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Old 06-27-2010, 07:52 PM   #81
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A) Remove the Taliban from power, B) capture Osama bin Laden. Pretty clearly defined at first, with support from all of the above. Did A, didn't do B, and then things got confused. The problem is nobody knows how to end a war anymore.
Over the decades I've played many a wargames both board and computer versions. Many of them were quite complicated, I was always remember the victory conditions for fascinating Vietnam game. For the US player to win the game required so many millions of South Vietnamese had to be under government control, the approval of the South Vietnamese government had to be so high, the US commitment and causalities could not exceed a certain limit. The number of Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops in the South had to be very low, etc. etc. More than a paragraph worth.

In contrast the victory conditions for the North Vietnamese were extremely simple. The North Vietnamese player wins by not losing.


In an insurgency, the guerrillas win by avoiding being annihilated and exhausting the patience of the government. The recent victory of the Sri Lankan over the Tamil Tiger was unusual not for its length, a mere 33 years, but for its decisiveness. I think being on a island is helpful.

Normally insurgency just slowly fade away into irrelevancy which is why it is so difficult to declare victory.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:25 PM   #82
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Really? I know how. Bring the troops home. If we need something for them to do, they can police the border enforcing existing law.
+1
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:40 PM   #83
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I think one aspect that the author does not acknowledge is - draft Vs volunteer.

The protests against the Vietnam war began in earnest when Johnston got rid of most of the deferments - the middle and upper class were now in jeopardy of getting drafted; they were also people in position of authority - journalists, politicians, moneyed. Also, the health care for the troops has improved and kept the deaths down - if they were higher there might be more protests.

So if we really want to change the threshold for war we should bring back the draft. "civic obligation" might mean "draft".


"The responsibility facing the American people is clear. They need to reclaim ownership of their army. They need to give their soldiers respite, by insisting that Washington abandon its de facto policy of perpetual war. Or, alternatively, the United States should become a nation truly "at" war, with all that implies in terms of civic obligation, fiscal policies and domestic priorities. Should the people choose neither course -- and thereby subject their troops to continuing abuse -- the damage to the army and to American democracy will be severe. "
I think the author is being disingenuous here. There are a huge advantage of a professional army vs a draft army. Among the most important is significantly lower casualties not only for our troops but for civilians. I don't want to minimize the sacrifices that young men and woman and their families on their multiple deployments to lousy places.

However, a little perspective is in order, roughly speaking about 2 soldiers a day have died in our 9 year 'war on terror' and about 10 times than number wounded. Military service is inherently dangerous and even in peacetime a fair number are killed and injured. More over many of these young man, are adrenaline junkies, and if they were not in the military they'd be riding motorcycles, hang gliding, mountain climbing, sreet drag racing and other dangerous things young guys do. In addition, quite a few would be involved in gangs back home where there chance of death or injury are even greater than in the military.

But 2 a day is not a huge number compared in other activities (about the same a bike riding) and is positively small compared to other wars. 60 years ago this month the Korean War started more than 36,000 US serviceman died, and their lasting legacy is 25 million South Korean they defended have now grown to almost 50 million. Most importantly they have been spared the nightmare of living under Kim il-Sung and his equally nutty son's regime.

Now the Korean war is vastly different than wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I can't help thinking I'd much rather America fight a 9 years war that defends the citizens of two countries against awfully regimes and cost 6,000 soldiers than a 3 year war that cost 36,000.

One thing that hasn't changed is the value of veteran soldiers. For thousands of years professional armies with veteran soldiers have been able to defeat armies of conscripts and inflict causalities many times there own. Movies, and books of draft wars of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam are filled with stories of replacement draftees being assigned to a unit in combat and killed the next day. Even more dangerous are the 90 day wonder officer who by virtue of their college degree are given command of a platoon and manage to kill both their men and themselves by their inexperienced. Bringing back the draft means more body bags, which is why no military leaders are calling for it.

Just as importantly, I question if a drafted army can ever be successful in winning a counter-insurgency war. A draftee in Vietnam with 36 days 8 hours left in country, would think he saw gunfire at house. He would order an air strike a few minutes later the house would be obliterated. Once the house was gone his problem was solved. It really didn't matter if the house had Viet Cong, or South Vietnamese villager and the killing the latter may have turned their two brothers and an uncle in enemies. In contrast, a professional soldier in Afghanistan would have a different approach. He might also have 36 days left on deployment, but odds are this is is 2nd or 3rd deployment and he has four year commitment ahead of him. This gives him a much better chance of appreciating that it is really important to avoid killing innocent Afghanistan citizens. Before calling in the airstrike, he'd consult with his squad and they may conclude that perhaps the light they saw was actually a lantern and not a gunshot. He knows that he screws up that some other unit maybe bare the consequences, so they take the time to investigate. He knows that he may be coming back if not to this specific place than to one like it. Sure investigating the house is more risky than ordering an air strike, but that is what being a professional is about.
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:21 PM   #84
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Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, for the same reasons the founding fathers were leary of a standing army: if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Lots of opportunities for misadventure...

