Why Gen. Petraeus Is Going to Be the Last Person to Recognize That Afghanistan Is Totally Lost
I was in the military, the Marines, so I know how military officers think. Well, wait, let me back up there a minute -- "think" is the wrong term. Because military brass are not about thinking -- at least the kind of process I'd prefer when it comes to considering military solutions. When I use the term in relation to deciding on military action, executing those actions and ending them, what I mean is to "THINK."
Instead military brass "think" they think about how many troops, planes, bombs, bullets, MREs, rotation schedules and such they will need to wage a military action under consideration. When asked by their civilian leaders if they "think" they can win a given military action, that's when all thinking, even the lower-case military brass variety, stops. I have never met a general who did not respond, when asked by his or her superior if they can win a war, who had anything but one response: YES SIR! Because there's nothing in the general job description that covers losing wars. So what's to think about. There can only BE one answer, that's "Yes."
Even past wars the clearly lost, were not really "lost." Just ask any Vietnam-era general if we lost the Vietnam War. Even though the entire decade-long fiasco was painstakingly documented on video tape, the brass will tell you, with faces as straight as the crease in their pants, that the politicians chickened out and stabbed the military in the back. They will tell you that, all it would have taken was another couple of years and half a million more troops, a few thousand more bombing missions, more "hearts and minds" outreach-stuff to villagers (usually after we'd burned their village down) and few hundred thousand gallons of Agent Orange defoliant to win that war.
Anyway, that's their story, and they're sticking to it.
That's what generals do when they think -- then and now. There is no military conflict they cannot win if only their civilian leaders don't go all sissy on them and sound the retreat. Which is why were are still in that cesspool, Afghanistan, and why we will not be leaving anytime soon. When Obama asks General Petraeus how things are going in Afghanistan, he responds, "we are making solid progress, Mr.President." When asked if he can make the 2011 deadline for withdrawal, he says, "Well Mr. President, if given enough time, and resources, and the conditions on the ground are right, we can." When asked why, after 7 years those conditions have not yet been met, the generals have "thought up" a snappy response. "We haven't been fighting a war there for seven years," they say, "We've been fighting one-year wars for seven years."
Ah, that's it. Those damn civilian/political leaders have been holding the military back. If only we give the generals everything they want, when they want it, no matter the cost in money, lives and international standing, then and only then will they be able to come through with their "YES SIR" promises of years and years and bloody years past when it all began.
It's the kind of General-think that so got under President Truman's skin he canned WW II icon Gen. MacArthur. Clearly ms Truman was a faster learner than Obama.
Here's more on that. Have a nice day.
No 'Graceful Exit'
By Bob Herbert
In his book, "The Promise," about President Obama's first year in office, Jonathan Alter describes a brief conversation between the president and Vice President Joe Biden that took place last November at the end of Mr. Obama's long deliberation about what to do in Afghanistan.
Mr. Biden asked whether the new policy of beginning a significant withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2011 was a direct presidential order that could not be countermanded by the military. The president said yes.
The two men were on their way to a meeting in the Oval Office with members of the Pentagon brass who would be tasked with carrying out Mr. Obama's orders. Among those at the meeting was Gen. David Petraeus, then the chief of the United States Central Command, which included oversight of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Mr. Alter, the president said to General Petraeus:
"David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in eighteen months?"
Mr. Petraeus replied: "Sir, I'm confident we can train and hand over to the A.N.A. [Afghan National Army] in that time frame."
The president went on: "If you can't do the things you say you can in eighteen months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?"
"Yes, sir, in agreement," said General Petraeus.