Ralph Peters on Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

I like Ralph Peters.  Always have.  I enjoy reading his analyses even when I disagree.  Ralph is a good writer, great stylistically, and certainly knowledgeable on a great many things.  That’s why I have concluded that Ralph has been smoking pot, or hash.  I’m certain of it.  Certain.

Not any pot, mind you, but some bad, bad weed.  Something’s wrong with the stuff he has been doing.  That’s the only explanation for his most recent analysis of the options in Afghanistan.  Just a little of it is reproduced below.

We needed to smash our enemies and leave. Had it proved necessary, we could have returned later for another punitive mission. Instead, we fell into the great American fallacy of believing ourselves responsible for helping those who’ve harmed us. This practice was already fodder for mockery 50 years ago, when the novella and film The Mouse That Roared postulated that the best way for a poor country to get rich was to declare war on America then surrender …

Ranked from best to worst, here are our four basic options going forward:

Best. Instead of increasing the U.S. military “footprint,” reduce our forces and those of NATO by two-thirds, maintaining a “mother ship” at Bagram Air Base and a few satellite bases from which special operations troops, aircraft and drones, and lean conventional forces would strike terrorists and support Afghan factions with whom we share common enemies. All resupply for our military could be done by air, if necessary.

Stop pretending Afghanistan’s a real state. Freeze development efforts. Ignore the opium. Kill the fanatics.

Good. Leave entirely. Strike terrorist targets from over the horizon and launch punitive raids when necessary. Instead of facing another Vietnam ourselves, let Afghanistan become a Vietnam for Iran and Pakistan. Rebuild our military at home, renewing our strategic capabilities.

Poor. Continue to muddle through as is, accepting that achieving any meaningful change in Afghanistan is a generational commitment. Surge troops for specific missions, but not permanently.

Worst. Augment our forces endlessly and increase aid in the absence of a strategy. Lie to ourselves that good things might just happen. Let U.S. troops and Afghans continue to die for empty rhetoric, while Pakistan decays into a vast terrorist refuge.

Dude.  Quick.  Somebody grab his bong while he isn’t looking.  Actually, this notion of smashing our enemies and leaving has a very robust and time-honored tradition.  I have discussed it extensively with one particular Marine to whom I am very close (wink), and even the enlisted men know that there are various foreign policy paradigms.  This idea also matches quite nicely with the imperial nature of the U.S. Marine Corps, fighting our battles on foreign soil rather than our own, and the expeditionary nature and structure of the Corps.  As long as we recognize that we would be back into Afghanistan – and we most certainly would – then leaving now is a viable option.

It’s the first (so-called “best”) option that causes The Captain’s Journal to believe that Ralphie has been taking a few tokes on some wicked reefer.  The first option is not viable.  If we withdraw to a couple of bases, it would be similar to withdrawing completely.  The Afghan police would be slaughtered within two to three weeks.  The Afghan National Army would last longer, maybe six weeks.  The Taliban would be inside Kabul in force within a few weeks, and the Karzai regime wouldn’t last longer than the six weeks that the Army existed.  The Taliban would take over again.

Any interpreters, transporters or moderates would be summarily executed by the Taliban.  There would be no logistical supply into any of the bases, and so all supply would be done by air to the larger base and helicopter by smaller base.  The helicopters would be routinely shot down by rocket fire.  The Taliban would completely control the terrian outside of all bases, and no intelligence would be forthcoming to kill the bad actors.  No intelligence would be forthcoming because there would be no one left alive who would talk to the U.S. about the whereabouts of the bad actors.  There would be no interpreters left alive, and so no communication with the Afghan population at all.  It would be like the Tower of Babel.  The police would all be dead, and the Army wouldn’t exist any more.

The main base would always be under attack my mortar, RPG, rocket and small arms fire, and no missions outside of the base would occur via ground transport because of the IEDs.  It would all have to occur via helicopter, and Taliban would be permanently garrisoned outside of the base to shoot down any helicopter that ventured out of the base.  The base would be relegated to force protection alone, and staying alive would be the goal of the miserable deployment for the Soldiers and Marines.

As for the smaller bases, they would take so many casualties that assignment to them would be seen as a death sentence.  Casualties wouldn’t even be able to be flown back to the main base (and certainly not Germany or Aircraft Carriers) for treatment.  Staying alive would be the main occupation of men on the main base.  It would be almost impossible on the smaller FOBs or outposts.

In short, the first option won’t work.  It’s not that it isn’t desirable.  We have tried it for six years in Afghanistan, and it’s why we are where we are at the moment.  So withdraw completely – bring them all home – get rested up and retrained – and then prepare to go back and do it again later.  So be it.  The next Afghanistan campaign in three or four years after another 9/11.  That’s a viable strategy.  It will work.  Or, go big and present force projection in order to kill the enemy, secure the population, and build a system that prevents the existence of threats to America.

But the small footprint option is a loser.  It won’t work, and by the time we figure that out, too many sons of America will have died in such a stupid plan.  And someone please grab Ralph’s bong.  He needs to get clear-headed.  He is a contributor to this thing.  We need him sober.



  • Warbucks

    If I were going into battle I would vest much weight to “The Captain’s – Herschel’s” war planning. If I were sitting at home tasked with thinking through alternative war plans of hypothetical engagements I would want to give weight to all possible alternatives, somewhat like Ralph Peters.

    According to one of the Pentagon’s strategic war planners, Dr. Thomas Barnett,
    It took Barnett himself 14 years just to figure out a how to even think about his own strategic planning job for war fighting, in light of a changing world of inter-consecutiveness.

    The problem with Dr. Barnett’s innovative thinking is the “when” to implement a change in free world transition to the “problems requiring military response.”

    Unless a serious outbreak of peace offered us a break during which we and the world might restructure response protocols, the big dog in the fight not only sets the tone, but is left alone to do what’s needed to be done.

    Barnett puts it this way, “We field the first half team in a league that insists on keeping score to the end of the game; that’s the problem. We can run the score up against anybody and then get our asses kicked in the second half… what they call fourth generation warfare. There is no battle space the US military can not access. They said we couldn’t do Afghanistan – we did it with ease. They said we couldn’t do Iraq, we did it with 150 combat causalities in 6 weeks. We did it so fast we weren’t prepared for their collapse. There is nobody we can’t take down.

    “What we have trouble with is the Transition Space that follows and the Peace Space that allows us to move on. We have a brilliant Sec. of War but we don’t have a Sec. of Everything Else (Transition Space and Peace Space).”

    The two largest tests facing the new administration will be their effectiveness in reviving the Economy in a globalized world, and their world leadership in stabilizing the Middle East.

    A failure in either department will exacerbate our responses to the next radical Islamic wave sent to our shores. I believe the Ralph Peters’ formulation will lead to step-up in the next response. In that world, when we go back, we go back in with a William Tecumseh Sharman response of shock and awe, and cauterize “the problem,” to leave an historic footprint. The Department of Everything Else, will then be facilitated because there will be no need for “Transition Space,” just caskets.

  • Warbucks

    Typo: inter-consecutiveness was supposed to be inter-connectiveness. Sorry about that.

  • Pingback: Are We Wasting Time in Afghanistan? « MANSIZEDTARGET.COM


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