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War Games in the Afghan Wastes

“I’m a murderer, even when I play.” – Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, Ch. 6

What if we waged war the same way most teams play round one of soccer’s World Cup? You’d be careful never to lose. You’d put in some, but not all of your resources. You wouldn’t play to maximize the probability of a win. You’d play to minimize the chances of a catastrophic defeat. In essence, the strategy would look a lot like the current US strategy for waging war in Afghanistan.

To understand why this is happening, we should understand the Obama Administration’s mind set. The Afghan War is a part of the mess they inherited. It eats resources, and potentially risks making the President look bad if too many young soldiers return home with tags on their toes. It weakens his credibility if too much domestic opposition emerges to the conflict. Finally, if the enemy really hits it big, if they return to The Pentagon and finish what they started, Barack Obama has two weeks to get control of the situation before he cements his status as Dr. One-Term. After his stellar work on the Deepwater Horizon Spill, I’d have to give him a low probability of success on that one.

So the President manages the war with an objective function that minimizes the cost and duration of the conflict, minimizes risk to human beings, and seeks to prevent the recurrence of a 3,000 victim mass casualty “Man-Made Disaster” back here in the US of A. This function doesn’t necessarily exclude the objective of finishing off Al-Qaeda, but it doesn’t place it as the goal of his operation. From Barack Obama’s perspective, a 0-0 tie with Al-Qaeda still gives him enough points to possibly advance his re-election efforts in 2012.

To understand why this set of political objectives leads to our permanent drone war, reminiscent of the high-stakes video games played in Orson Scott Card’s classic novel Ender’s Game, we need to examine his available courses of action to determine why he chooses to do what he does. His first option, near and dear to the hearts of his leftmost supporters, we’ll dub Operation Kucinich. In 2004, Dennis Kucinich ran in the Democratic Primaries on a platform of ending the Iraq War 90 days after he took the Oath of Office.

If Barack Obama did this, two things could happen. In a best-case scenario, the Muslim World could thank Barack Obama by stepping back from Jihad until at least 2013. This would get the troops home for re-election day, a new pool of resources to “stimulate” things, and a major boost in the polls. If you truly don’t harbor too much ill-will towards Al-Qeada over their NYC urban renewal efforts, and just don’t understand why Christian Fundamentalists get their BVDs in a wad over the In Your (Expletive) Face mosque at Ground Zero, this is the perfect result. Given that this probably describes the Obama Administration mindset pretty well, why not execute Operation Kucinich?

The problem with Operation Kucinich involves the potential of something else happening. President Obama executes OPLAN Pansy in support of Operation Kucinich. Millions of young, inspired Muslims feel inspired by Al Qaeda’s victories and ask how they can help Mullah Omar or Muqtada Al-Sadr. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is massively reborn, the Al-Anbar Sons of Iraq defect to AQI. Turkey and Iran both support AQI. And then, to put the cherry atop the feces pie, a major successful martyrdom operation happens in LA, NYC of WDC.

Never you mind the mounds of cadavers all of that would produce. Judging from Barack Obama’s reaction to the recent Gulf of Mexico disaster, he wouldn’t either. Ponder, if you will, the impact on his legacy. That’s what he and the press that refuses to cover the ongoing conflict with anywhere near the same disdain and skepticism they aimed at Donald Rumsfeld or George W. Bush are concerned with.

Another option involves an all-out blitz to nail Al-Qaeda once and for all. This we’ll dub Operation MacArthur. This is named in honor of the statement “There is no substitute for victory!” If Operation MacArthur worked well, and OBL was captured, President Obama could again claim a vital victory in his quest for greater adulation and political power. Heck, as a positive externality, he’d even accidentally leave the world a better place than he found it upon taking office. Sometimes good things happen to lousy people.

And yet there is a rather unpleasant substitute for victory. It’s called humiliating defeat. This could involve hundreds of dead Americans returning home each month. Military ineptitude so massive that even George Stephanopoulos couldn’t effectively lie it out of existence on President Obama’s behalf. The President could run out of Generals and SecDefs to blame and finally, for once in his sordid and pathetic existence, Barack Obama could actually have to face professional responsibility commensurate with his job title.

Thus, attempting to either win or forfeit Afghanistan involves too much risk for President Obama. This is not an issue he cares about, or even wants to pursue. But he feels forced into doing it so that “the next 9-11” can be more easily blamed on somebody else. His answer to that conundrum follows below.

He gives the military enough firepower in theatre to looks serious. He mechanizes the war as much as possible in hopes of minimizing our military’s casualties. He pressures the Afghan Government to assume more and more blame, oops, I mean more responsibility. Finally, he doesn’t do anything too risky, because allowing the conflict to spread makes it harder for him to saw the new Afghan Government off on a moment’s notice.

It’s a really smart way of managing a war. Barack’s Afghan War Strategy maximizes his likelihood of political viability very intelligently. It’s a shame political viability and military victories no longer seem to be synonymous.

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