The SecDef gives the definitive analysis of the war, a must-read

A must-read except from a press conference by our Secretary of Defense:

I don’t want to comment in detail on the situation in Afghanistan because it is a complex one. I think the Ambassador said there were 43 wars there. It’s a very complicated situation involving political, economic, and military factors. I don’t think we can give day to day accounts of the improvement or regression of the situation.

I draw your attention again to the one important point. The rate of Taliban attacks is high. By incidents I mean a terrorist attack. as long as that rate of incidents is high, it means the security of the people is low in certain areas of the country. As long as the security of the people is low, their allegiance to the government is in doubt. It is that which makes the problem for us.

Brilliant, showing a new depth and subtly of analysis.   Esp the population-centric view! 

The speaker is SecDef Robert McNamara, sometime in 1963-1964.  Almost everything about the Afghanistan has close parallels in the Vietnam War.  We don’t see that because we prefer not to know.

Other notes from the past

Afterword

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).

16 thoughts on “The SecDef gives the definitive analysis of the war, a must-read

  1. FM: “Almost everything about the Afghanistan has close parallels in the Vietnam War. We don’t see that because we prefer not to know.

    Actually, much of the impetus behind the support for both the Iraq and Afghan Wars is the belief that, had Vietnam somehow been “done right,” then the United
    States would have “won.” They hope, by “doing Afghanistan/Iraq “right,” to discredit the Vietnam experience.
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    FM reply: That’s a a great insight. We see this in the FM website’s comments by Tom Grey, whose delusional eagerness to refight Vietnam bubbles over at the slightest excuses.

  2. We skipped the Strategic Hamlet Program, and went straight to Afghanization. Kids today are so much more shocking and awesome.

  3. Admittedly a little SLOW: Did you insert Afghan where VN was in R McNamara’s speech?

    “I don’t want to comment in detail on the situation in Afghanistan because it is a complex one. I think the Ambassador said there were 43 wars there. It’s a very complicated situation involving political, economic, and military factors. I don’t think we can give day to day accounts of the improvement or regression of the situation. I draw your attention again to the one important point. The rate of Taliban attacks is high. By incidents I mean a terrorist attack. as long as that rate of incidents is high, it means the security of the people is low in certain areas of the country. As long as the security of the people is low, their allegiance to the government is in doubt. It is that which makes the problem for us.”

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    FM reply: Yes, I substituted Afghan for Vietnam.

  4. Thx…laughing. The parallels of these two Wars are so obvious to me I just assumed or was rather confused. Great play with the Words FM and appreciate the links to past Posts—those are very telling to re-read/read.

    Having come of age right during VN and having been a student at THE University of Dissent right then, I have a clear experience of many things “Viet Nam”. Halberstam’s “Best and Brightest” is a slog but well worth it as it gives a portarit of the best in the USA as being “men of will” who are blind to the forces of history. Perhaps not a uniquely American formula for Tragedy and shame.

    Many fools are still alive and active who would have anyone believe “we could have won” in VN. As noted in above Comments.

    Of course Af/Pak is more of the same hubris of VN. And with far greater potential for worldwide involvement…..just look at a Map.

    Having read Gary Schroen’s FIRST IN when it was published in 2005, meeting Cofer Black then D of O and later V Chmn of BLACKWATER,and the next “Gary’s” Book, heavily redacted by the CIA and reading how Centcom REFUSED to allow/send Spec Forces into Tora Bora to help the CIA “get” Bin Laden….well, you can easily surmise that the USA had bigger plans for Afghanistan (and needed an alive Osama) down the line. And well they do/did.

    The cultish Cabal that thinks they “run” this Country certainly still fit Halberstam’s profile. Still run Wars like they did Viet Nam.
    And will certainly lead us to a dead end and we can hope that is ALL they will do. AfPak will end poorly, at best. We can hope we run out of $$$!

  5. I guess we have to decide if we want to fight a war or build a nation. One requires soldiers and one requires social engineers.

    Since some people believe it’s the US troop presence alone which may be increasing problems with the locals and things would actually be better without troops, then by all means remove the troops and send in the social engineers.

    Maybe those social engineers can work out a deal w/ the Taliban who are waiting to refill their old position of power in Afghanistan. But, I’d advise the social engineers to 1) bring enough money for bribes ensuring their own protection and 2) cover their eyes when the Taliban go back to their methods of “governing” the local population. I’m sure things will be very busy in the soccer stadiums again when the troops leave.

    And while we’re looking back at US involvement in Southeast Asia, let’s hope the stretch of the world from Iraq to Afghanistan does better left on its own than what Cambodia did under the Khmer Rouge.

    I’ve heard everything thru the years from isolation to “we are the world” globalism as the answer. I’m not looking for a debate, I’d honestly love to hear some new suggestions. I will check back later, thanks.

