move into a given region. Second, McChrystal is hoping that the Taliban goes on the offensive in response. And this means that the first and second steps will collide with the third, which is demonstrating to locals that the presence of coalition forces makes them more secure as conflict increases (which McChrystal acknowledges will happen). To convince locals that Western forces enhance their security, the coalition will thus have to be stunningly successful both at defeating Taliban defenders when they first move in and in repulsing subsequent Taliban attacks.

In its conflict with the Taliban, the coalition’s main advantage is firepower, both in terms of artillery and airpower. The Taliban must concentrate its forces to attack the coalition; to counter such attacks, the weapons of choice are airstrikes and artillery. The problem with both of these weapons is first, a certain degree of inaccuracy is built into their use, and second, the attackers will be moving through population centers (the area held by both sides is important precisely because it has population). This means that air- and ground-fire missions, both important in a defensive strategy, run counter to the doctrine of protecting population.

McChrystal is fully aware of this dilemma, and he has therefore changed the rules of engagement to sharply curtail airstrikes in areas of concentrated population, even in areas where U.S. troops are in danger of being overrun. As McChrystal said in a recent interview, these rules of engagement will hold “Even if it means we are going to step away from a firefight and fight them another day.”

This strategy poses two main challenges. First, it shifts the burden of the fighting onto U.S. infantry forces. Second, by declining combat in populated areas, the strategy runs the risk of making the populated areas where political arrangements might already be in place more vulnerable. In avoiding air and missile strikes, McChrystal avoids alienating the population through civilian casualties. But by declining combat, McChrystal risks alienating populations subject to Taliban offensives. Simply put, while airstrikes can devastate a civilian population, avoiding airstrikes could also devastate Western efforts, as local populations could see declining combat as a betrayal. McChrystal is thus stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one.

One of his efforts at a solution has been to ask for more troops. The point of these troops is not to occupy Afghanistan and impose a new reality through military force, which is impossible (especially given the limited number of troops the United States is willing to dedicate to the problem). Instead, it is to provide infantry forces not only to hold larger areas, but to serve as reinforcements during Taliban attacks so the use of airpower can be avoided. Putting the onus of this counterinsurgency on the infantry, and having the infantry operate without airpower, is radical departure in U.S. fighting doctrine since World War II.

Seismic Shift in War Doctrine

Geopolitically, the United States fights at the end of a long supply line. Moreover, U.S. forces operate at a demographic disadvantage. Once in Eurasia, U.S. forces are always outnumbered. Infantry-on-infantry warfare is attritional, and the United States runs out of troops before the other side does. Infantry warfare does not provide the United States any advantage, and in fact, it places the United States at a disadvantage. Opponents of the United States thus have larger numbers of fighters; greater familiarity and acclimation to the terrain; and typically, better intelligence from countrymen behind U.S. lines. The U.S. counter always has been force multipliers — normally artillery and airpower — capable of destroying enemy concentrations before they close with U.S. troops. McChrystal’s strategy, if applied rigorously, shifts doctrine toward infantry-on-infantry combat. His plan assumes that superior U.S. training will be the force multiplier in Afghanistan (as it may). But that assumes that the Taliban, a light infantry force with numerous battle-hardened formations optimized for fighting in Afghanistan, is an inferior infantry force. And it assumes that U.S. infantry fighting larger concentrations of Taliban forces will consistently defeat them.

Obviously, if McChrystal drives the Taliban out of secured areas and into uninhabited areas, the United States will have a tremendous opportunity to engage in strategic bombardment both against Taliban militants themselves and against supply lines no longer plugged into populated areas. But this assumes that the Taliban would not reduce its operations from company-level and higher assaults down to guerrilla-level operations in response to being driven out of population centers. If the Taliban did make such a reduction, it would become indistinguishable from the population. This would allow it to engage in attritional warfare against coalition forces and against the protected population to demonstrate that coalition forces can’t protect them. The Taliban already has demonstrated the ability to thrive in both populated and rural areas of Afghanistan, where the terrain favors the insurgent far more than the counterinsurgent.

