Betrayed – Enough is enough.
In 1917 the French Army reached its breaking point. After three years of combat against the Germans and well in excess of a million casualties it said, “no more.” On May 5, 1917, the 21st Division of the French Army mutinied. The insurrection spread widely. Mutinies occurred afterward in 68 divisions. Some desertions occurred but overall, the troops did not quit their posts. They held the lines and promised to protect France from any German advance. What they would not do, they made clear, was participate in any more suicidal human wave assaults. They would defend France. They were done listening to the generals.
How long before we find ourselves in the same position here in the United States?
We have the most powerful military on the planet. We have weapons no one else dreams of. We have hundreds of bases around the globe. We spend more on defense than the next 11 countries combined. Most of the world’s largest defense contractors are American.
We have the best, most highly trained troops in the history of the world. Our soldiers have crushed on the field of battle every adversary they ever met. No one has ever defeated us in war and forced terms of surrender upon us.
And, yet conflict after conflict we come out on the losing end, forced into withdrawal and abandoning the field to the enemy.
In Iraq in 2003, our troops and Kurdish allies crushed Saddam Hussein’s vaunted military in a matter of weeks. Baghdad fell. The nation was ours.
Then we began to make a series of completely ruinous decisions and to employ a doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) created by General Petraeus and touted as being a brilliant evolution in military thinking and doctrine. It was not. It was an absurd, counter-productive attempt at nation-building and capacity building no sane person should have ever supported.
That the COIN doctrine did not work should have come as no surprise to anyone who understood its roots or its assumptions. General Petraeus, who literally wrote the book on COIN, FM 3-24, drew most of his inspiration from French counterinsurgency doctrine employed in the 1950s and 1960s. Why anyone would have ever chosen as inspiration the failed doctrine of the same nation that dragged us into the ruinous Vietnam conflict is beyond me.
More to the point, from an analytical perspective, French COIN doctrine was focused on how to preserve an existing colonial government and its institutions. It was not about helping another nation and another people fight an insurgency. It was about a colonial power preserving its influence and continuing its own rule.
COIN never worked in Iraq. As long as we were prepared to maintain enough American troops in the country to defeat insurgents ourselves, we were capable of staying forever. When it came down to an end game, getting out and not losing the nation to Iran and its Shia allies, we had no answer. We still don’t.
This abject failure did not stop us from employing the exact same principles in Afghanistan where the challenges were even greater. Defeating the Taliban in battle was the relatively easy part. Fulfilling the mad objective of creating a true liberal democratic nation in Central Asia was something else again.
The French in World War I sacrificed their troops over and over in mass frontal assaults. All the best minds in the French military crunched the numbers, calculated “rolling barrages” of artillery and the other technical details of operations, and assured the nation of victory. The plans failed. The doctrine did not work. Countless young men paid the price.
For twenty years now our general staffs have done much the same thing. They have published field manuals, given briefings, patted themselves on the back, and assured us of their genius. Their plans have not worked. Their field manuals are not worth the paper they are printed on.
All over America men and women are dead because generals and admirals have failed. Many, many more men and women are broken both physically and mentally. Millions of American families live with the repercussions of all of this.
What our generals and admirals should have said twenty years ago is that it is not the job of American fighting men and women to patrol the streets of Third World hellholes. We are not the world’s police force. We are not its social workers either.
We can defeat the Iraqi Army in battle. We cannot and should not take on the task of teaching Shia and Sunni to get along.
We can beat the Taliban anywhere anytime. We can hound them to the gates of hell. We cannot and should not take on the task of teaching Afghans about gender equality or the separation of church and state.
When we use military force it should be to serve our national interests and that force should be overwhelming. We should unleash hell on the enemy and destroy him before he even understands what hit him.
And, then we should come home. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are not cannon fodder. They are not disposable. They are the best of us, and we must treat them as such.
If we don’t, eventually, someday, in some conflict, we may find as the French did that the troops remind us of these essential truths. They may say, we have had enough.