  6. If they do a good job of rebuilding Afghanistan, can we then let them try rebuilding California, New Orleans, or maybe Detroit?

  7. Re: “As long as the security of the people is low, their allegiance to the government is in doubt.”

    We installed a gov. that has very little allegiance to the people: It looks and smells as a Vichy gov. Corruption is a minor deficiency! As long as it depends on foreign body-guards, foreign armies, foreign arms, foreign funds, it will gain no confidence.

    Learn the history of the Russian civil war of 1919-23! All the action is there, complete with U.S and “NATO” intervention, Karzai, and Taliban. The Bolsheviks won, because they had no foreign smell, dropped world revolution, and by today they faded to history. They were even handy, when Hitler emerged. I reckon after 8 years of bitter war, the Taliban of today realised, they can not afford exporting terrorism(aka world revolution).

  8. From FM on #1 — “That’s a a great insight. We see this in the FM website’s comments by Tom Grey, whose delusional eagerness to refight Vietnam bubbles over at the slightest excuses.

    Wow. That really strikes a chord. Some of the most delusional, & personally damaging episodes in my life have involved me being obsessed with past failures, and attempting to correct them in the present time. It doesn’t work because “the past” is just a narrative we create using our memories, and can’t be operated upon.

    Seriously, I wonder if there is some kind of syndrome which causes someone to act this way… obsessive focus on the past. Not that Tom Grey has it. Just that it isn’t the first time I’ve seen that.

  9. “Fight a War or Nation Build” (colonialism)

    Please. This is NOT a War except in America’s Mongering eyes. Nor is the grand Global War on Terrorism a “war”. American leaders make this stuff up all the time, lately, it seems. And notice Congress NEVER declared either one a WAR. No Gulf of Tonkin Resol here, folks.

    If the stupid Nigerian had not been so incompetent and bungled the Open Invitation from the Dutch to Detroit Intl, heck we would now be sending Rabgers and Seals to Yemen!

    Drone ’em! More USA Insanity.

  10. Everyone, run – don’t walk – to ?Don Vandergriff’s latest post re Yemen in particular and the United States’ lack of direction, in general:

    Our reactions to events in the so-called Long War on Terror suggest an aimless spreading of effort throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. This aimlessness brings to mind a comment General Hermann Balck, a highly decorated German officer in WWII, made to a small group of reformers in the Pentagon in the early 1980s.

    The subject was Operation Barbarossa, or Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Balck pithily dismissed the German strategy shaping that invasion with the words: “Nicht Schwerpunkt.” Balck was saying there was no focus or main effort to the German invasion, and without a focus, there was no way to harmonize the thousands of subordinate efforts. The result was a spreading of effort that led to eventual overextension as can be seen in the following map. Now the Eastern Front of WWII is very different from the ridiculously misleading label of a Central Front in the Long War on Terror. But the idea of schwerpunkt is germane to both efforts, and the US is showing all the signs of spreading and over extending its efforts which accompany a nicht schwerpunkt. This is no small thing.

    If Yemen ( which is across the way from Somalia ) isn’t enough, we also have Mexico and West Africa to think about. Two ignored items: Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Keep an eye on them.

  11. “Balck was saying there was no focus or main effort to the German invasion, and without a focus”

    Yes, spot on.

    No Presidential directive, no statement of policy about what a nation can do to avoid being “terrorist”, no creation of new, special courts to handle trials which clearly cannot be handled by a civilian court, no overhauling of rules about intelligence collection…we are adrift. Our leadership is AWOL. Both parties are equally to blame. As are the people.

    Obama shows no signs of even knowing about any of this. Bush certainly didn’t. The Congress is asleep. I have a hunch what will wake them up…and when it happens, because we have not changed our ways, we will be unprepared, and perhaps slide into dictatorship. We should be able to have some fun, at least, shooting politicians.

  12. Houswife remarked: “We installed a gov. that has very little allegiance to the people: It looks and smells as a Vichy gov. Corruption is a minor deficiency!”

    I resent that. Comparing the government of the United States of America with the corrupt Vichy regime is an outrage– Oh. Wait. Were you talking about the Karzai government of Afghanistan…? You’ll have to be more specific. I’m still not sure.

  13. whose delusional eagerness to refight Vietnam bubbles over at the slightest excuses
    I don’t want to refight Vietnam pre-1973 Paris Peace; I want the terms of the Peace agreement to be enFORCED. The political victory of the anti-war folk, like FM, was the victory of post-Peace war-mongering Communists, and their re-education camps / thousands murdered in Vietnam; millions murdered in Cambodia.

