Sunday, November 1, 2009

For those that are not on FaceBook

For those not on facebook, I've reproduced Vern's essay below:

I've been asked what I think of the Matthew Hoh resignation in particular and the situation in Afghanistan in general. For those of you who know me well, you know that you've now asked for it. Pardon me while I get on my soap box and begin my ramble.

For those who want to read his actual resignation letter, go here; It is a good segway into my own penmanship below...

Well...I know enough to know that this is a very, very complex environment over here and we are missing the boat by #1 not having a coherent, national strategy and #2 by not having a coherent, national strategy...

Are we trying to deny Al Qaeda sanctuary, as many would say we invaded Afghanistan in the first place for? if so, then why aren't we in Pakistan with troops? Al Qaeda has sanctuary there. why aren't we in Yemen? Al Qaeda has sanctuary there. why aren't we in the Horn of Africa (HOA) in more force? Al Qaeda has sanctuary there. Why aren't we bullying our way around spots in western Europe where a good portion of the 9-11 attacks were planned? No...that isn't the reason.

Are we trying to stablize the region? if so, then why don't we stabilze the region by protecting Pakistan's govt instead of trying to rebuild Afghanistan in our own image? After all, everyone knows Pakistan and India hold the nukes we're worried about. India and Pakistan hate one another and they both have nukes. Oh, and both countries have extremist organizations who want to overthrow their governments. Did I mention they both have nukes?

The fact remains that Pakistan doesn't want a stable, unified, pro-western Afghanistan on its western flank. They're pursuing and trying to crush Taliban in their own country (because they pose a threat to their government), while they simultaneously support and protect the Taliban who're fighting us in Afghanistan. Why? They want an unstable, dependent (upon them) Afghanistan on their flank to serve as a nice buffer between them, Iran, and the "Stans" of the former Soviet Union. This also allows them to focus on their troubles with India without worrying over their "back door".

Simultaneously, Iran doesn't want a unified, stable Pro-U.S. government on their eastern flank that can be used as a launching pad for attacks on them. They don't seem to be "heavily" involved in this theater...yet. But it may be only a matter of time if the situation does actually start to improve in our favor here.

So the question remains, why are we investing so much blood and national treasure (which BTW we aren't going to have much treasure at the rate we're going...but that is another subject for another time) in this effort? Why are investing this treasure and placing all our chips on an Afghan central govt that is completely corrupt and only concerned about gaining and maintaining power for itself and their related cronies? Why are we insisting on changing a culture that doesn't understand or truly want a democratic form of government?

Bottom line for me is that I still am a Soldier and a professional. I'll carry out my duty to the best of my ability. If someone ever decides that our strategy is to rebuild Afghanistan and that is the strategy, then I say that GEN MacChrystal is almost right. I'd take a SWAG and say we need at least 60,000 more troops though, instead of 40,000. We need to saturate this austere and compartmentalized country and control and secure the populace. Simultaneously we need to enable the LOCAL governance to take root. The central government doesn't mean anything to the average Afghan. Simultaneously we need to build (double in size) and mentor an Afghan Security Force that is undermanned, under-equipped, under-trained, and has no solid NCO corps on which to build. Did I happen to mention that Afghanistan has no true natural resources to speak of to produce income? Oh, wait a minute, I forgot about the poppie/heroin production...largest in the world. Anyway, I digress...

Afghanistan has not had a stable central government since the monarchy of King Mohammed Zahir Shah who was overthrown in 1973, after which he lived in exile in Italy. In my opinion, our first mistake was in 2002 when, after we had ousted the Taliban, Mohammed Zahir Shah was invited back to participate in a Loya Jurga (Pashto for "grand assembly"). At that time there were open calls for a return to the monarchy. Zahir Shah himself let it be known that he would accept whatever responsibility was placed on him by the Loya Jirga. However he was obliged to publicly step aside at the behest of the good 'ol U.S. of A. because many of delegates to the Loya Jirga were prepared to vote for Zahir Shah (a.k.a. monarchy) and block the US-backed Hamid Karzai...and Karzai was our "man in the bag" to be point for creating a democracy in Afghanistan. Zahir Shah died in 2007.

Question...why didn't we let them have their monarchy again? Why do we insist on instituting democracy on a people and a culture who aren't asking for it? Have we forgotten how our Founding Fathers fought viciously and tenaciously to achieve our own representative democracy? No one can force this form of government on another. You must want it to the point of being willing to die for it. You must have a foundational belief and understanding of the value of the individual man, as created in Jehovah God's image. You must believe and give ascent to a system of law and order that is based upon the Ten Commandments and the value of the individual.

I can tell you that I agree completely with Matthew Hoh when he said in an interview, "I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," Hoh said. Although he said his time in Zabul was the "second-best job I've ever had," his dominant experience is from the Marines, where many of his closest friends still serve. "There are plenty of dudes who need to be killed," he said of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. "I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys."

I can definitely identify with these statements. I've been deeply involved in this conflict for a while now, but my views started to shift early this year. I've had many discussions with my lovely better half on this subject. I also started reading Robert McNamara's book "In Retrospect" to gain some historical perspective on the establishment of our strategic goals and the decisions made to support those goals during the Vietnam War.

Bottom line reference President Obama determining our strategy..."Is situation X (fill in the blank) an actual or ancillary threat to the existence of the United States of America?" We've faced this question many times before and we haven't always answered right.

I ultimately have to answer the question for myself..."why am I continuing to be a part of an effort if I don't think we're going down the right path?" Well, the answer, like the problem, is complicated. I can honestly say that at the root of it all, I'm a military professional that has a skill set that many young men can still benefit from. THAT will always be good enough for me.

If any tidbit of the myriad of advice I give to various commanders, leaders, and Soldiers helps change their thinking or assists them in protecting their men while accomplishing their tactical mission...then I can sleep good at night knowing that I'm doing the right thing. I will continue to give my all every day over here and do my darndest to help win the tactical and operational fight...because that means less body bags being filled by our national treasure...our youth. fear is that we will continue to waffle and spin in circles on a strategic level while no matter what anybody does at the tactical level...those body bags keep on being filled...

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