Saturday, Nov 21, 2009
Of course, a lot of people in this country are asking, What should we do about Afghanistan? It's a pretty important question. It might be one of the most important questions that we are asking right now. And yet nobody seems to have an answer. I think the difficulty in finding an answer comes sometimes from not having fully understood why we got there. I just can't imagine this debate that's going on within our government today, the executive branch, the legislative branch, and with the people--can you imagine this going on during World War II? How many troops should we have? What is our exit strategy? Who is our enemy? How are we going to impose democracy? It's so far removed from what a traditional responsibility is of our government, which is to provide national security.
Now they have practically run out of excuses for why we are over in Afghanistan. The only one that is left that they seem to cling to is that we are there for national security; we want to fight the bad guys over there because we don't want to fight them over here. I will talk a little about that later; but, quite frankly, I think that's a fallacious argument and actually makes things a lot worse.
It just bewilders me about how we get trapped into these situations. I happen to believe that it's because we get ourselves involved too carelessly, too easily and we don't follow the Constitution, because under the Constitution, you're supposed to declare the war, know who your enemy is, and know when you can declare victory and bring the troops home. And we did that up until and through World War II. But since then, that hasn't been the case.
I recall a book I read in the 1980s written by Barbara Tuchman. She wrote a book called the
March of Folly,'' and she went back as far as Troy, all the way up through Vietnam and took very special interest in countries where they were almost obsessed or possessed with a policy, even though it was not in their interest, and the foolishness and the inability to change course. She died in 1989, but I keep thinking that if she had lived, she would probably write a history of our recent years, anothermarch of folly.''
Just think of what has happened since the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet system collapsed. It didn't take us long. Did we have any peace dividends? No. There were arguments for more military spending, we had more responsibility, we had to go and police the world. So it wasn't long after that, what were we doing? We were involved in the Persian Gulf war.
And then, following that, we had decades of bombing in Iraq which didn't please the Arabs and the Muslims of the world and certainly the Iraqis, but it had nothing to do with national security.
And then, of course, we continued and accelerated our support of the various puppet governments in the Middle East. In doing so, we actually went to the part of not only supporting the governments, but we started putting troops on their land. And when we had an air base in Saudi Arabia, that was rather offensive. If you understand the people over there, this is a violation of a deeply held religious view. It is considered their holy land; and foreigners, especially military foreigners, are seen as infidels. So if you're looking for a fight or a problem, just put troops on their land.
But also, as a result of the policy that we have had in the Middle East, we have been perceived as being anti-Palestinian. This has not set well either. Since that time, of course, we haven't backed off one bit. We had the Persian Gulf war, and then we had 9/11.
We know that 9/11 changed everything. We had 15 individuals from Saudi Arabia, a few from Yemen and a few from Egypt, but, aha, this is an excuse that we have got to get the bad guys. So where are the bad guys? Well, Iraq, of course. Of course, they figured, well, we can't quite do that, let's go into Afghanistan. Of course, not one single Afghani did anything to us. They said, oh, no, the al Qaeda visited there.
But I just can't quite accept the fact that the individuals that were flying those airplanes got their training by going to these training camps in Afghanistan doing push-ups and being tough and strong. What did they do? Where was the planning? The planning was done in Spain and they were accepted there on legal bases. They were done in Germany; they were accepted there. As a matter of fact, they even came to this country with legal visas. And they were accepted by the countries.
And, no, no, we said, it's the Taliban; it's the people of Afghanistan, never questioning the fact that a few years back, back in 1989 when the Soviets were wrecking the place, we were allied with the people who were friends of Osama bin Laden, and we were over there trying to support him. So he then was a freedom fighter.
And the hypocrisy of all this and the schizophrenia of it all, they were on again and off again. No wonder we get ourselves into these difficulties. And it doesn't seem to ever lead up.
The one assessment that was made after Vietnam, and I think you can apply it here, is how do we get in and why do we get bogged down? And two individuals that were talking about this, East and West, Vietnam and the United States, they sort of came to the conclusion that we, the Americans, overestimated the ominous power of our military, we could conquer anybody and everybody. And we underestimated the tenacity of people who are defending their homeland, sort of like we were defending our homeland in the Revolutionary War, and the invaders and the occupiers were the Red Coats. There's a big difference, and you can overcome all kinds of obstacles; but we have never seemed to have learned that. And unless we do, I don't think we can solve our problems.
Indeed, we have to realize that we are not the policemen of the world. We cannot nation-build. And Presidential candidates on both sides generally tell the people that's what they want, and the people say, keep our fingers crossed, hope it's true. But then, once again, our policies continue down the road, and we never seem to have the energy to back off of this.
I emphasize, once again, that I think we could keep our eye on the target, emphasize what we should be doing if we went to war a lot more cautiously, if we have an enemy that we have to fight in our national defense and then there is a declaration of war...
The statement at the beginning of this war was made that it's different this time. Even though the history is well known about Afghanistan--it's ancient history, but it's different this time because we're different, and it's not going to have the same result. But so far, you know, they haven't caught Osama bin Laden, and we don't have a national government, really. We don't have really honest elections. We haven't won the hearts and minds of the people. There is a lot of dissension, and it is a miserable place. It is really a total failure, let alone the cost, the cost of life and limb and money. I mean, it is just a total failure. The thought that we would pursue this and expand it and send more troops just blows my mind.
I just want to mention a couple of things that I think are bad arguments. One thing is we are involved there, we have invested too much, and, therefore, we have to save face because it would look terrible if we had to leave. But it is like in medicine. What if we, in medicine, were doing the wrong thing, made the wrong diagnosis? Would we keep doing it to prove that we are right or are we going listen to the patient and to the results?