    Those who prefer genocide to US war against the genocidal have a different opinion than I — but while honestly accept that supporting war means Americans die, the anti-war folk seldom accept that their position means communists/ terrorists will win and rule and murder thousands. Over 2.5 mil. were murdered, in my lifetime (unlike WW II), due to the US being unwilling to continue fighting against communism in Indo-China post-1973.

    What is delusional is those pretending that such deaths don’t matter. Delusional AND hypocritical, because if the deaths of locals by the tens and hundreds of thousands don’t matter when terrorists or communists are doing the murdering, then they can’t matter so when dozens or hundreds are killed by the US led fighting. (I’m also deeply saddened by the genocide in Darfur.)

    Historical fact in Vietnam: far more civilians were killed in the 5 years after the US finished pulling out troops in 1973, then in the preceding 9 post-’64 Tonkin years; or even the post-’56 no election (of Ho Chi Minh) years. During the Nixon Vietnamization of the war, not enough training and support was given, for a long enough time, to the (corrupt, incompetent, cowardly) S. Viet US allies. The US needs to learn how to have less corrupt, more competent, more brave allies — who are unlikely to be the bootlicking types our own politicians are most comfy with. In Iraq, it seems we are learning and applying the lessons, at least for brave and competent, if still also too corrupt.

    Tribal cantons were not used in Iraq, but perhaps could have been to more quickly identify local majority tribe leaders who were more modern/ human rights oriented. The US can’t choose the local leaders directly, but can usually veto one or two of the worst.

    In ‘victory’, the US won’t rule Afghanistan, Afghans will. Afghans who are more human rights oriented than the Taliban. In defeat, as happened in ’75 in Vietnam, murderers will rule and there will be mass murder on a horrific scale.

    Tho perhaps not as much murder as Darfur has seen, and since most of the US hasn’t minded those deaths, and neither FM nor most readers have minded, it might well be less conversationally dominant than Afghanistan is today. Whereas my criteria for fighting includes as a value the minimization of the total civilians killed, it’s not clear that the anti-war folk (who celebrate the US loss in Vietnam/ communist victory & Killing Fields) place much value on locals murdered by locals.

    Almost everything about the Afghanistan has close parallels in the Vietnam War. We don’t see that because we prefer not to know.
    I fully agree with the ideas of parallels, so please look at Indo-China after the US left in 1973 and tell me how preferable it was that (Russian backed) Commies took over S. Vietnam and (Chinese backed) Commies took over Cambodia. When I see what happened after the US left w/o winning, I don’t want the US to leave until a better, stronger, Afghan nation/ confederacy is established.

    And I continue to believe a Swiss model of Cantons would be far preferable to a strong centralized nation state.
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    FM reply: Thank you Tom, for providing more evidence supporting my assertions. I esp love your counterfactual “if” statements, so similar in their delusional nature to those of the Left (e.g., “If only everybody thought as one and lived together in peace!”).

    “Over 2.5 mil. were murdered, in my lifetime (unlike WW II), due to the US being unwilling to continue fighting against communism in Indo-China post-1973.”

    IF ONLY the US continued fighting until … forever, those people in Vietnam and Cambodia would not have been killed. Let’s genuflect before Tom Grey’s insights, stated with such confidence they must come directly from God. Note how he confidently attributes those deaths to the US, a tactic much like that used by extreme Leftists.

    I urge Tom to recruit legions to bring his ideas to the world! Tracts like this should be a big hit at high school PTA meetings, following which enthusiastic parents will persuade their children to enlist in your endless crusades. Also hit golf courses, to raise the necessary funds. A free-market war, run without oppressive government extorting support!

    “And I continue to believe a Swiss model of Cantons would be far preferable to a strong centralized nation state.”

    But you love even more a “strong centralized nation state” that can wage your crusades. When choosing between crusades/strong State and “Swiss model”, you spend more of your energy on the former.

  14. FM on #14: “I esp love your counterfactual “if” statements, so similar in their delusional nature to those of the Left (e.g., “If only everybody thought as one and lived together in peace!”).

    Hey, I resemble that remark! (rimshot)

  15. FM: “Tom Grey whose delusional eagerness to refight Vietnam bubbles over at the slightest excuses
    Tom replies: “I don’t want to refight Vietnam pre-1973 Paris Peace; I want the terms of the Peace agreement to be enFORCED.”

    Try to imagine if the US had watched Dien Bien Phu and taken note of the French and told them Colonialism is wrong then STAYED out of VN. How many deaths would then be “on our hands”? Such silliness as yours I have not read in years, now it arises AGAIN….my gawd we lost 50K and 500k wounded.

    You throw numbers around like an undertaker. Or a Recruiter.
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    FM reply: That was in general the Eisenhower response, ratified by the Democratic Party’s leaders (esp LBJ) and the UK. The “best and the brightest” of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations were too smart for such inaction. The rest is history.

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