In case you haven’t noticed Afghanistan has sort of become a major hotbed of resistance to our military. There has been heavy fighting and far too many deaths of our military personnel. One thing that seems the most disappointing to me about Iraq and Afghanistan is how the local citizens do not seem fully committed to their freedom. As Americans I am not sure that we can completely understand this because most of us were born free and continue to live free.
People in the Middle East…not so much. They have lived under oppressive regimes and invaders for thousands of years. Our wars are but one more brief moment in history that they have either experienced first-hand or have been taught by their elders. So what’s the problem?
America’s track record for sustaining the fight and carrying through toward victory (not just an end of fighting) has not been that good since World War II. The world, both our enemies and friends, are watching and taking notes. How likely would you be to jump on to the side of the United States when we really have done a fair amount of cutting and running when things got really hot or took too long. I believe that the images of our military abandoning South Vietnam and Congress’ subsequent action to cut financial support for them is still very fresh in potential allies’ minds.
Our politicians have not been kind to our efforts. Using phrases like, “this war is lost” or “it’s George Bush’s Vietnam” referring to soldiers as murderers “in cold blood” have had deleterious effects on our military, our allies, and any potential allies. Politicians on both sides have used the war efforts to prolong their government careers. Voting for the war before voting against it or saddling military appropriations bills with crap pork or non-related policy measures is a popular move. I am continually amazed by how politicians are never really called to the carpet when they make contradictory statements or take opposite positions based on their audience. How willing would you be to commit yourself and your family to rely on this bunch of buffoons for your life?
I don’t believe that our value of each human life translates to other cultures. We have developed severely limiting rules of engagement for our military to ensure minimal collateral damage to civilians. The problem is that the people who are fighting us look just like citizens when the drop their weapons. They are able to blend in with the population; they can strike and disappear in plain sight. It is likely that they perceive our value to each human life as weakness. These fundamentalist cultures seem to have no qualms about using suicide bombers and have even used women, children and the disabled to perpetrate terror.
We play by the rules, but they don’t. Sure there have been much reported cases of prisoner abuse. I am sorry, but making a human pyramid out of naked terrorists was degrading, but pales in comparison to slicing a prisoner’s head off in front of cameras. How many of their fighters have we dragged through the streets, set on fire, and hung from bridges? I think that they see this as weakness on our part.
They use our media our culture, and our laws against us. How many times has the media been used to make America look bad? There are many cases where photographs were doctored or bodies literally dragged to different locations to foment outrage over alleged civilian deaths. How many prisoners claim abuse by their captors and how many innocent soldiers’ have been prosecuted based on the testimony of terrorists? More of them should allow themselves to be captured as this would surely cripple our legal system.
Finally I think that our elected officials and their military staff really don’t want to make the tough decisions. They look toward committees and studies to get them backing for policy decisions; they can always point to something or someone else when it hits the fan. The “leaders” perhaps cannot look beyond their preconceived notions about how to fight this enemy or win. The muse for this post was a story about a “Peace Deal” brokered in a particularly hot spot in Afghanistan. The sub-headline read, “Tribe to halt attacks in exchange for cash.” Perhaps this will work and even if temporarily it will give our soldiers a brief respite from fighting. Perhaps, however, the Taliban are the ones who need the break more. Terrorists are often willing to broker a truce when they are about to lose. We stop; they regroup, rearm and restart when they think their odds are better.
A recent book that I reviewed, A Case For Democracy, provided insightful evidence that without actual strings these agreements are virtually worthless. They often boost the stature of the very people we need to defeat. No doubt that we are asking for strings, but what will we do if they take the money and run…or worse use the money to strengthen their positions. The tribes claim the ability to halt Taliban attacks and they may be able to drive them out of their area, but unless these terrorists are killed they will just go somewhere else or dig in. What will happen to the tribal leaders? What happens to our gains if the peace doesn’t hold?