It is time to face an uncomfortable fact. Our military is no longer capable of fighting and winning wars. The unfolding debacle in Afghanistan provides all the proof anyone could wish of this fact. The armed forces that crushed Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany cannot vanquish a 12th-century force of Islamic warriors armed with castoff weaponry.
This is not because of the quality of our servicemen and women. We have the best in the world. We have the best that have ever served anywhere at any time.
This is not because of the quality of our gear and weapons. We spend more on defense than any other nation on the planet. There is a reason the Chinese and Russians work overtime to steal our secrets. They are desperate to copy what we have and put it to use against us.
It is because of the quality of our officer corps. We have replaced leaders and warriors with managers and bureaucrats.
War is a horrifying business. We ought never to enter into hostilities without careful deliberation and a clear-eyed appraisal of other options. War is not logical, precise, antiseptic, or predictable. Very good men and women die and are maimed. Innocents who simply have the misfortune to be caught in the crossfire are victimized.
Once war begins, however, there can be only one objective. There is no time for sentiment or half measures. It is the job of the U.S. military once the fighting has begun to kill people and break things. If that sounds harsh it is. It is ugly and nasty and indispensable.
The enemy is there to kill you. The enemy is there to win. You either destroy him and dictate terms or you lose.
Over the course of decades, we have forgotten this. We no longer train, promote and deploy officers who are warriors. We prize individuals who can create crisp, clean PowerPoint slides and spreadsheets. We obsess over pictures in promotion packets showing officers with highly shined brass and chests full of ribbons earned everywhere but in combat.
We teach diversity and inclusion as if they were ends in and of themselves. We worry about political correctness and sensitivity. We promote those who master group think and group speak. Fighters are nowhere to be seen.
We promote based on what boxes have been checked and tickets have been punched. Once you have been a division commander – barring a catastrophe – you will command a corps. Whether or not you have ever won a battle is of no consequence whatsoever.
General Mark Milley Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the poster child for the transformation of what was once the world’s premier killing machine into a giant, ponderous, increasingly toothless bureaucracy. Roughly eight months ago, Milley traveled to Afghanistan to review the state of affairs and discuss with commanders on the ground the coming withdrawal. On his way he stopped in Doha, Qatar to meet with Taliban commanders and discuss terms for a peace deal.
After meeting with the Taliban and then Afghan government officials in Kabul Milley had this to say:
“The most important part of the discussions that I had with both the Taliban and government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence.”
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. forces there, General Scott Miller, had this to say about the already escalating Taliban offensive:
“My assessment is, it puts the peace process at risk. The higher the violence, the higher the risk.”
“(Taliban) Military commanders on the ground are now starting to do things that are not conducive to peace talks and reconstruction and stability. Clearly, the Taliban use violence as leverage.”AP News
Yes, the Taliban use violence as leverage. They are at war. They intend to win. They will do so by killing people and breaking things. They will fight until they achieve victory or until such time as you crush them on the battlefield and make them sue for peace.
The first five months of the war in Afghanistan were executed brilliantly. CIA and Special Forces personnel –temporarily freed of the dead hand of Pentagon control – conducted the most brilliant American military campaign since the Second World War. The Taliban was crushed. All that remained was to install a titular ruler, leave behind small teams of personnel to continue to work counterterrorism issues and go home.
Then the bureaucracy woke up. The giant self-licking ice cream cone that is the Department of Defense bureaucracy came to life. Tens of thousands of troops were deployed.
For twenty years rotation after rotation of soldiers, sailors and airmen served in Afghanistan. Endless briefings were given. Countless sitreps were issued. Bases were built. Forms were completed.
And, at no time in any of this did anyone really wage war on the Taliban.
When Grant wanted the Confederacy to surrender, he sent Sherman to burn a swath across Georgia, Sheridan to tear the heart out of the Shenandoah Valley and he then personally drove Lee back into the trenches around Petersburg and laid siege. The war was over the next spring.
When Ike wanted to end the Second World War, he had Patton drive his Third Army across Europe crushing panzer divisions as he went and pointing a dagger at Berlin itself.
This is how you win. You destroy the enemy. One thing should have been made crystal clear to the Taliban two decades ago. We are not here to change you or civilize you or tell you how to live your lives. We are here to win. We will pursue you, crush you, and rain fire and brimstone on you until such time as you come to the table and accept terms that we dictate and which we deem acceptable.
We did none of these things. We have paid the price. The consequences in Afghanistan and the Middle East will be horrifying. The consequences globally – especially if we enter into a true, full-scale conventional conflict – may well prove catastrophic.
We may be the ones having terms dictated to us.