The strategy of training Afghan soldiers and police to take up the battle and persuading insurgents to change sides faces several realities. The Taliban has an excellent intelligence service built up during the period of its rule and afterward, allowing it to populate the new security forces with its agents and loyalists. And while persuading insurgents to change sides certainly can happen, whether it can happen to the extent of leaving the Taliban materially weakened remains in doubt. In Iraq, this happened not because of individual changes, but because regional ethnic leadership — with their own excellent intelligence capabilities — changed sides and drove out opposing factions. Individual defections were frequently liquidated.

But Taliban leaders have not shown any inclination for changing sides. They do not believe the United States is in Afghanistan to stay. Getting individual Taliban militants to change sides creates an intelligence-security battle. But McChrystal is betting that his forces will form bonds with the local population so deep that the locals will provide intelligence against Taliban forces operating in the region. The coalition must thus demonstrate that the risks of defection are dwarfed by the advantages. To do this, the coalition security and counterintelligence must consistently and effectively block the Taliban’s ability to identify, locate and liquidate defenders. If McChrystal cannot do that, large-scale defection will be impossible, because well before such defection becomes large scale, the first defectors will be dead, as will anyone seen by the Taliban as a collaborator.

Ultimately, the entire strategy depends on how you read Iraq. In Iraq, a political decision was made by an intact Sunni leadership able to enforce its will among its followers. Squeezed between the foreign jihadists who wanted to usurp their position and the Shia, provided with political and financial incentives, and possessing their own forces able to provide a degree of security themselves, the Sunni leadership came to the see the Americans as the lesser evil. They controlled a critical mass, and they shifted. McChrystal has made it clear that the defections he expects are not a Taliban faction whose leadership decides to shift, but Taliban soldiers as individuals or small groups. That isn’t ultimately what turned the Iraq war but something very different — and quite elusive in counterinsurgency. He is looking for retail defections to turn into a strategic event.

Moreover, it seems much too early to speak of the successful strategy in Iraq. First, there is increasing intracommunal violence in anticipation of coming elections early next year. Second, some 120,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq to guarantee the political and security agreements of 2007-2008, and it is far from clear what would happen if those troops left. Finally, where in Afghanistan there is the Pakistan question, in Iraq there remains the Iran question. Instability thus becomes a cross-border issue beyond the scope of existing forces.

The Pakistan situation is particularly problematic. If the strategic objective of the war in Afghanistan is to cut the legs out from under al Qaeda and deny these foreign jihadists sanctuary, then what of the sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt where high-value al Qaeda targets are believed to be located? Pakistan is fighting its share of jihadists according to its own rules; the United States cannot realistically expect Islamabad to fulfill its end of the bargain in containing al Qaeda. The primary U.S. targets in this war are on the wrong side of the border, and in areas where U.S. forces are not free to operate. The American interest in Afghanistan is to defeat al Qaeda and prevent the emergence of follow-on jihadist forces. The problem is that regardless of how secure Afghanistan is, jihadist forces can (to varying degrees) train and plan in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia — or even Cleveland for that matter. Securing Afghanistan is thus not necessarily a precondition for defeating al Qaeda.

Iraq is used as the argument in favor of the new strategy in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq was that a situation that was completely out of hand became substantially less unstable because of a set of political accommodations initially rejected by the Americans and the Sunnis from 2003-2006. Once accepted, a disastrous situation became an unstable situation with many unknowns still in place.

If the goal of Afghanistan is to forge the kind of tenuous political accords that govern Iraq, the factional conflicts that tore Iraq apart are needed. Afghanistan certainly has factional conflicts, but the Taliban, the main adversary, does not seem to be torn by them. It is possible that under sufficient pressure such splits might occur, but the Taliban has been a cohesive force for a generation. When it has experienced divisions, it hasn’t split decisively.

On the other hand, it is not clear that Western forces in Afghanistan can sustain long-term infantry conflict in which the offensive is deliberately ceded to a capable enemy and where airpower’s use is severely circumscribed to avoid civilian casualties, overturning half a century of military doctrine of combined arms operations.

