Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Firstest with the Mostest

That is one of the most succinct summations of how battles are won. A guy named Nathan Bedford Forest coined it. It means the first person with enough forces at the point of contact or the one who can get those forces there fastest wins. One just looks at those three squadrons of Dauntless dive bombers at Midway arriving over the Japanese First Air Fleet within five minutes and leaving three of the four carriers in flames. Or forcing the crossing at Remagen, after showing initiative to take advantage of an unanticipated boon, it was the American Army who shove enough forces across the Rhine to hold the bridgehead and keep going.

Now we have Lt. Gen. McChrystal, who was appointed the commander of the Afghanistan theater of operations by Sec. of Defense Gates this year, who has submitted a report to the White House that more troops are needed in Afghanistan to ensure stabilization while Afghan security forces are trained to take over. And now going on three weeks, there has sat the report. It seems the president has not made a decision yet. He has taken his eye off the ball in Afghanistan to deal with self-inflicted domestic troubles it seems. Senators like Carl Levin of his own party are voicing opposition to Afghanistan while public opinion to support the mission keeps slipping.

We have seen such before when it came to Iraq. But President Bush had the courage to change strategy, deal with party dissension, and gut out public disapproval to see Iraq turn the corner towards stability.

But there are differences between Iraq and Afghanistan. In the 'stan the village or family loyalty is more important than loyalty to the country. Also the lines of supply are more fragile - supply lines through a thoroughly restive Pakistan can result in hijacked convoys while the air bridge through Manas is under constant threat of closure due to Russian objections. And that is the true rub of any delay by the Obama administration, it takes a long time to build up the forces Gen. McChrystal is requesting. Every delay means we approach that end-game in which the NATO forces watch the country fall back into Taliban hands. These are the consequences the West faces and instead Obama focuses on domestic issues like trying to force the governor of New York not to run for re-election or deny when a tax is a tax on a Sunday talk show.

Remember when these guys used to complain that President Bush was "distracted" from Afghanistan by Iraq? If the U.S. is attacked by terrorists on Obama's watch, it may be written that Americans died because we had an insurance salesman when we needed a commander in chief. - Wall street Journal

Do we really want that as an epitaph for our noble mission in Afghanistan, we lost because we had an insurance salesman in charge?

And if that does not spur you to sound off and have your voice heard, then think of all the soldiers from NATO in Afghanistan. If that country fails, they will be like Xenophon's Ten Thousand - cut off in a foreign hostile land. But this time it will not be Persians betraying their Greek mercenaries, it will be the 'intellectual elites' of the United States betraying them. We owe it to our soldiers to keep faith with them after they have given so much.


AndyJ said...

My brother and I discuss this point regularly and we can't come up with a reasonable answer...Why is it that we can take a kid off of the street and in 3-4 months make him one of the finest fighting machines in the world? And here we are in Iraq and the 'Stan for over 8 years training their men and they can't field a respectable army and police force. Something is wrong here.

Anna said...

I really don't have an answer for that. I know US forces do go outside the wire with Afghan forces. What might be complicating putting together a coherent strategy with Afghan forces is the whole NATO setup with wildly differing Rules of Engagement. But that is just a guess. I just hope we have not been repeating the misuse of the CIDG units in Vietnam.

Anonymous said...