But it seems like politicians don't lose their license. Maybe they should. Maybe there will be more this year or something. But the other argument they make is, if you take a less militant viewpoint as we all do that we're not supportive of the troops. The troops don't believe that. The troops I talk to and the ones Mr. Jones talks to, they know we care about them, and they shouldn't be put in harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary.
This other argument is, well, we have got to go over there to kill them because they want to kill us. Well, like I mentioned before, it wasn't the Afghans that came over here, but if we're in their country killing them, we're going to create more terrorists. And the more people we send, the more terrorists, and the more we have to kill. And now it's spreading. That's what I'm worried about in this war.
There was one individual--I don't know his name--but they believed he was in Pakistan, so he was part of the terrorist group, the people who were opposing the occupation. So they sent 15 cruise missiles, drones, over looking for him. It took the 15th one to kill him. But 14 landed, and there was an estimate made that about 1,000 civilians were killed in this manner. How many more terrorists have we developed under those circumstances?
I do want to have 1 minute here to read a quote, and then I will yield back. This quote comes from a Russian general talking to Gorbachev, and Gorbachev went into office in 1985, and this was a year later. The general was talking to Gorbachev. Just think, Gorbachev was in office 1 year. He had the problem. He was trying to get out. He didn't get out until 1989. But the general says,
Military actions in Afghanistan will soon be 7 years old,'' and told Mr. Gorbachev at a November 1986 Politburo session,There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.'' It reminds me of the conversation between Colonel Tu and Sumner after Vietnam. And Sumner, our colonel, says, You know, we defeated you in every battle in Vietnam. And Tu looked at him, and he said, Yes, I agree, but it was also irrelevant...
I opened my remarks talking about Barbara Tuchman's ``The March of Folly.'' We are on the same course. I would say it's time to march home. I'm not for sending any more troops. It is very clear in my mind that if the job isn't getting done and we don't know what we're there for, I would say, you know, it's time to come home, because I fear--and it's been brought up. Congressman McGovern has brought it up, and everybody's talked about the finances of this because it is known that all great nations, when they spread themselves too thinly around the world, they go bankrupt. And that is essentially what's happened to the Soviet system. They fell apart for economic reasons.
So there are trillions of dollars spent in this operation. We're flat-out broke, a $2 trillion increase in the national debt last year, and it just won't continue. So we may not get our debate on the floor. We may not be persuasive enough to change this course, but I'll tell you what, the course will be changed. Let's hope they accept some of our suggestions, because when a Nation crumbles for financial reasons, that's much more dangerous than us taking the tough stance and saying, It's time to come home.
Ron Paul, Future Involvement in Afghanistan, House of Representatives Special Order - November 18, 2009, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r111:H18NO9-0081: (The March of Folly).
Marshal Sergei Akhromeev (Marshal of the Soviet Union was the highest military rank) quotes to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev:
By the late 1980s, Moscow's exit strategy was basically the same as Nato's today - to build up an allied government in Kabul with sufficient trained army and police forces to defend itself, thereby allowing foreign troops to leave.
But even with the backing of a 100,000-strong Soviet army and billions of rubles in aid, the Afghan government struggled to establish its legitimacy and authority much beyond the capital - much like President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed administration today.
This bleak assessment of the situation in late 1986 by the Soviet armed forces commander, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, sounds eerily familiar.
"Military actions in Afghanistan will soon be seven years old," Mr Akhromeev told Mr Gorbachev at a November 1986 Politburo session.
"There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels.
"The whole problem is that military results are not followed up by political actions. At the centre there is authority; in the provinces there is not.
"We control Kabul and the provincial centres, but on occupied territory we cannot establish authority. We have lost the battle for the Afghan people".
Soviet lessons from Afghanistan, Andrew North, BBC News, November 18, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8365187.stm.
The theory of attrition:
The theory of attrition is essentially concerned with the destruction of the enemy's mass, his physical forces. It searches for the enemy's strength, his center of gravity. The attritionist seeks victory by attempting to destroy the forces in the field, necessitating a focus on battle--the tactical event wherein those forces are engaged and destroyed...
Characteristics of attrition theory include an emphasis on the superiority of competing forces, a focus on technology and equipment, primary attention by all command levels to the tactical level of warfare, and the destruction of the enemy's forces by impact and superior firepower. Since attrition theory focuses on force relationships and relative measures of technological advance, an attritional military organization views warfare as scientific, measurable, and definable. The focus is on the quantifiable, the tangibles of war. Warfare is approached systematically...
Attritionist militaries tend to concentrate on their own capabilities in military planning, identifying enemy "targets" but eschewing overmuch consideration of enemy capability or will. As such, they tend to be weak in intelligence support, assessment of enemy performance, and predictions of enemy intent...
U.S. forces in Vietnam would, for the most part, be categorized as attritional, attempting to engage the enemy on the field of battle. In On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, Colonel Harry Summers recalls an April 1975 conversation in which he remarked, "You know you never defeated us on the battlefield," to which his North Vietnamese counterpart replied, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."
Warfare Theory, Commander Joseph A. Gattuso, Jr., U.S. Navy, 1996, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/navy/wft-a96.htm (On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War; The War that Would Not End).
See also, Osama's own words on 9/11 (occupation of holy land) and the causes of suicide terrorism, and More Americans in Afghanistan now than Soviets at the peak of their War, and Opium Poppy Cultivation.
Too much power makes you stupid.
Gareth Porter, Antiwar Radio, November 25, 2009, http://antiwar.com/radio/2009/11/25/gareth-porter-71/.