The Bigger Picture

The best argument for fighting in Afghanistan is powerful and similar to the one for fighting in Iraq: credibility. The abandonment of either country will create a powerful tool in the Islamic world for jihadists to argue that the United States is a weak power. Withdrawal from either place without a degree of political success could destabilize other regimes that cooperate with the United States. Given that, staying in either country has little to do with strategy and everything to do with the perception of simply being there.

The best argument against fighting in either country is equally persuasive. The jihadists are right: The United States has neither the interest nor forces for long-term engagements in these countries. American interests go far beyond the Islamic world, and there are many present (to say nothing of future) threats from outside the region that require forces. Overcommitment in any one area of interest at the expense of others could be even more disastrous than the consequences of withdrawal.

In our view, Obama’s decision depends not on choosing between McChrystal’s strategy and others, but on a careful consideration of how to manage the consequences of withdrawal. An excellent case can be made that now is not the time to leave Afghanistan, and we expect Obama to be influenced by that thinking far more than by the details of McChrystal’s strategy. As McChrystal himself points out, there are many unknowns and many risks in his own strategy; he is guaranteeing nothing.

Reducing American national strategy to the Islamic world, or worse, Afghanistan, is the greater threat. Nations find their balance, and the heavy pressures on Obama in this decision basically represent those impersonal forces battering him. The question he must ask himself is simple: In what way is the future of Afghanistan of importance to the United States? The answer that securing it will hobble al Qaeda is simply wrong. U.S. Afghan policy will not stop a global terrorist organization; terrorists will just go elsewhere. The answer that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power is better, but even that must be taken in context of other global interests.

Obama does not want this to be his war. He does not want to be remembered for Afghanistan the way George W. Bush is remembered for Iraq or Lyndon Johnson is for Vietnam. Right now, we suspect Obama plans to demonstrate commitment, and to disengage at a more politically opportune time. Johnson and Bush showed that disengagement after commitment is nice in theory. For our part, we do not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan, but that McChrystal has proposed a good one for “hold until relieved.” We suspect that Obama will hold to show that he gave the strategy a chance, but that the decision to leave won’t be too far off.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Some posts about the war in Afghanistan:

  1. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust.
  2. Real experts review a presentation about the War (look here, if you’re looking for well-written analysis!), 21 June 2009
  3. The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
  4. “War without end”, a great article by George Wilson, 27 June 2009
  5. Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 1, 18 July 2009
  6. We are warned about Afghanistan, but choose not to listen (part 2), 19 July 2009
  7. Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 3, 20 July 2009
  8. You can end our war in Afghanistan, 20 August 2009
  9. “Afghanistan by the Numbers – Measuring a War Gone to Hell”, by Tom Engelhardt, 9 September 2009
  10. How many troops would it take to win in Afghanistan?, 15 September 2009
  11. DoD did not consider troop levels when devising our latest  “>Af-Pak war plans, more evidence that their OODA loop is broken, 8 October 2009
  12. The three kinds of advocacy for the Af-Pak War, 15 October 2009


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

17 thoughts on “Stratfor: The U.S. Challenge in Afghanistan”

  1. “By contrast, the Taliban on several occasions have struck with concentrations of forces numbering in the hundreds, essentially at company-size strength.”

    I recall that during the Vietnam conflict, when the insurgents started assembling and engaging in battalion and regimental sized units, it was a sign that spelled a new phase of the war that indicated a popular uprising that was essentially unwinnable.

    Since Afghanistan is so thinly populated, perhaps we can lower that bar to company sized engagements?

  2. The rationale for the Afghan War was stated by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon:

    When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s-it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere.

    While the Afghan War has many drawbacks; this point nevertheless needs to be addressed.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t get your point. Nuke Hamburg or Miami? Put all Arab-Americans in concentration camps? Invade every Islamic nation and force conversions to the cult of our choice?

  3. Mission accomplished yet?

    A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons. It is usually undertaken in response to percieved disobedient or morally wrong behavior, but may be also be a covered revenge.

    Stowell (1921) provides the following definition (from Wikipedia):

    “When the territorial sovereign is too weak or is unwilling to enforce respect for international law, a state which is wronged may find it necessary to invade the territory and to chastise the individuals who violate its rights and threaten its security”.

