(CCU Student) The war in Afghanistan today has increasingly taken on more and more dimensions and complications. Our soldiers are fighting in a place that has for thousands of years been called the “graveyard of empires” and the media is now making it look like that will be our fate. Unfortunately, our military has been forced to fight in impossible terrain with little civilization or access to support. Now adding to the growing frustrations, the Obama administration has ordered a new set of rules of engagement that prevent our soldiers from doing their jobs.
Talk to anybody that has been in a firefight and they will tell you that it is one of the most frightening and stressful situation known to man. Thanks to excellent training, however, our soldiers act in a professional and disciplined manner under fore and they get the jobs done quickly and efficiently even when the odds are not in their favor. But now our troops are forbidden to do their jobs because of a new set of rules that come directly from the White House.
The new rules of engagement state that American forces are ordered to break contact when fired upon from an area that may contain civilians such as a compound, house, or village. When questioned about this, commander in Afghanistan GEN Stanley McChrystal stated that his measure of our forces’ effectiveness will be the “number of Afghans shielded from violence” — not the number of militants killed. Our men are now ordered to try and get away from the fight if at all possible without putting our men at “unnecessary risk.”
Now as good as this plan sounds, there are many areas where both the administration and the brass are sadly mistaken. The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces we are facing today are not stupid; they have demonstrated numerous times that they are able to quickly learn our tactics and base their attacks on how we react. It will not take long before these fighters simply occupy all areas where the civilians hang out and they will safer than if they were in a cave. From these populated areas they will be able to launch attacks at US and NATO forces without fear of major retaliation.
Because of this, our newly emboldened enemy will grow stronger as they retake Afghanistan and subjugate the population as they have already done in the border areas with Pakistan and in the province of Waziristan across the border. And while they do this, our men will have only the desert and the wilderness to defend. We will see increased US casualties in the near future if the Commander in Chief and the brass do not do away with these rules.
Our military has already invested greatly in preventing collateral damage and civilian deaths. We have invested billions precision munitions and non-lethal weapons so that the innocent do not have to die. Unfortunately, in war people die. We cannot expect to get through this war and emerge victoriously without inflicting some casualties on the population. Some civilians are going to die no matter what happens. The question is how many we will allow to die because of this war. If we allow the Taliban to retake control of the population, then the Afghanis will be faced with the oppression, and mass murder that comes with the Taliban.
I believe that General MacArthur had it right when he said, “In war there is no substitute for victory,” and also, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” We would be wise to learn from these wise words and act on them before it is too late for our country and for the people of Afghanistan that look to us for freedom.
Jacob DeLargy is a CCU freshman and Army ROTC cadet
Obama seems to be more concerned with fighting a war with Fox News, than pursuing the war on terror. While our generals are asking for an increase in forces in Afghanistan, Obama dithers. A century and a half ago the British Army in India marched into Afghanistan. Realizing they did not have sufficient forces, they tried to withdraw their troops. Over the next few weeks, as they made their way back south through the Khyber pass, the army of nearly 16,000 military and support personnel was annihilated. Only one medical officer survived to tell the story. Shortly thereafter, an Afghan poet celebrated his event by calling his country ‘the graveyard of empires.’ If the Obama administration can’t get serious in Afghanistan, we should bring the troops home and declare defeat. Of course this would allow our enemies to recoup and attack our country once again. This would be a catastrophe with a nuclear Pakistan next door and Islamic Jihadis threatening that government daily.
Instead our president has declared war on the only network independent of the government. With a strategy similar to what Hugo Chavez is doing with any opposition in the Venezuelan media, the White House is refusing to allow any member of the administration to be interviewed on Fox. Obama is willing to sit down with Chavez, but won’t sit down with Glenn Beck, nor allow his lackeys to do so.
White House Communications director Anita Dunn told CNN Sunday, concerning Fox News, “we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.” I wonder if Ms. Dunn is behaving the way a White House Communications Director should behave, especially to the most popular news outlet in the United States. If Obama is able to stop Fox, or succeed in intimidating them into compliance like the rest of the mainstream media, I worry for our republic.
When asked what kind of government he was trying to create, Benjamin Franklin responded, “a republic, if you can keep it.” I am beginning to worry, whether we can keep that republic.
