October 1, 2009

We Are in Trouble

Michael Yon has spent more time in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other journalist. I pay serious attention to what he writes because, unlike some journalists, he describes the same reality I see when I'm in the same place at the same time. So when he says we're in serious trouble in Afghanistan, I strongly suggest you take him seriously.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 1, 2009 2:49 AM
Comments

Yon, once again, is the canary in the coal mine on this. He's been sounding this refrain for what, a year now? It distresses me that hardly anyone's listening.

Michael, have you read David Hackworth's book About Face? I admit, the analogy is a little thin, and on top of that Hack's historically been shown to be wrong about a number of things (the M1 Abrams, the Rangers attitudes in the aftermath of Mogadishu, etc.), but despite that, his broad stroke analyses tend to be all right. And one of those analyses I'm referring to is his observation that in Vietnam, one of the things that the US failed to do is fail to recognize when things weren't working. The use of well trained, aggressive Marines and Airborne against a guerilla warrior was one; the failure to properly convince the South Vietnamese army to work towards accountability and self reliance was another. There are more. My point here is that, while Afghanistan is not Vietnam, and while I'm the first to rip on other people who strain to make comparisons, there are a few things that do compare because they're not endemic of Vietnam, but rather of an Army who's government is not leading them in the fight well. That's the case here. Given the headlines, I'm somewhat afraid that Obama's putting more effort into the Chicago Olympic bid than Afghanistan, and that disturbs me. Yon has shone a light on glaring problems over there. The question is, though, whether he'll end up being another Ward Just or Bernard Fall (minus the death in combat, I hope! I want to see Yon continue for years) on Afghanistan or not.

Posted by: ElMondo Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 6:39 AM

The amazing thing to me is that this is any surprise. Everyone knows that Afghanistan is one of those family/clan/tribal places that is completely incomprehensible to the bureaucrats inside the Beltway. Did anyone honestly believe the D.C. bureaucrats' rhetoric about "rebuilding" Afghanistan into a liberal democracy where everyone lives behind white picket fences and eat ice cream with their kids?

I mean, get real!

These places are Tribal with a capital "T". There is no such thing as nation-state or national government for these people. They are all tribes and we have to deal with them as tribes. That's how the specwar guys took over the place to begin with in '01. The CIA sent their bagman over there to hand out cash to all of the local tribal leaders in order to oust the Taliban. Then the D.C. and military bureaucrats took over and everything declined ever since.

Afghanistan is one of those places where you go in and cut deals with all of the local tribes, telling them that you're not about to jack them around on their internal affairs, but that if they harbor international terrorists, that you'll burn down their houses, rape their wives, and kill their dogs (oops, I forgot, Muslims don't keep dogs, but you get the idea). Then leave. This is what Ralph Peters calls a punitive expedition. It is probably the only way to use military force in the region. We may have to do this a few times over the next 15 years or so before they get the message.

Posted by: kurt9 Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 10:15 AM

This is my first visit. And glad to know you

Posted by: Mengembalikan jati diri bangsa Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 1:57 PM

Meanwhile..."China shows off its military reach"; today's (1 Oct) Washington Times. Reminiscent of soviet Red Square parades.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 3:05 PM

We can NOT win in Afghanistan if ... heroin remains illegal (and the source of most Afghan exports).

Afghanistan needs tribal based cantons and small gov'ts, with more aid going into banks and loans for small businesses.

Aid to Afghan gov't creates and expands corrupt gov't, without producing good services.

The US needs to learn how to do 'nation building' far better than it has been doing.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 6:41 PM

Tom,

Steven Pressfield: "What's my thesis? That understanding tribes and tribalism is critical for the U.S. in Afghanistan."

http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/vblog/

Michael Yon, on his Twitter page, recommends Pressman's interview with Glenn Reynolds, currently at PJTV: "The Warrior Ethos of Steven Pressfield."

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at October 1, 2009 7:34 PM

"Yon, once again, is the canary in the coal mine on this. He's been sounding this refrain for what, a year now?"

No actually Yon has been saying it for about three years. And when he first said it he got beat up pretty bad by almost everyone.

"Michael Yon, on his Twitter page, recommends Pressman's interview with Glenn Reynolds, currently at PJTV: "The Warrior Ethos of Steven Pressfield."

Yes, it is a great interview, I recommend it to all that are interested in fighting the Islamics, particularly in Afghanistan.

I recommend that everyone bookmark Michael's Web Magazine and if not familiar with his "dispatches" spend a month or so reading there.

His latest posting is not by himself but by another author. It is fascinating reading and chunk full of facts, accounts and much more.

I'm sorry to say, I would bet that none of Obama's advisors have read any of this.

Papa Ray
Central Texas

Posted by: Papa Ray Author Profile Page at October 3, 2009 4:43 PM

Well...

What did I say about Obama's advisors?

Papa Ray
Central Texas

Posted by: Papa Ray Author Profile Page at October 3, 2009 4:49 PM

It distresses me that hardly anyone's listening.

ElMondo, I can only speak for myself but I've been "listening" to bad reports out of Afghanistan for a few years now. My problem is that I don't know what anyone can or should do about it. What does victory look like in Afghanistan? What are we trying to achieve there? I mean, realistically speaking... because it's probably not going to be a prosperous secular democracy during my lifetime, or even in the lifetime of most the soldiers currently deployed there, right? And I've had it up to HERE with talking points that state goals that are never going to happen, while at the same time the international effort seems to be backing a a government that is largely seen by Afghans as illegitimate and corrupt. Are we even backing the right horse? If we aren't, then what good does backing him better do? Wouldn't that just ensure that when he eventually loses it hurts even more?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at October 8, 2009 1:43 PM
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