Here’s a little quiz for the “armchair generals” among us who may have become a tad disillusioned by the way that our US military appears to be conducting itself over this first decade of The Long War. Here we go, but before you get started here’s a tip: Because this is war we’re talking about, there are no right, wrong or good answers — just questions.
1. It is easy to identify enemy insurgents in Afghanistan. If you see the following behaviors chances are you’ve spotted an insurgent: (a) anyone who acts nervous at checkpoints; (b) anyone digging a hole; (c) anyone who doesn’t instantly follow orders screamed in English; (d) anyone carrying something large, roughly the size and shape of an AK-47 or grenade launcher e.g, camera equipment; (e) people who grab their guns when you break down their door in the middle of the night.
2. The best intelligence sources on where insurgents can be found include: (a) any Afghan willing to talk to you; (b) air-surveillance spotting of people with trucks/vans; (c) local drug lords; (d) little kids.
3. The best way to minimize collateral damage is: (a) stop killing people; (b) clean up the evidence when victims are obviously civilians; (c) deny it — the Taliban human shield defense works well; (d) if all else fails — lie; say the bodies had already been murdered by someone local e.g., honor killings (if victims are female) or “tribal justice” if victims are male.
4. The best ways to win “hearts and minds” are: (a) leave the country; (b) run around shirtless with a “mock” headdress and shades like a Medal of Honor avatar; (c) build things like cutting edge water treatment plants that are too complex for the locals to operate; (d) burn your high-tech trash in open fires to leave your mark on future generations.
5. The best in-country partners for a counterinsurgency are: (a) local CIA assets; (b) ex-cons; (c) local arms smugglers; (d) popular, clueless charlatans.
Well. That’s enough for now, you get the idea…
Whatever the doctrine or mission or strategy that landed US forces in Afghanistan it’s increasingly hard to come up with a good rationale for staying, let alone surging … perhaps it’s battle fatigue; or the growing effect of an influx of Black Water-y commandos and their 21st Century Art of Warfare program; or maybe it’s just plain old ignorance, bungling and mismanagement — more than likely it’s a combination of the three. Whatever the cause, there are legions of dead Iraqis and Afghanis to attest to the fact that “shit happens” in War and a no-win situation only gets more dismal when you throw more resources at it.
Back in the beginning of the century, I don’t think that anyone, no less anyone in the Bush administration, could have foreseen the absolute travesty and international humiliation that these wars would wreak on participant nations. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems to be awakening and tiring of their supporting role quicker than we’d like. After all, it’s one thing to be Emperor and quite another to be a “friend of the Empire,” at the end of the day.
Also, unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly evident that perhaps the American collective consciousness doesn’t really have the stomach or the inherent ruthlessness to be global conquistadors. It’s difficult to shape a population reared on a public image of honesty, integrity and generosity into a lean, mean permanent war machine.
I’m not saying it can’t be done — just that it takes longer and more concerted effort to root out the innate common decency that has no place in a global domination program. In my opinion that’s why we’re doing such a crappy job of it and why it’s become necessary to contract so much of the job out to sociopathic gunslingers that cause more problems than they solve.