Summary: My writings began in 2003 with analysis of the Pentagon’s obviously false reports about victory in Afghanistan. Fifteen years later, William Lind shows that little has changed. Anger is the only rational response by a free people to this. Our response will reveal, again, what we have become.
By William S. Lind at Traditional Right, 7 January 2019.
Posted with his generous permission.
It’s intellectual bankruptcy, since we still give DoD almost unimaginable sums of money.
According to the December 28 New York Times, the Pentagon has finally made its moral and intellectual bankruptcy official. With regard to our failed war in Afghanistan, the Times reported that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (USMC), said that the Taliban “are not losing.” The general is correct. The Taliban are not losing because they have won. All that remains is working out the details of their assumption of power and our departure. To his credit, President Trump recognizes that reality.
But merely presiding over our defeat is apparently not enough for General Dunford. In a truly breathtaking admission of strategic incompetence and intellectual bankruptcy, the general went on to say according to the Times …
“’If someone has a better idea than we have right now, which is to support the Afghans and put pressure on the terrorist groups in the region, I’m certainly open to dialogue on that,’ General Dunford said at a panel sponsored by The Washington Post earlier this month.”
Wow. I doubt Moltke Jr. or even Keitel, whom the Fuehrer described as having the mind of a hotel doorman, sank that low. Has General Dunford considered asking the charwoman who cleans his office? Perhaps he could talk to his milkman or egg lady. Certainly his driver should be consulted; after all he has some idea where he is going, which general Dunford, after sixteen years of war and several thousand American dead, admittedly does not. In the long annals of military incompetence that’s still one for the history books. Clio should award General Dunford the Golden Trash Can, First Class, with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.
Let us imagine, for a moment, that we are a Prussian officer sent to advise General Dunford on how to turn a lost war around (That’s what happens when you fart at the dinner table on board the Hohenzollern). Taking the General’s statement quoted above as a description of his strategy, we see that “supporting the Afghans” has no meaning because it is a war of Afghans against Afghans. As to “putting pressure on the terrorist groups”, “terrorists” simply means “the other side” and “pressure” means tactical pinpricks with no strategic impact. It is seldom possible to reverse strategic failure at the tactical level, and kleckern, nicht klotzen is a prescription for failure at all levels of war.
So to begin we need to shift our focus to a strategic level. I suspect even General Dunford knows that the Taliban’s strategic center of gravity is its support by Pakistan. Take that away, and the Taliban is walking on air. How might that be done? Recognize that so long as the current Afghan government is aligned with India, Pakistan has no choice but to support the Taliban. Pakistan’s threat is India, and Pakistan needs Afghanistan as an ally to offer it some strategic depth. Above all, it cannot have a hostile Afghanistan putting Pakistan in a two-front situation. So our first step is to give the current Afghan government a (secret, not public) ultimatum: cut all ties to India and become a loyal and subservient ally of Pakistan. If they won’t, our troops and money go home. The money, more than the troops, will concentrate their thinking.
When the Taliban sees this move and realizes the strategic threat it represents, offer them a peace that secures our limited objective while rewarding them. Our objective going into Afghanistan was to deprive Al Qaeda of a base. We have no quarrel with the Taliban per se. So, we offer to recognize a Taliban-led Afghanistan as long as they do not invite back groups that seek to attack the American homeland. Al Qaeda have worn out its welcome in Afghanistan before 9/11 and it now has more useful bases in other countries. Plus, the Taliban is already fighting ISIS within Afghanistan. As part of a peace deal, we could offer to support the Taliban in that fight, not with troops but with the all-important ammunition in 4GW, money.
I doubt General Dunford will be willing to heed Prussian advice. But if he’s asking the whole world for input, he might recall that these services send their best and brightest young officers to serve the members of The Joint Chiefs of Staff. As Chairman, he is well within his rights to say to those young officers, many who will have served in Afghanistan, what he said on the Post’s panel: if you’ve got better ideas than what we are now doing, please share them with me. I suspect he would to get some useful feedback, perhaps along the lines I’ve outlined here.
Or he could just ask the charwoman. Even she is likely to come up with something better than doing more of what has not worked in sixteen years.
Our senior generals at work, planning to lose more wars.
About the author
William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. He has a Master’s Degree in History from Princeton University in 1971. He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 to 1976 and held a similar position with Senator Gary Hart of Colorado from 1977 to 1986. See his bio at Wikipedia.
Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (1985), co-author with Gary Hart of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (1986), and co-author with William H. Marshner of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (1987).
He’s perhaps best known for his articles about the long war, now published as On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009. See his other articles about a broad range of subjects…
- His posts at TraditionalRight.
- His articles about geopolitics at The American Conservative.
- His articles about transportation at The American Conservative.
For More Information
Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- The Core Competence of America’s Military Leaders.
- Careerism and Psychopathy in the US Military leadership — by GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired).
- William Lind looks at our generals, sees “rank incompetence”.
- How did the US Army’s leadership problem grow so bad? — by Don Vandergriff (Major, US Army, retired).
- Reforming the US Army: can be done, must be done.
- Officers can reform our military and make America stronger! – Only the will to do so is lacking.
- Admiral Rickover’s gift to us: showing that we can reform America’s military.
- Trump chooses another general best suited to lose wars.
This helps explain why we lose.
By Harlan K. Ullman (Navy Institute Press, 2017).
See the preface. From the publisher …
“Why, since the end of World War II, has the United States either lost every war it started or failed in every military intervention it prosecuted? Harlan Ullman’s new book answers this most disturbing question, a question Americans would never think of even asking because this record of failure has been largely hidden in plain sight or forgotten with the passage of time.
“The most straightforward answer is that presidents and administrations have consistently failed to use sound strategic thinking and lacked sufficient knowledge or understanding of the circumstances prior to deciding whether or not to employ force.
“Making this case is an in-depth analysis of the records of presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama and Donald Trump in using force or starting wars. His recommended solutions begin with a “brains-based” approach to sound strategic thinking to address onne of the major causes of failure —-the inexperience of too many of the nation’s commanders-in-chief. Ullman reinforces his argument through the use of autobiographical vignettes that provide a human dimension and insight into the reasons for failure, in some cases making public previously unknown history.
“The clarion call of Anatomy of Failure is that both a sound strategic framework and sufficient knowledge and understanding of the circumstance that may lead to using force are vital. Without them, failure is virtually guaranteed.”