If we are at war, all of us are at war

Terry Garlock's picture

I’m no expert on Afghanistan, but I’ll give you something to ponder as you watch the news unfold.

Last week’s big story was the confidential report from President Obama’s appointed commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, candidly warning of possible failure in Afghanistan if we don’t switch now from a counter-terrorism strategy to a counter-insurgency strategy, and that substantially more troops are needed immediately to carry out that new strategy.

The difference is, briefly, that counter-terrorism prioritizes finding and destroying the enemy, while counter-insurgency prioritizes gaining the trust of the population so that the enemy is denied the one thing they must have – sanctuary and support from the population.

The general’s confidential report was leaked to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, appearing to some to be either an attempt to publicly force the president’s hand to comply with the request, or to give the president cover with the anti-war contingent in his base should he choose to do as the general has requested.

Oh, what tangled webs we weave. Unfortunately, there is jeopardy in not only the leak, but in the public agonizing currently going on as the president and his supporters argue that they need time to carefully consider all options before such a major commitment.

A counter-insurgency strategy not only requires more boots on the ground, but it implies added layers of caution in war-fighting that will increase our casualties.

Let’s speak plainly; that means more U.S. troops wounded and killed.

When attacking an enemy with brute force, civilian collateral damage is inevitable. As the priority shifts to protecting the civilian population, extra caution might mean when U.S. troops in a firefight call desperately for artillery or air support, the answer might be, “No!”

Sometimes the price is that our enemy, who knows our rules of engagement as soon as they are printed, will hide and attack from amidst civilians, helping the international media point the atrocity finger in our direction, if and when we shoot back.

Protecting non-combatants sounds virtuous enough to be a good thing. But try to imagine yourself, or your son, with a rifle in a losing firefight with a superior force, and consider these rules: no air or artillery support unless our troops are certain that no civilians are present, and if any civilians are present when our troops are in contact with the enemy, they are to break contact, retreat. Does it sound like we’re following the basic principle of overwhelming our enemy?

Forgetting about the added risk to our troops for a moment, gaining the trust and allegiance of the Afghan population will not be easy. It will require bridging severe, perhaps insurmountable, barriers of language, culture, religion and fears. Theirs are foreign to us, and ours to them.

For the Afghan people to turn away from the Taliban, to risk their wrath to inform on them, to help us defeat them, the Afghans have to know we are committed to protect them for the long haul, that they have an Afghan government they can trust. Otherwise, why would they ally with us and risk themselves, their family, their village?

Ask yourself what the Afghan people now see? They know they have a corrupt government in their capitol that serves only itself and a favored few, and they only have to turn on TV news to witness the U.S. dithering about what to do in that country; they certainly don’t see the steadfast commitment the Afghans require to confidently turn to us and away from the Taliban.

Don’t mistake my criticism to be an argument for a long-term commitment in that country, I don’t know what we should do there, and I’m only raising food for deeper thought. But while our troops are in the danger zone, leaked reports and public dithering in the administration works directly against us, and might get some of our own killed.

I don’t have the answers, but I do know if President Obama asked me, I would choose in a heartbeat a strategy that makes protection of our own troops the highest priority, even at the cost of civilian collateral damage.

And I know one other thing. If I had the bully pulpit of national TV, I would inform and remind the American people that it is not just the U.S. volunteer military that is at war in Afghanistan, never mind our incidental allies; it is all of us who are at war, you and me, until all of our troops are out of harm’s way.

[Terry Garlock lives in Peachtree City. His email is tgarlock@mindspring.com.]

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carbonunit52's picture
Submitted by carbonunit52 on Wed, 09/30/2009 - 7:53pm.

No one wins wars in Afghanistan. The US has been beating the drums of war for eight years now, and it is time to stop, bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, then rebuild our Army so it is in good shape if we really need it. A lack of war was not the problem with Afghanistan, so why does anyone think that war can be the solution? One thing is certain, it is way too late for the US to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

It's not easy being the carbonunit

Submitted by normal on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 5:01pm.

The bad guys are staying in the mosgues because they know we wont bomb them. We just found out today that on saturday that is where about 200 of the rag heads were hiding when they attacked our outpost. So this is simple, bomb the crap out of the mosgues. That would make a statement that no place is safe for the bad guys. THis is war, kill or be killed. Enough of this its ok to shoot but be careful not to hurt anyone. But then again I guess we are still trying to figure out why chicago didnt get the olympics, that seems to be more important.

carbonunit52's picture
Submitted by carbonunit52 on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 5:37pm.

that John McCain and Sarah Palin did not win the election. The problem was not that Afghans were in an mosque in Afghanistan, the problem was that this outpost was out there in the first place. Should you want to see what a world wide holy war really looks like, start bombing mosques. It is time that the US sobered up and gets off of Afghanistan

It's not easy being the carbonunit

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Wed, 09/30/2009 - 8:29pm.

You obviously know NOTHING of which you speak here. "Rebuild our Army"? Last I checked the US has the best Army on this planet. Your whole post reeks of ignorance. Try discussing things you might have a smidge of knowledge about.

carbonunit52's picture
Submitted by carbonunit52 on Wed, 09/30/2009 - 9:13pm.

Thanks for the feedback.

It's not easy being the carbonunit

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Wed, 09/30/2009 - 10:09pm.

bravo. The brits had a time of it in the 1830's. The Soviets, etc. Here is the real deal though in my opinion. Pull us all out, but if they use it as a base for terrorism and retaliation, then have no problem bombing the crap out the place, collateral damage non-concerned. Have such a heavy retaliation that the populace polices its own. Yeah it is war by remote control, but what else are we going to do about it? We do not have the back bone and intestinal fortitude to do it and keep us safe here.

meanoldconservatives's picture
Submitted by meanoldconservatives on Thu, 10/01/2009 - 10:23am.

"We do not have the back bone and intestinal fortitude to do it and keep us safe here."

I disagree somewhat. I think "we" have it. I just think our leaders don't. Unfortunately, it's going to take some more 9/11's to jog some memories. The battleground can and will be here again, unless we prevent it. Terribly distasteful to some....

Submitted by Davids mom on Thu, 10/01/2009 - 10:40am.

Many of us were puzzled when we were sending men and women to Iraq - and being asked to 'shop'. I think this time 'leaders' want to know what the purpose is (strategy) in Afghanistan. Do we want to overtake a government or take out Bin Laden? Can we train the Afganistans to assist along with troops from NATO to defend their own citizens while our purpose is to get Bin Laden? Once the purpose is clearly defined, then the generals/professionals can inform the President what is needed, when, and where. Many believe that had the 'leaders' paid attention to intelligence (11 Saudi's learning to fly at an American school and not taking landing lessons) 9/11 would have been stopped as current plans by terrorists have been stopped. Evidently, our intelligence has infiltrated cells right here in the US. I pray daily that we do not have to suffer another 9/11 disaster.

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Thu, 10/01/2009 - 8:26am.

Obviously another broken promise from the "BIG O". He said this was where we needed to be.. The DEMS even though they voted for it said we need to get out of Iraq and go back the Afghanistan.. Well here we are.. and?

"When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." The strongest reason to keep and "Bear" arms.. Thomas Jefferson

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