Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What He Said

I refuse to link to the steaming pile of geopolitical crazy the Usual Kagans pooped out this weekend at the WaPo. But Gian Gentile does so I don't have to.

I think we all can pretty much agree with what he says here:
"Sometimes it does seem that “wicked” tactical and operational problems in a place like Afghanistan requires not necessarily more experts and “scary smart” army officers to tackle them, but clear, astute, and resolute thinking about strategy and national interests."
My bottom line is that in the larger sense we are actually spending very little - both in treasure and in blood - to police the Paimirs. But the very notion that a faction of my nation's political elite and punditry believe that this is a good idea and we should do more of it and for a longer time...this, to me, is a powerful indication of the rot and corruption settling in at the heart of our nation.

You can argue that this is no different than the sort of manifest destiny rhetoric spounted to justify the Mexican War, the native American Endlösung, the Spanish American War and any number of shitty little wars in Central America and the Caribbean. And you'd be right; we Americans have never been the type to sing kumbaya and love peace and quiet.

But for nearly 200 years we DID believe that the lands beyond the seas were Other People's Business, and that the business of the United States was here, no further than our own Near Abroad. Now we seem to have a significant public for the idea that we need to fiddle-fuck around in places like central Asia. This sort of imperial meddling is always tempting to Great Powers and it seldom ends up benefitting the Powers in the long run.

I'm glad to see COL Gentile slap him some Kagans upside the head. This needs to happen more often. Because, as he reminds us:
"Afghanistan is a country wracked with internal problems; tribal conflict, backwardness, corruption, tension that produces endemic violence, bitter regional disputes, dysfunctional national boundaries, etc. So why do we think we can solve their problems in a matter of a few decades through foreign occupation? Could any outside force have come into the United States in the 1850s and resolved its internal conflicts at the barrel of a gun? Actually, the British tried to resolve internal conflict in North America about 80 years earlier during the American Revolution and lost, or gave up trying because strategy demanded for them that it became not worth the cost of trying to do it."
You get some, colonel. Because we need to remember that just because a fool of a Kagan says something doesn't mean we need to be fools and hearken to it.


  1. He is a good dude, unfortunately, not sure how much further he will make it in his career speaking his mind like that. I consider his career to be something of a litmus test as to how the General Officers are embracing outspoken and opinionated officers whose opinions are contrary or even "subversive". If COL Gentile gets picked up for at least 2 star, I will be impressed (1 star could be a consolation prize just to try to appear like they are tolerating his behavior).

  2. FDChief-

    Read the KKD article in the WashPost and it was essentially "commit more US troops for now" and kick the can down the road, which is the Obama "strategy", right?

    I like Gentile, he gives it straight, but he's going against the majority view in the US Army officer corps today which has as Andrew Bacevich laments, accepted a "morally ambiguous warfare as its destiny. They have embraced this as the new American way of war, heedlessly, thoughtlessly - in terms of what the larger interests of the country require - very foolishly." But then Bacevich's a Clausewitzian . . .

    After 8 years of idiot Bush, and one of Obama's "bipartisanism", the NeoCons have achieved their only real "success": the total divorce of military strategy from US national policy . . .

  3. bg: I think he's screwed, but, frankly, given what making flag rank in the US Army since WW2, I'm not sure I'd want that booby prize if I was him. Give the man props for being willing to speak out.

    seydlitz: The Kagan "plan" is what Obama's people are pretty much buying into. That doesn't make it any smarter or likely to work. I wish that a solid background of strategic study and understanding of the politico-military art was a prerequisite for senior rank in the U.S. Army, but that's never been the case. We throw out a clever dick or three and the occasional genius, but it's not the product of training or organizational bias.

    IMO the success of sites like "Abu Muquwama" and "Small Wars Journal" are a tribute to the ability of our professional military to stick narrowmindedly to its lanes while ignoring the larger effects of what it does. We're beavering away trying to repeat the tragedy of Yamamoto, whose genius was to help bury his nation neck deep in a war that his enemies had won economically and logistically almost before it started. We won't meet the same fate, but we sure are trying to piss away everything that our continental position, social and economic resources have gifted us.

  4. FDChief-

    "We won't meet the same fate, . . ."

    Perhaps not from the outside . . .

  5. BG:

    Hey Man, Welcome back! How many Crusade Tours have you done in the interim? Are you still in today's Action Army? I hope you are doing well, and not missing any body parts.

    What is wrong with West Point, and the Army in general, letting a hoser like Kagan teach there? Just looking at his mug, I want to beat his ass, without knowing a thing about him.

    Oh well, I've probably said too much, given my lowered blogistani profile. Please give us some news on what the "Haps" have been lately!

  6. Actually, Afghanistan is costing us a lot of our attention. While we are fussing about Afghanistan we are not fussing about something else.

    Whether this is a good or bad thing depends strongly on what we would be doing otherwise.

  7. seydlitz: good point. You can die of internal silver poisoning just as you can from external lead...

    Ael: I've touched on this before, but just to our south there are some fairly serious indicators that Mexico is in danger of sliding towards failed statehood. I have no idea what our gov't is doing behind the scenes, but right now "not much" comes to mind.

    To take Afghanistan and lose Mexico is the sort of thing that'd get you laughed out of the room if you were playing "Risk"...

  8. Fasteddiez, thanks, good to be back. I've been on the wolf hunt in some deep dark woods and I glad to be back, for the time being. I will be home for about a month and then back on the road, but at least this time it will be something different (back to the war on drugs, whatever happened to that one?).

    I didn't realize that Kagan was teaching at West Point. Why does the name Goebbels come to mind? I do see a lot of the BS "let's go get him for America" leaders, but no where near as many as I used to. I find it somewhat encouraging to see the culture of the Army shifting away from where it was back in 2001. 8 years of non-stop deployments and war has that impact.

    Small, but somewhat telling example:

    Back in 2003, we used to call CNN the communist news network, and no one would dare have it on in their place of business, Fox News was the standard (you would actually be ridiculed by peers and leaders alike for anything else). Today, you still see Fox on the TV from time to time, but most admit because it is more like a tabloid than news. My last trip, we much preferred to have Al Jazeera English on. Yes, that is right, what a very fair and diverse newscast. They focus 50% of their stories on news that is of interest to us in the military (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia). You will see more soldier interviews on AJE every day than you will see on CNN/FOX in a week's time.

  9. My few encounters with AJE (links from the blogosphere) have also been constructive. As I recall, Al Jazeera translates to "the Truth" and they seem closer than others on certain matters.