Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pen vs The Sword or, the Willing vs the Unwilling

In the ongoing discussion about the validity of the use of COIN doctrine in an ideologically monolithic society, there is no end to the number of people willing to join the conversation. In general, I have no problem with that as long as they are equally ready to place their collective butts where their collective theses 'meet the sand'. Enter one Nadia Schadlow. While I certainly hold no specific disdain for academics I have no use for those who try to sway the kind of public policy that will; I repeat WILL have a detrimental effect on the very lives of our Warriors. I have even less use for those who are so willing to steep the odds against our Warriors while they insulate themselves from the cost of their arrogant presumptions.

Ms Schadlow wrote a piece in the Armed Forces Journal entitled 'The False Dichotomy' about the ongoing discussion about the effectiveness of counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan. Her main point is that the discussion is not based on the reality that small wars of this kind are the likely venue for the future. Her argument then states and supports the idea that the most logical answer is the 'holisitc' approach employed by COIN. Of course her entire essay lacks any discussion of the enemy, the people or the insidious nature of the ideology that binds them all together. It also lacks any recognition of the fact that the government and the people are tied to the 'insurgency' (spelled Taliban) by blood, shared history and shared ideology all at the expense of the Warriors who are forced to perform within the COIN paradigm. Her entire essay is generic in nature and assumes a flat playing field - all things being otherwise equal. This is exactly the kind of simplistic logic that has us in the position we now find ourselves in.

Herschel Smith just wrote a piece in which he highlights the efforts of a contractor in Afghanistan using his passion for the rodeo to help mend fences and deflate stresses among both American and Afghan Warriors. The contractor tells a story of conditions that have become less stable and more dangerous; hardly a glowing review for the much touted COIN. In addition Stratfor released an assessment by Maj. Gen. Afzal Imam, the Afghan army's operations chief, who listed the areas still under militant (again, spelled Taliban) control; the areas are as follows: Kamdesh district, Nuristan province; Nika district, Paktika province; Nawa district, Ghazni province; Khak-e-Afghan district, Zabol province; Ghorak and Mianshin districts, Kandahar province; and Baghran Washer and Desho districts, Helmand province. Not the most glowing review for a doctrine the good Doctor, the President and upper echelon military claim to be the holy grail in such an environment - especially considering the amount of blood and treasure we have spent trying to secure some of these regions utilizing COIN.

At some point, someone, will decide that a legitimate review of this enemy, the government in Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan, their combined history, their 1400 year old religious ideology, the Russian experience, the British experience, the literature of Kipling, the after action reports of the current engagements, the testimony of troops returning from the sand box et al, will probably make sense. The problem is that by the time they decide that, the politically expedient decision will already have been made and the brush spreading the paint of deceit will already have drawn a picture of 'success' for the American voter to consider when they go to the polling booths in 2012. And no one will be held responsible for such a sloppy assessment of the enemy, the people, the history, the ideology or the family ties that bind the entirety of that land together against us. In the end, someone will finally determine what we have known right along, that the original Commanders Intent was the only legitimate mission and the only legitimate strategy, was the one that would have killed as many of the enemy as possible.

In the end, leaving that country could have been many years back. The plight of the Afghan people, will continue to be the responsibility of those who have the most to gain or lose; the people of Afghanistan. Freedom isn't free; the Afghan people need to learn that lesson. Those seeking office in the American system of government need to learn that their knee-jerk reactions to failing strategies eventually cost lives.

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard


  1. OT: Sports

    In 2005 Petty Officer First Class David Goggins’ life took a tragic turn. Several of his fellow U.S. Navy SEAL(s) were killed in a helicopter crash during a mission in Afghanistan. To honor them, Goggins vowed to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which gives college scholarships and grants to the children of fallen special operations soldiers. Goggins rationalized that to raise money, he would have to do something extreme, something phenomenal— something incredibly painful.