Today's IHT had an article chock full of interesting tidbits. Here's a couple of them, and I'll number them for quick reference as you comment.
1. Mr. Gates, who maintained his usual laconic reserve as the disarray unfolded, was by Friday more openly reflective when he acknowledged to American troops in Kirkuk, the oil-rich region north of Baghdad, how hard a sell the wars were at home. “One of the myths in the international community is that the United States likes war,” he said. “And the reality is, other than the first two or three years of World War II, there has never been a popular war in America.”
Talk about a Freudian slip on a horrific scale! So, should there even be "popular" wars? Having worked in the field for the bulk of my adult life, to include actually fighting in a couple of them, I shudder at the notion that any war might be "popular". I would hope that those who bear arms would be clinical about their trade. I would also hope that those clinicians would also retain a touch of humanity at the same time. Perhaps not in the heat of close contact, but at least in the larger sense.
Isn't it time to think about war as a last resort? To use a word so terribly over worked by GWB and Co, should war be "popular" of more correctly viewed as the application of necessary, but basically evil acts in response to unnecessary evil acts? Of course, necessary and unnecessary is in the eyes of the beholder.
In my eyes, popularity or not, the major failure of the American culture is the presence of far too many people who take war, especially "away games", far too lightly. If the 19 boxcutter wielding guys of 9/11 had killed or maimed a proportion of the NYC population equal to some of our collateral damaged innocents in Iraqi or Afghan villages - - - - well, think about it!
2. Mr. Gates found himself ..... startled by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who blurted out at a palace news conference that the Afghans would not be able to pay for their own security forces until 2024
Ok, boys and girls, if the Afghans will not be able to pay the bill for 15 more years, who will? And in return for those 15 years of payments, what will be the return on investment? You gotta love Karzai. If he is right, his "honesty" should scare off sane people. If he is wrong, you have to wonder where his head is. Either way, he's announced, "Heads you don't win and Tails you lose". Actually, after reading all that has been written about the nature of the country, his comment sounds quite plausible. Where would a tribal, non-industrial, natural resource poor country get the money to fund security forces sufficient for what we hope of them?
3. And, while we are wondering why the current wars are not "popular":
Mr. Gates did meet with Mr. Maliki early on Friday, the same day he finally managed to talk to some troops. That was in Kirkuk, where in a town hall-style session he was asked unusually pointed questions. Why, one wanted to know, is the United States still at war after eight years?
“I think it’s a mistake to look at Afghanistan as sort of one eight-year war,” Mr. Gates responded in the same even tone he had used all week. “We had a war in 2001, 2002, which we essentially won. And the Taliban was kicked out of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda was kicked out of Afghanistan, many of them killed. And then things were very quiet in Afghanistan.”
Without blaming President George W. Bush’s administration, which he once served, for sidelining the conflict in favor of Iraq, Mr. Gates said the second war in Afghanistan started in late 2005 and early 2006. “But the United States really has gotten its head into this conflict in Afghanistan, as far as I’m concerned, really only in the last year,” he said.
I think we have discussed his first claim, "essentially winning" the "first war in Afghanistan". How can you claim victory when the only result was a political vacuum, not a firm, sustainable political end state? OOOpppsss, there I go again, asking why we ignored our well developed doctrine for an "Occupation". Societies with Attention Deficit Disorder don't do occupations.