    Fabius Maximus replies: I’m too tired to look it up, but I believe we have signed treaties declaring punative strikes against civilians to be war crimes.

  4. “We”, meaning the US government, also signed treaties stating “we” would dismantle all our nuclear weapons, “we” would never initiate a war, “we” would never sanction torture, and “we” would respect the current boundaries of the Indian tribes. What’s your point, FM? “We” don’t commit war crimes because some treaty says so?
    Fabius Maximus replies: No. Just a reminder that some things are wrong by the standards we profess. When we fail to even thing of such things, we’ll be well on our way to the scrap bin of history, IMO.

  5. After reading the whole thing earlier, the one thing that stuck in my mind was one word: credibility. Perhaps that is the only reason that Versailles on the Potomac keeps US there. It no longer matters why we went there in the first place. Perhaps this is all about sustaining the superpower illusion. I think our credibility will be all but gone when the bond auctions fail.

  6. Wow. I don’t have the time to Fisk this but it’s delusional on so many levels. It reads like he’s just thinking it through as he writes it (not unusual for a columnist on a deadline). The fascinating thing is that Friedman arrives at the following conclusions:

    1. The continuing war does nothing against Al Qaeda.
    2. The war “is important in shaping the Islamic world’s sense of American power”
    3. He does “not think there is an effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan”
    4. Obama needs to follow McChrystal’s plan to “hold out” until withdrawal can be made at a more “politically opportune time” (presumably one Friedman unit from now).

    A more craven example of a morally bankrupt commissar would be hard to find. I propose that George be commissioned by the DoD to personally write the letters to the families of dead and wounded soldiers. He can apply his writing skills to informing them of their son or daughter’s great sacrifice in fighting an unwinnable war for the cause of “shaping the Islamic world’s perception of American power” until it’s politically convenient for Obama to stop it.

    BTW I did not mean to imply that George was responsible for the development of the unit that bears his, and Thomas’s name. But he is certainly welcome to use it. Tough decisions can always be postponed a Friedman unit into the future.

  7. Everything new is old again…

    In Pursuit of Pancho Villa 1916-1917“, By Joe Griffith, posted at the Historical Society of the Georgia National Guard — Excerpt:

    “Unabashed by his failure to capture Villa, General Pershing claimed the expedition was successful as a learning experience. However, in the minds of Mexicans, Pancho Villa was the clear winner.”

  8. “Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.”
    — “60 drone hits kill 14 al-Qaeda men, 687 civilians“, The Jang Group, 10 April 2009 {Pakistan’s largest newspaper group}

    When the Afghan man stands weeping over the corpse of his brother mistakenly killed by a U.S. drone strike, what does he say?

    “When a man’s brother is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your brother and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re Pashtuns. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s-it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every Pashtun everywhere.”

    Thus are terrorists born.
    Fabius Maximus replies: For another perspective on these things I recommend reading “The Intelligence Factory“, Petra Bartosiewicz, Harper’s Magazine, November 2009 — “How America makes its enemies disappear.”

  9. FM: “I don’t get your point. Nuke Hamburg or Miami? Put all Arab-Americans in concentration camps? Invade every Islamic nation and force conversions to the cult of our choice?

    I think it’s like this: The attack came from the Taliban, who ran Afghanistan. We will not leave, until EVERY STINKING TALIBAN WHO WAS ALIVE AT THAT TIME IS DEAD. Preferably by our hands.

    Since we cannot do that, we will remain, until that generation dies of natural causes.
    Fabius Maximus replies: No member of the 9-11 attackers was of the Tailiban, or even from Afghanistan. The 9-11 Commission explicitly stated that the bases in Afghanistan had no significant role in the attack. What are you talking about?

    Reading comments like this reminds me why much of the world considers America to be the greatest threat to world peace. Let’s hope people like Xiaoding are rare, or this nation is toast.

  10. Burke G Sheppard

    If Friedman’s description of McCrystal’s strategy is accurate, then I think the chances of it working are not good. I do not have much faith in strategies that require the enemy to willingly cooperate in his own destruction. The assumption here seems to be that after our troops have fought their way into enemy controlled areas, the Taliban will then feed their forces to us in bite sized chunks, sprinkled with tenderizer. The Taliban may well have other plans.

