A worthwhile New Years resolution

…would be for the United States to admit we’ve achieved everything we’re likely to in Afghanistan (i.e. not much), and end the operation:

No other country in the world symbolizes the decline of the American empire as much as Afghanistan. There is virtually no possibility of a military victory over the Taliban and little chance of leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy — facts that Washington’s policy community has mostly been unable to accept…

Indeed, Afghanistan represents the triumph of the deterministic forces of geography, history, culture, and ethnic and sectarian awareness, with Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras and other groups competing for patches of ground. Tribes, warlords and mafia-style networks that control the drug trade rule huge segments of the country…

The United States’ special adviser to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is trying to broker a diplomatic solution that allows the United States to draw down its forces without the political foundation in Kabul disintegrating immediately.

That may be the real reason the United States keeps spending so heavily in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is terrified of a repeat of 1975, when panicked South Vietnamese fled Saigon as Americans pulled out and North Vietnamese forces advanced on the city. The United States military did not truly begin to recover from that humiliation until its victory in the Persian Gulf war of 1991. An abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan could conceivably provide a new symbol of the decline in American hard power.

There is also the fear that an Afghanistan in chaos could once again provide a haven for an international terrorist group determined to perpetrate another Sept. 11-scale attack. Of course, Yemen, Somalia and a number of other places could also provide the setting for that.  The point is, we remain in Afghanistan out of fear of even worse outcomes, rather than in the expectation of better ones.

Afghanistan has become America’s “tar baby.”  The more we try to do there, the more we seem “stuck” with no vision or endgame in sight.  The writer of the linked article is correct that our misadventures there are likely to signal to our adversaries we aren’t the power we used to be.  But what is far worse is that our indecision and inability to know “when to fold them” demonstrates poor strategic judgment as well.  Nothing encourages aggression like thinking your potential opponent is both weak AND a fool.

(Chinese) Rear Admiral Lou Yuan has told an audience in Shenzhen that the ongoing disputes over the ownership of the East and South China Seas could be resolved by sinking two US super carriers.

His speech, delivered on December 20 to the 2018 Military Industry List summit, declared that China’s new and highly capable anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were more than capable of hitting US carriers, despite them being at the centre of a ‘bubble’ of defensive escorts.

“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Admiral Lou declared.
He said the loss of one super carrier would cost the US the lives of 5000 service men and women. Sinking two would double that toll.

Our extended presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan underscored our country’s emphasis upon what the military calls “force protection.”  It’s natural for any military to seek to limit casualties, but when it becomes apparent that even a few deaths are enough to change national policy, outside observers begin to doubt one’s resolve.  The thoughts expressed by Admiral Lou Yuan echo those of the Japanese militarists in 1940: the U.S. is a paper tiger, and will acquiesce to its rivals if smacked hard enough on the nose.  Japan’s miscalculation led to a brutal Pacific War that ended in atomic fireballs over two of its cities.  To see the line of thought being resurrected by the Chinese, whose potential to oppose the U.S. dwarfs that of Russia, should give plenty of people pause.

Afghanistan is known as “the graveyard of empires” for a reason.  The sooner we recognize that, and take steps to restore the deterrent credibility we’ve lost there, the better.  The misguided 17-year (and counting) occupation may have sought to avoid another 9/11.  But at this point, it risks far worse outcomes by emboldening rivals who believe they’ve taken our measure by watching us there.  Perhaps America in 2019 lacks the ability to muster the resolve shown after Pearl Harbor in 1941.  Then again, perhaps not.

The only certain thing is it’s better to ensure we never have to find out.

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Quote of the Day

While listening to Trump’s address last night my overall impression was favorable, with a couple of concerning objections (more on that in a later post).  But since there’s a lot of talk in the air about increasing defense spending, and expanding the war on ISIS and related groups, this quote in Foreign Policy magazine is well worth pondering:

As a soldier, I welcome additional funds for training, personnel, and equipment.

But as a citizen I have concerns. Money will not fix what ails our military. ((emphasis added))  We don’t have a supply problem, we have a demand problem created by poor strategy. We have a military doing missions often beyond its purview, acting as the lead government agency in areas it is not qualified to do so, bearing impossible expectations in the process. As military professionals, we fail if we don’t achieve national goals (end states); the corollary to this is simple, we must demand clear and achievable goals. Our lack of both skews defense decisions.