But there's more to warfare these days than grabbing a musket from over the hearth...
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Old 06-28-2010, 01:07 AM   #85
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Examples: Publicly stating that the US will begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2012 probably briefs well in DC, and I'm sure it will take the pressure off a lot of politicians at a very convenient time. Guys on McChrystal's staff see plainly the devastating effects that setting a date has had on the the war--it has emboldened the Taliban and weakened the civilian government.
I think setting a date accomplishes a number of important goals:
- Lets both Afghanistan and Pakistan know that the imperial consumerists will be leaving shortly and have no further designs on running their country.
- Motivates them to get their houses in order because pretty soon they're gonna be running their own shows.
- Forces the Army's "planning process" to execute. They've had more than enough time.

I think it also forces the civilian population to acknowledge that the welfare/security gravy train is ending. They have to take responsibility for taking care of their own, and by now I'm pretty sure they understand it's not the Taliban.

I think setting a date avoids having Congress setting a date by cutting off funding. Or by having the protesters persuade Congress to cut off funding.

The staffs should have enough experience by now to understand that when the infantry grunts leave then the SF grunts will fill in behind to restart their "training" programs.
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:19 AM   #86
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Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, for the same reasons the founding fathers were leary of a standing army: if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Lots of opportunities for misadventure...

But there's more to warfare these days than grabbing a musket from over the hearth...
Ike was primary warning about the pressure by industry and government - congress - to want to spend money on the military. You can see some of it today where congress includes weapons systems in the budget that the military did not request.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:00 AM   #87
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Ike was primary warning about the pressure by industry and government - congress - to want to spend money on the military. You can see some of it today where congress includes weapons systems in the budget that the military did not request.
Exactly! Canceling a large fighter or carrier contract would mean brazillions of jobs lost, in Congresscritter X's district...
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:06 AM   #88
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While setting a date may have advantages, IMHO, they are out weighed by telling your opponent when you are going to quit.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:34 AM   #89
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Looks like the President is already signaling that the a shake up of the civilians in Afghanistan may be needed...Hmmm...Maybe he listened more than I would have given him credit for...
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:46 AM   #90
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While setting a date may have advantages, IMHO, they are out weighed by telling your opponent when you are going to quit.
+1

Setting a date is the stupidest thing we could possibly do, IMO- never heard of publishing a timeline for the enemy, and can't fathom this as a viable military strategy. This is what happens when career politicians think they can decide what is best for the military in wartime. All the enemy has to do is wait us out, regroup and then go back to making mischief in their safe-haven little third-world country.
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:53 AM   #91
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Harley wrote:
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The problem is nobody knows how to end a war anymore.
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Originally Posted by youbet View Post
Really? I know how. Bring the troops home.
There's an important difference between ending a war and quitting it.
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Old 06-28-2010, 12:06 PM   #92
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There's an important difference between ending a war and quitting it.
I think we should declare victory, leave and plan a celebration parade up 5th Ave in NYC.
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Old 06-28-2010, 12:27 PM   #93
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There's an important difference between ending a war and quitting it.
I think we should declare victory, leave and plan a celebration parade up 5th Ave in NYC.[/QUOTE]

Mission accomplished!
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Old 06-28-2010, 06:40 PM   #94
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I think setting a date avoids having Congress setting a date by cutting off funding.
Apparently setting a date won't stop Congress from setting their own date.
Link to HuffPo
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In some of the strongest terms she has used to date, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared last Friday that the United States will see "a serious drawdown" of forces in Afghanistan by July 2011 and that the House may use the power of the purse to ensure the drawdown takes place.
It looks like there's a race to see who can get credit for being the first to quit. It's perverse.
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Old 06-28-2010, 06:43 PM   #95
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+1

Setting a date is the stupidest thing we could possibly do, IMO- never heard of publishing a timeline for the enemy, and can't fathom this as a viable military strategy.
But we accomplished the goal, getting the government out from under Taliban control. If the citizens of the newly minted U.S. of Afganistan vote them back in, isn't that just democracy in action?

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This is what happens when career politicians think they can decide what is best for the military in wartime.
As opposed to what other war?