    McCrystal is apparently relying on infantry action rather than firepower in order to avoid offending the Afghans. (Who may be unimpressed if his reluctance to kill the enemy leaves the population at the Taliban’s mercy.) He assumes that the American people will tolerate the heavier losses that this approach will require, and perhaps he assumes that the Administration will exert itself to maintain public support for the war effort in the face of increased casualties. Both assumptions are likely to prove wrong.
    Fabius Maximus replies: At least Obama (and us) will have time to think about it — if Obama delays a decision on Af-Pak expansion until after he gets the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec 10 in Oslo.

  11. Burke G Sheppard

    FM: “At least Obama (and us) will have time to think about it.

    From what I have seen so far, he may very well be prepared think about it until the cows come home, but this will not make the available options any more palatable.

    I actually suspect that Friedman may have called this one right. Obama will hold for what he considers to be a decent interval and then withdraw. I have no idea what might constitute a decent interval. Perhaps sometime after the 2012 election?
    Fabius Maximus replies: I cannot see so far into the future, but I suspect (guess) that withdrawal will come as it did in Vietnam — only after a decisive loss of support for the war among the American people. Short of that our ruling elites will continue the war as did the Soviet Union.

  12. Sooner or later, they will eventually leave. No matter what goes wrong, or goes right, some will claim victory but others will call it a defeat. So, how much can we pay for that trophy on the mantel?

  13. FM: “Reading comments like this reminds me why much of the world considers America to be the greatest threat to world peace. Let’s hope people like Xiaoding are rare, or this nation is toast.

    Ha! You have misunderstood, I was not advocating, but expounding. But your point is passing strange…a country is attacked, and endeavors to kill the atackers. how is that a threat to world peace? Rather, is is an assurance of it.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Please read the reply more carefully. I explained why your statement is false. For more details, see You can end our war in Afghanistan.

    “I was not advocating, but expounding”
    Looks like advocacy to me, both in your original comment and here.

  14. No member of the 9-11 attackers was of the Tailiban, or even from Afghanistan. The 9-11 Commission explicitly stated that the bases in Afghanistan had no significant role in the attack. What are you talking about?

    The public perception, which is all that matters. The Taliban hosted Al Quaeda, which attacked the US. Arguing over precisly who, attacked from precisly where, would be like Sonny Corleone musing over which particular hit men he had moral sanction to kill, after a hit. The question does not even come up. You hit back, twice as hard.

    I beleive this to be the militarys main motivation for staying in Afghanistan. We are going to be there for a long time.

    But you have not answered my question, how can a country, attacking it’s attackers, be seen as a threat by anybody? Of course, the question answers itself. Since the war is now seen as totally defensive in nature, dislodgement will be very difficult, I predict. Who is going to engage in a massive protest to end the war? Like, three batty loons would show up. In fact, the anti-war folks were mostly Democratic paid operatives, whose principles vanished with Obamas ascendacy. It’s not Vietnam again, in that sense. The war is popular amongst the most important group, the military. And see, Pakistan is now upset over Obama’s “dithering”! This may turn out to be the miltarys version of the never ending story.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This makes no sense to me.

    “The public perception, which is all that matters.”
    Matters to whom? I dont’ suggest you appply this view at a casino — or on a battlefield — or most places. Reality matters, in the end.

    “how can a country, attacking it’s attackers, be seen as a threat by anybody?”

    We have invaded two Islamic nations, neither of who attacked us. We’ve threatened for years to bomb Iran, another Islamic nation who has not attacked us (taking the hostages can be seen as retaliation for Operation Ajax, overthrowing Iran’s elected government in 1953). Plus all those governments against whom we’ve run covert ops, such as the Chilean coup of 1973.

  15. Tom Hagen: They shot Sonny on the causeway. He’s dead.

    Don Corleone: Tom, I advised Michael. I never thought you were a bad Consigliari. I thought Santino was a bad Don, rest in peace.

    from The Godfather (1972 film)

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