The entire piece is deserving of your time and attention.

Trump vs. the “slow roll”

These paragraphs are a very true statement:

Not only are there two Americas. There are two governments: one elected and one not, one that alternates between Republicans and Democrats and one that remains, decade after decade, stubbornly liberal, contemptuous of Congress, and resistant to change. It is this second government and its allies in the media and the Democratic Party that are after President Trump, that want him driven from office before his term is complete.

You think I exaggerate. But consider this: When a former Defense official who teaches at Georgetown Law School takes to Foreign Policy to propose “3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020,” and when one of those ways is “a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders,” we are in unknown and extremely unsettling territory.

Up until now, the more powerful of those “two governments” has been the career Civil Service bureaucrats, who more than once have pretended to go along with a reformer’s agenda, all the while throwing logjams in the way.  Trump’s firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates seems a positive indication he is unwilling to put up with that longtime practice.  The next question is what he will do with the hundreds of State Department employees who are publicly disagreeing with his policy.  They’ve cowered behind a whistleblower system that is meant to protect actual reporting of malpractice, so the House has warned Trump not to retaliate.  Fine, but I’d say the signatories now bear close watching.  If they are not complying with current policy, that’s grounds for firing with cause.

We are long overdue for civil service reform, and I say that from personal experience.  Whether it’s a twenty-year civilian careerist telling a military commander “that’s just not how we do things around here” or senior executives who don’t actually have the credentials they claimed in order to get hired, or longtime employees who are unable to contribute productively and yet are impossible to fire (I’ve seen all these cases, and more), the system is rife with dead wood and personal fiefdoms.  This is part of the “Deep State” that never really changes, no matter who’s in the White House or Congress.

If Trump can shake that up so that the ENTIRE government is responsive to the people, not just the figureheads, he will have accomplished more than most presidents in the past century.  Here’s hoping.

And as for the leftists who’ve lost their mind and are even entertaining the thought of a military coup to remove Trump before the end of his term, such statements are ***already illegal*** and should land you in jail.  Maybe there they would have time to come to their senses.  That’s one genie we don’t want out of the bottle in this country, so be careful what you wish for.  Political violence has already become far too acceptable to the Left, based on all the rioting before and since the election.  What’s sauce for the goose usually becomes sauce for the gander, and as they say: payback’s a *****.  These people don’t realize the forces they’re trying to conjure up and will later greatly regret.

In what do we trust?

Lacking a consensus on the foundations of our society’s values (see yesterday’s post), it’s farcical that our currency continues to say “In God We Trust.”  But that leaves an interesting question: in what DO American’s trust?

Apparently, not their government:

Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows, according to a major survey that has measured attitudes on the subject for 40 years.

The 2014 General Social Survey finds only 23 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11 percent in the executive branch and 5 percent in Congress. By contrast, half have a great deal of confidence in the military.

Thus continues a trend that has been going for some time — less confidence in the Constitutional branches of government, but a high level of “support for the troops.”

I’ve long felt this is a dangerous development for what’s left of a once-strong Republic.  Think I’m exaggerating?

In the unlikely event that Lindsey Graham becomes the 45th President of the United States, you can forget about pesky laws like the Posse Comitatus Act. In Graham’s America, the work of the people will be done even if that work has to be compelled at gunpoint.

According to a report via Mediaite, Sen. Graham recently insisted that he is so opposed to the mandatory cuts to the military’s budget contained within Sequester that he would order the American armed forces to make Congress reverse them. “Literally.”

Graham has a habit of supporting der Staat uber alles, so it’s easy to dismiss this as another one of his power-mad fantasies.  What’s not easy to dismiss is the fact he believes this rhetoric appeals to a slice of the electorate that would consider voting for him for President.  And on that score, I suspect he’s more right than many of us would like to admit.

The more apparent it becomes that the ship of state is deeply underwater, the more likely it is people will start to look for a Man on a White Horse to save them.  Only history shows they most likely won’t turn to the correct one.