Like most news junkies who had followed the war in Iraq on a daily basis for six years I thought I was pretty well informed. However when I read Bing West’s The Strongest Tribe I was stunned at how much I had missed- not just unreported or misreported events but also how to think about those events in balanced perspective. Soon after the lightning overthrow of Saddam the mainstream media began to turn against a war they had never much liked in the first place. As the war ground on their reporting disproportionately revolved around suicide bombers in Iraq and grieving families in America. Most books that promised “deeper analysis”- even well written ones like Bob Woodward ‘s trilogy- revealed a clear liberal bias and left us yearning for some Paul Harvey to tell us “the rest of the story”. We find such a person in Bing West whose book is long on “on the ground” reporting and short on political opinion. It radiates an evenhandedness that gives a reader great confidence in its veracity. West was a career military officer who distinguished himself as an authority on counterinsurgency warfare in Viet Nam. That war produced relatively few good books, but West’s classic The Village is one of them. Later he would serve as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan. Published in 2008 the book covers the war from the beginning through the success of the “Surge” which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. West employs a strictly chronological approach and avoids those annoying back and forth digressions that confuse readers. West comes down hard on both civilian and higher military leadership who through most of the war utterly failed to define a unified and coherent American mission in Iraq. Whether it was Defense (Rumsfeld) vs. State (Powell) in Washington or their counter-parts (General Abizaid vs “Proconsul” Bremer) in Iraq their conflict and confusion over strategy profoundly undermined mission effectiveness on the ground. Underlying this confusion was an American naiveté and general cluelessness concerning cultural/historical and political realities in Iraq. The State Dept. seemed to think that giving Iraqis a few PowerPoint presentations on tolerance/diversity, constitution writing, and Roberts Rules of Order could swiftly transform their country into an up and running self-defending democracy. Having achieved their quick battlefield victory a la Afghanistan, the Pentagon wanted to get out of Iraq as soon as possible, and while waiting to do so corralled its soldiers in large isolated bases from which the troops “commuted to work”. Having no coherent plans for “post-victory” operations both Defense and State bought into the bizarre “Light Footprint” doctrine which suggested that the very sight of American soldiers so inflamed young Iraqi males that they immediately ran to the nearest Al-Qaeda recruiting office to become instant jihadists. All this confusion went on for three years (2003-2006) during which Iraq spiraled downward into chaos and the American people soured on the war. The great strength of West’s book rests on his frequent and lengthy stays in Iraq mostly spent embedded with American troops. He persuasively demonstrates that local American commanders and local Iraqi leaders (notably the Sheiks of Anbar Province) figured out what was wrong and what was needed long before the politicans and military brass in either Washington or Baghdad. Finally a senior military leader emerged who grasped the validity of these local viewpoints. General David Petraeus saw clearly that victory was impossible without local Iraqi support, and that support was absolutely dependent on Americans providing the people with the security and stability that would allow them to inform on and fight back against the detested foreign fighters of Al-Qaeda who were terrorizing them by systematically murdering their men and raping their women. Petraeus took a strategy that had worked for a number of local American commanders and applied it country-wide. He took his troops out of their isolated bases and had them “move in” with the people and stay. Beginning in the deadly “Sunni Triangle” he also authorized local American commanders to recruit, arm, and pay local Iraqi males (“Sons of Iraq”) as fighting auxiliaries to the American forces. Thus empowered local leaders (mostly tribal sheiks) courageously faced murderous Al-Qaeda reprisals and blessed joint combat operations against a suddenly exposed and then decimated enemy whose power rapidly melted away in the face of this new turn of events. Petraeus success in selling this new strategy which was the critical element in the success of the “Surge” was absolutely dependent on his views becoming known to key National Security Council staffers who orchestrated an “end run” around the Pentagon and the State Dept- both highly resistant to any notion of increased troop levels. While West praises the gutsy decision of a politically battered President Bush to authorize the “Surge” despite the rampant and poisonous “defeatism” pervading Washington, he severely faults him for his passivity and unwillingness to challenge senior Cabinet and military leaders during the long period (over two years) when the situation in Iraq was clearly deteriorating. Citing Lincoln, FDR, and Truman as examples, West correctly insists that Presidents must be willing to aggressively intervene and even fire people when a war is obviously going badly. For too long George W. Bush failed that test. Even more severely does West condemn the rank hypocrisy of Democratic leaders like Reid, Pelosi and Murtha who endlessly chanted their “support for our troops” while doing everything in their power to undermine the mission of those troops and also giving aid and comfort to the enemy by publicly announcing that “the war was lost” when in fact it was about to be won. The real heroes of West’s book are American soldiers. Their valor uncelebrated by their country’s media, their mission undercut by politicians, and often poorly served by their own higher leadership, they fought against a savage and fanatical enemy in deadly battle spaces like Fallujah street by street, house to house, often room to room with incredible skill and bravery. West sternly reminds us that “They are not victims; they are Warriors”. Their individual stories- the best part of the book- will fill your heart with pain and pride. The title of the book comes from the remark of a Sunni Sheik when West asked him why the top Al-Qaeda leader in Fallujah had fled the city in a woman’s dress. The Sheik pointed to a passing Marine patrol and in respectful tones replied “Because they are the Strongest Tribe”. West closes his book expressing concerns about the future of the “Strongest Tribe” in a country whose martial virtues are being drained by the poisonous atmosphere of political division and cultural warfare. We all should worry about a day when- like contemporary Europe- there will be nothing worth fighting for and no more volunteering young warriors even if there was.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post.
Prof. Thomas Bidgood of the CCU science faculty, an officer of the American Association of Professional Geologists, draws our attention to an open forum on the contentious issue of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas development in Colorado, convened by AIPG in Glenwood Springs this Saturday, August 8. Details and registration here.
This Denver Post ran this major story on hydrofracing last week. Media coverage of the technique, said Bidgood, has tended to be "alarmist and ill-informed -- as is most coverage of resource (hydrocarbon or mineral) issues.
"The current legislation in Congress" he added, "is led by two Colorado representatives--Polis and DeGette who have been openly hostile to the oil and gas industry not only in Colorado but also in the US in general.
"The Post article tries to appear balanced but falls back into alarmism in spite of several references to regulatory agency fact findings that say no adverse consequences credited to Hydrofracing.
"But we all know that alarmists never let the facts stand in the way of a chance to stir up the public. Hence the AIPG conference to inform with the facts." Prof. Bidgood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women Warriors & Human Nature: All honor to the fallen Lt. Roz Schulte. Not sure I could have done what she did in life and in death.
But I believe a well-ordered society that respects human nature will treasure its women as irreplaceable life-bearers, biologically and spiritually called to that high role in perpetuating humankind. It will not lower them with training to inflict mass violence or carelessly waste their gift by sending them to kill or be killed.
The occasional warrior queens and heroic fighting women, such as the biblical Deborah or the medieval Joan of Arc, are but the exceptions that prove this rule.
Much as I love America, it concerns me that our governance is ever more utopian, ever less attuned to human nature.