In December 1941, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt assembled his top military advisors, he was surrounded by George Marshall, Hap Arnold, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mark Clark, Bill Donovan, Claire Chennault, Chester Nimitz, Bull Halsey, Frank Fletcher, Ray Spruance, Vinegar Joe Stillwell, George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur. These people, along with the likes of Chesty Puller, Tex Hill, Bill Darby and Pappy Boyington were brilliant, daring, outspoken and personally courageous, and they won the war for the United States. Today as President Obama looks around his conference table, he is surrounded by no one. The same high caliber of officers that existed in the 1940’s is still in the U.S. military, but they are barred from the General and Flag ranks. The preference today is for mediocre consensus-bureaucrats instead of military leaders. A feeble Congress then rubber-stamps the inferior selections.
What this means is that the world class U.S. military is commanded by a third-rate corps of senior officers. The effect is seen directly on the Afghan battlefield. These Generals do not represent the troops and are not dedicated to victory. Instead they meekly advise the President, generally telling him what he wants to hear and what is politically acceptable. Taliban and al-Qaeda safe havens remain in Pakistan with no General or Admiral willing to publicly insist that such is unacceptable. They do not push for better squad rifles, instead saddling U.S. soldiers with the inferior M4 which does not have the range of Taliban weapons and is prone to jam at high rates of fire. The soldiers’ body armor remains unnecessarily heavy and inferior to the state of the art (i.e., layered titanium and rigid Kevlar). Likewise the military’s helmet continues to be substandard in concussion protection to that worn by some pro football players.
Billions in Afghan reconstruction aid continues to be squandered with no one seeming to care. USAID officials need to be in the field every day overseeing their projects but they generally refuse to leave the comfort of Kabul. The same can be said of the ineffective Provincial Reconstruction Teams which continue to award far more contracts than they are capable of overseeing. U.S. diplomats continue to sit in their bubble embassy cut off from the Afghan population whom they are supposed to be courting. Most diplomats refuse to learn Dari or Pashto and most serve only a superficial 10 months in-country. They then move on to their next “real” diplomatic posting. While the Generals and Admirals pay lip service to the importance of the civilian “surge,” they refuse to criticize its failure in Afghanistan, fearful of offending the easily offended Secretary of State.
This reporter wrote an August 27, 2009, article entitled: “U.S. Military Strategy in Afghanistan Doomed to Failure.” It detailed the-then problems and put forward some solutions. Successful counterinsurgency is a slow and careful process which must have a goal of zero civilian casualties. It requires a light footprint and a small sustainable force where every member is language-trained and is deployed for multi-year tours in order to bond with their Afghan counter-parts. Such a process cannot be rushed and cannot be subjected to deadlines. Today all the problems listed in 2009, remain and all of the proposed solutions continue to be ignored.
On June 9, 2011, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its hearing on the nomination of Ryan Crocker to be the new U.S. Ambassador in Kabul. Chairman John Kerry gave each Senator only a few minutes each to ask questions, ensuring that the hearing would be perfunctory. Mr. Crocker deftly dodged most of the questions. He was repeatedly asked about a new report that once again found that Afghan aid was being squandered by the State Department. Crocker said he had not studied the report and therefore he could not respond to their questions. The Senators should have told him that his nomination would be on hold until he had studied the report. Instead (incredibly) the Senators thanked Crocker for refusing to prepare and for failing to answer their questions. His appointment is expected to be rubber-stamped next week. The Foreign Relations Committee could be abolished tomorrow with no one noticing. It performs no functions under Senator Kerry other than being a platform for Senators to make dull and self-serving speeches.
As there is absolutely no chance of the Obama Administration or the Congress initiating the massive changes needed to win in Afghanistan, U.S. troops must not continue to be sacrificed. They should all be immediately withdrawn. It is the only honorable thing to do. It is important to note that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others such as Liz Cheney and Laura Bush are not sending their children to fight in Afghanistan. They know the cause is lost, but they are quite willing to sacrifice the daughters and sons of others. That is intolerable.