Posted by: Schuyler R. Thorpe | May 25, 2010

One War After Another Eating Away At Military Strength


WASHINGTON — It would seem that President Obama is totally in control of his military policies. He promised to get us out of Iraq victoriously, and it appears that that will happen next year. He swore he would get us deeper into Afghanistan, in order first to win, so that then he could withdraw our troops.

Only this last weekend, speaking at West Point again, he seemed to be outlining a “new national security doctrine” far from George W. Bush’s super-aggressive pre-emptive war doctrine. Obama’s ideas would focus on participating with global institutions and focusing on a “new national order” based not on wildcat warfare but on diplomacy and ameliorating engagement.

“The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times,” he told the cadets. “Countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing its wounds.”

Of Iraq, he said, the U.S. is poised to end its combat operations this summer. It will leave behind “an Iraq that provides no safe haven to terrorists; a democratic Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant.” For service in Afghanistan, where many of these cadets will surely be headed, he pledged “the full support of a proud and grateful nation,” while at the same time warning of a “tough fight” ahead as American troops help the Afghan people rebuild their society so they themselves can battle the Taliban and other extremists on their own.

Now, all of this sounds noble and efficient and workable (and worldly), and the president always uses his words elegantly, but something doesn’t seem quite right to me. It’s like a catch in your throat when you want to swallow something whole and can’t.

I have thought from the beginning of Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency three plus years ago that there was something strange about his analysis of George W.’s wars. Even though he had been against the Iraq war, he seemed to have little sense of threat about Afghanistan. And for those of us who have been through Vietnam, Cambodia, Somalia, Lebanon, Nicaragua and Iraq, this seemed strange. In fact, I wrote during this period several times that I feared it was Afghanistan that would do him in.

There is a certain devastatingly repetitious pattern to these “small wars” that have obsessed the U.S.: They involve nations of virtually no importance to America; they are led by small groups of American military adventurers and not supported by the majority of the people; they make the U.S. highly unpopular everywhere; they are immensely costly to America, for whom they reap virtually no benefits; and in the end, the nation tends to lose in blood, in reputation and in wealth.

Take the Iraq war, which of course started in the late winter of 2003, as the love child of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. It may look to the casual viewer of the news, say on the Internet, where anything goes, that our side is winning in the land of “A Thousand and One Nights.” Yet suicide bombers keep savagely tearing the country apart, electoral recounts have left the country without a government at all, and former Saddam Baathists in the North are threatening to take over again when the Yanks leave.

Then take Afghanistan, the first war, which began right after the 9/11 attacks on America. The greatest power on Earth has been fighting in this bewildering tribal wilderness for nearly nine years, and American troops are only now being removed from remote and empty valleys where they have been savaged by the Taliban and al-Qaida, and where they were put for reasons no one can yet comprehend. Already, 200 NATO soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year compared to 119 for roughly the same period in 2009.

The last months’ major U.S. operation into Taliban-infested Kandahar in the South has brought forth few successes. Indeed, there is still no American definition of success in this war, and the military is now monitoring success through “atmospherics reporting,” which includes polling and observing levels of commerce on the streets. Behind and beyond this lurks the bothersome fact that virtually no one there knows who we are fighting in Afghanistan, or how, or why. Still, we WILL “win” over them!

Actually, there is another war going on — a war that, in the long run, is likely to be far more important to America than those two remote ones. This is the war on our Mexican border with the powerful and vicious drug cartels there threatening to destroy the country, as 23,000 have been killed by the cartels in the past three years.

Here is where Barack Obama could have his own way. This was not a war of George W.’s. This is a war that he could form for himself. Yet when the Mexican president was here last week, rather than put forward a new and ambitious military plan for border protection, Obama agreed with his counterpart and used the time to speak out against the new Arizona law trying to contain illegal immigration that could easily lead to a tragic spillover of the war into the U.S.

The Hawaiians believe in talking everything out, which is ideal in an idyllic place like Hawaii, but in Iraq? In Iran? In Burma? In Chechnya? Someday the real military mind of Barack Obama will be revealed to us; someday, we will understand. But for now, these mysteries are troubling ones.


  1. А я вот сессию сдала наконец-то!!! И кто придумал летом учиться, из года вгод, убеждаюсь, что это полный бред. Крыша едет, как у нас студентов, так и у преподов! Ну невозможно в такую жару сидеть в душных аудиториях.
    Кстати, те кто скажет, что кондиционер – это спасение в жару, глубоко ошибаются. У нас в группе 2 человек с бронхитом слегли!!!
    В общем, всем студентам – сил и упорства в сдаче экзаменов, а тем кто сдал – поздравляю с началом лета для нас!!! УРА!!!!

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