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All the enemy has to do is wait us out, regroup and then go back to making mischief in their safe-haven little third-world country.
Same thing they do without a date. Assuming we are leaving sometime.
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:14 PM   #96
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But we accomplished the goal, getting the government out from under Taliban control. If the citizens of the newly minted U.S. of Afganistan vote them back in, isn't that just democracy in action?



As opposed to what other war?



Same thing they do without a date. Assuming we are leaving sometime.
I've read a fair amount about the Taliban over the past decade, I am quite sure there wasn't a vote involved in them coming into power. Actually, prior to the Taliban the Afghanistan people "voted" for a communist/nationalist although the fairness of the vote was dubious.

Americans can be quite patient about keeping troops around when they aren't dying. For instance, it looks like we are going to be on the 3rd generation of the Kim family, who are waiting for US troops to leave so they can reunite the Korean peninsula. Imagine how demoralizing it would be to the Taliban, if Obama announced a firm date for withdrawal.

1. July 1, 2060 or
2. Within 1 year after a democratically elected government in Afghanistan asks us to leave.

One of the reason I am so excited about our troops leaving Iraq, is because the democratically elected government of Iraq asked us to get out.
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:21 PM   #97
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I don't believe indigenous irregular forces have ever been or can ever be defeated, so long as they have a safe haven in a contiguous state (see, e.g. - Cambodia, Pakistan) and an external source of supplies. They can always wait us out, whether we set a date or not. Frankly, once we start a drawdown, it will be obvious when we will be gone, more or less. There is no tactical advantage -- unlike, say, we tell them we are going to assault the village at 0500.

It has been a mystery to me since this all began why we ever thought we could "pacify" Afghanistan. Does no one in government read history books? Alexander the Great couldn't do it, the Parthian Empire couldn't do it, the British Empire couldn't do it, the Soviets couldn't do it, and we won't be able to do it. Kill Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? Fine. Kick the crap out of the Taliban so they won't dare host Al Qaeda again? Equally fine. But at some point, we have to declare victory, come home and leave them to their own godforsaken land.
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:43 PM   #98
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Indigenous irregular forces can become irrelevant. It's foolish to try to kill every one--the goal is to change the circumstances (esp societal support) so that the bad guys lose their base.

To those who doubt that setting a date-certain for withdrawal makes a difference, ask yourself: If I were the enemy commander, would that information be useful? If so, I think you've answered your question.

But the bigger impact is on our allies. Once we say we're cutting out, then the teamwork (with us) stops and every faction starts the "cutting the best deal I can with the enemy."

Setting a date will not bludgeon the "good guys" into pulling themselves together, it sets the conditions for disintegration. If we want to force an action, make our continued presence contingent on something we want. "Eh, Karzai, I'm from Illinois and I know a rigged election when I see one. That one you held was a beaut. Listen, we're having a do-over election in 6 months, and if it looks that dirty again we'll be pulling the plug. The first thing we're cutting is your protective detail. We're not going to help protect someone who wasn't elected cleanly" Then, you work on the corruption, the growth of civil society, etc.

And don't make any of that discussion be public.
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:49 PM   #99
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But the bigger impact is on our allies. Once we say we're cutting out, then the teamwork (with us) stops and every faction starts the "cutting the best deal I can with the enemy."
So what? Do we value teamwork for the sake of teamwork or because it helps us achieve some rational goal? Once I head out the door, I don't particularly care what the other NATO members do (I think they'll leave with us, since we leaned on them to be there in the first place) or what the Afghans do.
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Old 06-28-2010, 07:53 PM   #100
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I don't believe indigenous irregular forces have ever been or can ever be defeated, so long as they have a safe haven in a contiguous state (see, e.g. - Cambodia, Pakistan) and an external source of supplies. They can always wait us out, whether we set a date or not. Frankly, once we start a drawdown, it will be obvious when we will be gone, more or less. There is no tactical advantage -- unlike, say, we tell them we are going to assault the village at 0500.

It has been a mystery to me since this all began why we ever thought we could "pacify" Afghanistan. Does no one in government read history books? Alexander the Great couldn't do it, the Parthian Empire couldn't do it, the British Empire couldn't do it, the Soviets couldn't do it, and we won't be able to do it. Kill Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? Fine. Kick the crap out of the Taliban so they won't dare host Al Qaeda again? Equally fine. But at some point, we have to declare victory, come home and leave them to their own godforsaken land.
+1. The US is displaying more and more signs of a crumbling empire, and indeed a crumbling civilization. We are insolvent- how can we justify borrowing money from the only worthy world-rival we currently have to waste it in a place in which as you point out, no one has ever won anything.

No one is going to build a nation there. Least of all the US. "Democratic Elections" are a talisman for our politicos. In most of these places they are a charade.

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