It’s not ‘retreat’


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

The call to send 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan ignores a crucial military principle: Don’t reinforce failure.

In civilian terms, that’s “Don’t throw good money after bad.”

Anyway, we don’t have the troops to send — unless we want to ruin our exhausted ground forces.

This is a surge too far. The Army faces the prospect of sending soldiers directly from Iraq to Afghanistan. The senior officers responsible for our soldiers’ morale and readiness are appalled.

Afghanistan is such a mess that you have to clear off tons of political garbage to reach the reality. And the reality is that, while we’ve had great success in killing our enemies across the border in Pakistan, the effort to turn Afghanistan into a Jefferson- ian paradise has failed utterly.

A serious military thinker would draw this obvious lesson: Reinforce our efforts to destroy al Qaeda and its auxiliaries. But don’t waste another soldier’s life trying to get Afghans to become good Americans.

President George W. Bush did, indeed, make a mistake in Afghanistan — but not the one the left loves to decry. Rather than doing too little, he aimed for far too much. His administration began the hopeless nation-building effort.

The myth that we should have sent more troops to Afghanistan early on is the equivalent of arguing that having 30 surgeons crowding the operating room is better than having one or two experts wielding the scalpels. The kind of war we’re fighting in AfPak — combating al Qaeda — demands finesse over numbers.

Yet the Bush and Obama administrations clumsily poured in aid to “help” Afghanistan — which merely enriched Afghan government insiders. We backed crooks because they were “our” crooks — and nothing got better. Instead, the situation worsened as we sent more troops and money.

Now we’re told, “We can’t retreat” — we have to surge still more troops. Otherwise, our enemies will win . . .

That’s a murderous lie. Creating “our” Afghanistan is impossible. How many soldiers and Marines must die to appease the Brooks Brothers belligerence of pot-bellied Washington pundits who never served in uniform — and whose children are too important for that sort of thing?

It’s not a “retreat” if we announce that we’ve tried to help, but the Karzai government failed its own people. We’re caught up in a civil war in a non-country and should back the tribes that share our interests. You can’t nation-build where there’s no nation.

And it’s hardly a retreat if we maintain a compact, ferocious force on the ground that continues to kill our enemies. (In one of the strangest confluences in history, I hear Vice President Joe Biden saying what I’ve argued for many months — but, then, Biden does have a son in this fight. . .)

We, the people, shouldn’t hasten to side with those who cloak themselves with “our” political labels, whether they’re liberals who believe that nothing’s ever worth fighting for, or splinter conservatives who believe that every war’s a good war (as long as they don’t have to fight it themselves).

Let’s take stock of where we are:

* After eight years of engagement, we haven’t produced an Afghan army or police force worth a damn. Afghans won’t fight for the Karzai government. Yet the Taliban attracts plentiful volunteers willing to give their lives for their cause — and not just because they’ve been bribed. That ought to tell us something.

* Even if there were a remote chance of “fixing” Afghanistan — and there isn’t — we just don’t have the troops. Eight years of war have taken their toll. The Army’s depleted and the Marines are battle-worn. Families are disintegrating and suicide rates are up — issues that excited the left when Bush was president. We’re grinding down our forces for campaign promises and political vanity. Our military needs to catch its breath for the next real fight.

* We’re killing our own troops with politically correct Rules of Engagement that protect our enemies, all in the cause of winning the hearts and minds of Afghan villagers who just want us to leave them alone.

* Despised by its own people, the ruinous Karzai government would collapse without our support. (If you’re going to back a strongman, you should at least pick one who’s strong.)

It’s only a “retreat” if you retreat. If we re-focus our efforts on killing our enemies (the only approach that works), it ain’t going to feel like we retreated to al Qaeda.

Afghanistan was never the problem; al Qaeda was and is. Our post-9/11 punitive expedition was essential, but our later efforts to revolutionize Afghanistan were folly. As for the current alliance of necessity between the Taliban and al Qaeda inside Pakistan, both parties are trying to survive. But the Taliban’s leaders don’t trust or like bin Laden — he got them into this mess.

Let’s focus on the perps of 9/11, not on the hicks of the Hindu Kush. When our commander-in-chief called our Afghan endeavor a “war of necessity,” he was campaigning and didn’t have a clue. Let’s give him a pass on this one, if he does the right thing and narrows the mission back to destroying al Qaeda.

God help me, I find myself on the side of Joe Biden on this one. But I’ll pray for my soul later. Right now, I just want to stop killing our troops for a hopeless non-strategy and get back to killing our enemies. ExileStreet

NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post

Ralph Peters new novel, “The War After Armageddon,” is on the street. He is Fox News’ strategic analyst. His most recent book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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