Win Or Lose In Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years ago

A note from an active duty Soldier and very loyal reader of TCJ.  I am withholding his name.


Pretty compelling stuff on your site of late. The Army is working the hell out of me lately and I don’t have the emotional energy to comment coherently on your site. But to you I’d like to suggest two things; Its not as easy as withdrawing and the regional  threats will all strengthen when we exit. We can “win” this Afghan thing if we, as a country chose to. We appear to have chosen not to win. Lots of the comment on your site is such un/ill informed crap; it drives me up a tree. After all this time can people still be so clueless?

Afghanistan has been 10 (going on 11) one year wars. Each year is tied to the other only in the vast funds expended and the incoherence of the strategy and execution of our warfighting and state department actions. Each year is a ridiculous, blind stab at something, anything to “win” the war without of course, actually war fighting at a scale that will in fact, win the war. Talk and more talk, money and more money, blood and more blood and nothing to show for it. The reality of this circumstance weakens me more than any tour of combat I’ve yet experienced.

I’ve no issue with your admonition that it is time to leave. I’ve believed that since 2006. But what I believe more is that our military, political and civil authorities must proclaim not simply that we cannot win, but that we refuse to win. And that knowing the outcome of walking away; are willing to ransome a future generation to warfighting at a bloddy scale that will make our 10 year efforts appear like so much playground proctoring. Anyway, Herschel, keep it up. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m mighty glad that you do!

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to write, but occasionally I receive letters like this one, and then I understand.  But the authorities admitting what we all know to be true won’t happen.  Furthermore, the highlighted sentence tells us – yet again – what I have tried to point out ever since I have been writing.

What the population-centric COIN advocates have not gotten, and will never get, with their claptrap about killing one insurgent and creating ten more, or killing one family member, even by accident, and create 100 insurgents (you take your pick of the cliche du jour), is that nothing can compare in its debilitating affects on the troops  – and thus the campaign – like what we’ve done, e.g., hand them immoral rules of engagement, talk about talking to the Taliban, talk to the Taliban, send billions of dollars into black holes, wander aimlessly in a strategic malaise with our head up our ass, set dates for withdrawal, declare that it will all be okay anyway, and so on and so forth the sad parade goes.

What does it take to lose a war?  Destroy morale with awful leadership.

  • TS Alfabet

    I can certainly understand why no one in the Obama Administration would come out and honestly declare that we are simply choosing to lose A-stan. Politicians are the same as ordinary people in this respect: they feel compelled to cover their ass when they screw up which requires euphemisms, obfuscation and dissembling.

    What I *can’t* understand is why the political party that is supposed to be in opposition to the Democrats; the party that is supposed to differentiate itself from the Democrats; the party that is supposed to point out such brazen attempts at calling willful defeat a “victory” cannot find its voice.

    Obama has so many, many obvious mistakes, contradictions, hypocrisies, dangerous power grabs that I would think that the GOP candidates would be using their incessant debates to attack Obama. Why has not a single GOP candidate ever said this very thing, that we can win in A-stan if we choose to win, but Obama is choosing to lose?

    As far as I know, we seem to have one politician who is willing to tell it like it is and that is Lt. Col. Allen West (R-FL). And it looks like the GOP controlled Florida legislature may be re-drawing his district in order to shut him up.

  • RJ

    Career officers within our military branches desire to rise in rank for a variety of reasons. When one gets to the “general/admiral” level the focus of responsibilities goes down and…outward into the “political arena” as it has since the beginning of such structures. When one becomes the chairman of the joint chiefs you–the citizen, should realize this person is really good at the “political gamesmanship” of our country’s leaders within Washington, DC, or at least the political party of the occupier of the white house.

    Whose team are you on? This question is asked a lot around Washington, DC. Team orders rule, rogue leaders don’t generally last long in this game of power politics.

    Great leaders don’t come into our lives that often, now do they? Would one know a great leader when presented? Just what constitutes such a person?

    Would a “great leader” have promoted “two wars” for 10 years with no “victory” in sight by the most powerful country on this planet? We elect our leaders by majority rules, right?

    I guess we just may not know what makes a great leader, nor how we might elect such a person…as a majority of voters seem to demonstrate.

    Perhaps “luck” is what is needed. Do you “feel” lucky? Well, do you!?

  • Rich Buckley

    “What does it take to lose a war?”, perhaps a failure to offer the average Joe the clarity of political purpose transmitted through a simple Declairation of War.

  • Herschel Smith

    RJ, I don’t believe in the existence of luck. It’s not real. It has no power of causation. It is a figment of our imaginations.

    Rich, I don’t agree, but more to the point, I will write on this very issue some time soon.

    TS Alfabet, right on, brother. I would vote for Allen West before any man I know, white or black. Oh, if only he were running for President. I hate to hear that the Florida GOP is trying to marginalize him. What a bunch of pussies. What weasels we have in the GOP!

    It may be time for a third party.

  • RJ

    My “luck” comment was in reference to the Clint Eastwood character “Dirty Harry” suggesting an energy needed that has not been present from the top down in our government. Also, luck might be viewed as an energy source not considered, even unexpected, that arrives to a situation creating change which works to one’s perspective. Imagine that!

  • Herschel Smith

    Mmm. Dirty Harry movies. Clint Eastwood – always a good citation. But not as good as his spaghetti Westerns (“A Fist Full of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More,” and also “The Good, Bad and the Ugly”).

    But I still liken belief in “luck” to something like belief in the tooth fairy.

  • RJ

    Do you think the baby adopted by Elton John and his mate David Furnish will come to believe in a “tooth fairy” in the not to distant future? What a lucky kid!

You are currently reading "Win Or Lose In Afghanistan?", entry #8183 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan and was published January 30th, 2012 by Herschel Smith.

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