Dec 13 2008

Too easy to forget about right now

Category: military,national securityharmonicminer @ 10:14 am

What Norman Podhoretz calls World War IV continues, even though the American public isn’t paying the attention it should, largely because the media isn’t either.  (In Podhoretz’ formulation, the “Cold” War was World War III.)  Brilliant, independent war correspondent Michael Yon writes about the difficulty of the war for our military, and the   distortions that happen in it’s reporting.

While Americans sleep tight in their beds, this time of year U.S. soldiers sit shivering through the frigid, crystal clear nights at remote outposts in places most of us have never heard of and will never see. Often they head out into the enveloping darkness, to hunt down and destroy terrorists, who continue to kill innocent Afghans, Americans, Aussies, Balinese, Brits, Indians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Spanish….in short, anyone who opposes their violent tyranny. Their greatest weapons are ignorance and terror. Witness the latest unprovoked attack on our friends in India.

These enemies have no wish to reconcile with their fellow countrymen, or compromise in any way that would diminish their control of the lives of the ordinary Afghans who don’t share their feral vision of life. They throw acid in the faces of little girls whose only crime is that they go to school. So we must continue to send our toughest men to confront them eye to eye, while performing the difficult balancing act of not alienating those who intend us no harm. This is particularly difficult in Afghanistan, a proud nation with a deep tradition of antipathy toward outsiders — even those who are here to help, though I am finding many Afghans clearly do not want us to leave.


The hard work is especially difficult when our troops are spread perilously thin. Over the last nearly two weeks I’ve spent time with teams whose nearest ground support is too far away, and too small anyway, to help them when they get into serious trouble, which happens all the time. Some of these groups are too far out for helicopters to reach within any reasonable amount of time, and so their only choice often is “CAS,” or Close Air Support: Jets with bombs. Sadly, despite the extreme precautions I have seen our people taking in Iraq and now Afghanistan, we are bound to make some mistakes, which the enemy exploits to full potential. In fact, there are reports that I believe credible that the enemy is actively trying to bait us into bombing innocent people. Such is the savagery of the Taliban and associated armed opposition groups (AOGs).

Few Afghans can tell the difference in uniform or equipment between Germans, Americans, Brits or Estonians or any of the other dozens of nations here. And similarities in vehicles and equipment can cause confusion among U.S. and Canadian forces, themselves. So we can’t really expect illiterate, Afghan civilians to tell the difference between an American and a French jet at midnight. But you know the result: when bombs or bullets fly off in the wrong direction, which inevitably happens in a hot war, when there is an occasional overuse of force, it gets blamed on Americans — or the “U.S. led coalition” — with the implication that the U.S. engineered the error. This is partly a function of the expert propaganda machine that the Taliban and its fundamentalist allies bring to bear — and, of course, of a world media eager to exploit such stories.

For our part and to the credit of our leadership, the U.S. is reluctant to publicly correct the record, since finger-pointing can only cause friction in the coalition. At a moment when Afghan policy is hanging in the balance, with a new Administration thinking about what they ought to do to move toward stability, we walk a tightrope between offending our allies by criticizing their actual shortcomings — and the even more important problem of overstepping very sensitive boundaries in Afghanistan. If we are going to be able to finish the job we started, we can’t afford to create problems for the Karzai government.

Rules of Engagement, discipline, training and moral boundaries vary drastically between nations. Sophisticated readers should know that “U.S. led” does not necessarily mean that an American called in the target, or had anything to do in dropping the bomb. But I will say that a small American team told me recently that it was a French jet who came to their aid during an ambush, and expertly dropped a bomb straight onto a Taliban position.

Don’t expect major media reporting to make any fine distinctions about who did what, anytime soon.  Both US media and European media are only too willing to blame the US for anything that happens badly, one of those cases of “hands across the water” cooperation.

It will be irresistibly tempting for the US media and public to essentially ignore the war on Islamofascism until a major event on our own soil, or perhaps a major event in Europe, something bigger than the London Tube bombings.  I’ve predicted before that if they’re smart, the terrorists will wait about 6 years before a major attack on the US, time enough for Obama and the Democrat congress to “build down” our military, weakening our ability to respond, with the “build down” itself standing as evidence of our reluctance to use what power we have, and thus inviting attack.

In the Hundred Years War, there were several periods of “peace”, some rather long, yet viewed historically, the single large conflict lasted about 115 years, with variations in intensity.  In that sense, the “Cold War” consisted of various hot wars punctuated by periods of less overt belligerance, and that seems likely to be the case with the war between the West (and the westernizing East) and Islamofascism.  In the Hundred Years War, entire reigns could pass in relative peace, yet the conflict was not over, because the underlying issues had not been resolved.

Obama and the Democrats may be hoping for such a reign now.  Kicking the can down the road, national security-wise, has been their specialty ever since the Democrat congress cut Vietnam loose in 1975, cut all promised funding, and left them to the tender mercies of the North Vietnamese communists.  Will Barney Frank get his 25% reduction in the military?  Will Obama try to get out of Iraq, or Afghanistan, before the job is done?  If so, he’ll probably be praised by the Left, but subsequent administrations will preside over the payment of the interest on the loan Obama will be taking out, and that interest will be paid in blood.

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One Response to “Too easy to forget about right now”

  1. enharmonic says:

    Isn’t this exactly the scenario of the U.S. prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor? It seems to be human nature to stick our heads in the sand when things are going good. We are still in that mode even though our back-sides are on fire. Look at our economy. Same thing.

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