FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Strikingly, Obama’s Afghan Strategy Manages to Repeat Almost Every Single Mistake Made in Iraq
History began on January 20, 2009.
Handed a top-to-bottom review of, and a revised strategy for, this long-ignored front in the Global War on Terror by the outgoing Bush administration, President Barack Obama stepped to the microphone in February and gave a platitudinous speech that echoed precisely what his predecessor had said in the last months of his own presidency. When that speech alone failed to miraculously make the war in Afghanistan simply go away, Obama spent months dithering over whether or not he should give another Afghan strategy speech (as American troops and Afghan civilians were dying at a rate higher than they had been at any point in the conflict).
Finally, when the problem again refused to just go away on its own, Obama succumbed to public demand that he actually say something about the troops, and the war, he has responsibility for in Afghanistan as America’s commander in chief. Fortunately, he had amazing resources (besides brilliant military brass like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal) to rely on in his decision-making process in the form of a host of lessons learned over the last six years in Iraq. With so recent an example of so much not to do in a war, Obama couldn’t help but learn from previous mistakes and make a sound decision on Afghanistan….right?
If only we were so lucky as to have a President who actually recognized that history existed before January 20, 2009 — something that he and his administration simply refuse to do (with the sole exception to that rule being the amazingly unprofessional and unpresidential non-stop banging of the “blame-everything-on-my-predecessor” drum).
Stepping to the microphone last night at West Point, President Barack Obama, Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces (and supposedly extraordinarily intelligent individual), laid out a strategy for Afghanistan that embraced every single thing that went wrong in Iraq over the last six years (particularly the bloody 2004-06 period), and that avoided implementing any of the tactics that actually made that western front in the GWOT the rousing success it is today.
Pull back to large bases and defend only major cities? Check. Send too few troops to protect themselves and the civilian population — let alone to successfully defeat the enemy while building necessary infrastructure and supporting a new, issue-plagued government? Check. (This is yet another major issue, as Afghanistan is geographically larger and more forbidding than Iraq, which is the size of California to Afghanistan’s Texas — not even mentioning the Hindu Kush mountains.) Fail to accompany that increase in troop levels with a workable change in strategy, designed to maximize those troops’ effectiveness and to accomplish a clearly defined mission (rather than simply sending over more American men and women to serve as cannon fodder)? Check. Fail to clearly define the mission in the first place, and to define victory in any way? Check. Demand that members of the indigenous population put themselves and their families at risk standing beside a force that they suspect will be abandoning them to severe repercussions in the near future? Check. Provide timelines to the enemy, so that they know how long it will be before the one superior fighting force in that nation will be departing, and leaving the country to them once again? Check.
The list goes on, and on, and on, and on. The striking thing about Obama’s Afghan strategy is not that it ignores lessons of Iraq; after all, this is a man who said, after the so-called “surge” (which was, in reality, so much more than just an increase in troop levels) had been proven to be one of the most successful strategic decisions in modern military historty, that he would still have opposed its implementation in 2007 Iraq. Nor is the striking thing about Obama’s Afghan strategy the fact that this president, who is in far over his head on issues of war and foreign policy, is still trying to have it both ways, and to be all things to all people, in every aspect of this war and this decision. No; the striking thing about Obama’s Afghan strategy is how completely he managed — without, I am sure, even the slightest bit of effort — to take every single lesson learned in Iraq in the years immediately preceding his term in office and to do the exact opposite of what had been shown to be right, and to do exactly what had been shown to be (deadly) wrong.
On this, President Obama is batting 1.000. Unfortunately, this means more military and civilian deaths in Afghanistan, as well as drastically shrinking odds of any type of positive outcome in that front of the GWOT.
Cross-posted at Right-Thinking America