Re: Reasonable Expectations
Just read this post and I must agree with you to a large degree... BUT, it also necessitates the question of "What is it we winning?" The U.S. by it's very nature is rarely in "a war" to win! We're good at "battles", but when it comes to wars in the last half of the 20th Century and certainly in the first decade of the 21st, we don't seem to have "objectives". So when you say we need to be "in a war to win"... I guess I would have to ask the very simple question of, "WIN WHAT?" When send our sons and daughters and we spend our dollars what exactly is it that we wish to accomplish? What's the objective?
By it's very nature, the U.S. government and it's people are not out to win new geography. We're not trying to expand our territory or attempting to corral a people with the idea of making them citizens or subjects of our domain. Our objectives are not territorial in the geographic sense, they're not imperialistic in the political sense, and they certainly don't seem to be domineering in the sense that we are seeking strategic resources.
(Some might surmise that our objectives are for strategic materials [read that "OIL"], but if that were true, then we must be truly incompetent, for the past couple of decades we have gained nothing of value in this sense.)
So let's take three key wars that we are involved in, or need to be involved in:
First, Iraq - Basically, we shouldn't be in Iraq at all, as there was NO objective in mind other than to unseat Saddam Hussein's regime. To this day, there have been no proven military reasons for the invasion and it largely appears that our elected leadership lied about it's purpose and it's objectives. But once we were there and Saddam was gone, we then felt it necessary to "Democratize" the country. Just how stupid could we possibly be... Iraq is and always has been a country and a people that consists of ethnic tribes with religious differences and historical conflicts.
They do not share political ideals and have little nationalistic concerns beyond their own tribal loyalties. Only under a strong-arm, ruthless dictator like Saddam could any form of central governance exist. Even when conducting a military occupational government, we do not wield such power. So, what in hell were we thinking... DUH! Apparently we weren't; we were too swelled with our own sense of military power and the shock and awe of our self-centered boasting.
But we've given some of them a taste of democracy, and now we're pulling out... leaving them so divided that they can't put together a central government some four months after an election! Today one of their top generals expressed concern as he feels they will not be fully able to defend themselves for another couple of years at best. Because of our actions, Iraq is facing a bloody future and the country is going to end up in turmoil and possibly a religious partner of Iran.
We've already taught the Kurd's what it is to depend on U.S. loyalty, now we're going to educate the rest of the country. Bottom line is that we should never have been there in the first place, and Bush's mistake is now our national embarrassment and it will come back to haunt us for generations. I hardly think that was our objective!
Second we have Afghanistan, where we've totally bungled. But that goes all the way back to Reagan (or maybe even Carter). We supplied the Mujahadean (sp?) with high tech weapons and they defeated the Soviet occupiers of the time. We then ignored the winners and left them to rot without any substantial government authority or backing. That's when the Taliban crazies stepped in, to fill the vacuum that we left. A couple of generations later, the U.S. is known only by the teachings of the Taliban! Follow that up with 911 and the bungling's of Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld and we are where we are. The objective was to get the Bin Laden... instead we wasted our resources by entering Iraq with our major forces and sent only a marginal force to Afghanistan. That did nothing but promote further terrorist training, spreading it into Pakistan.
We could still win in Afghanistan, but again we have no objective, outside of "winning the peace". We're at a point where we're hinting about negotiating with the Taliban. They of course, could care less and are only too happy to wait, even if it is in small, broken bands. Unless this very corrupt Afghan government can win over the hearts and minds of it's people, Afghanistan will decay back into the dark ages of the Taliban, where hatred of the U.S. and training for the Jihad will continue for a century or more.
Even as we rush aid to those people, the Taliban has warned all to not accept it, and they will retaliate against anyone who takes our aid. We are already tiring of this misadventure and once again we will bow out... declare our peace... and then the Taliban will creep back in and the blood-bath will resume and everyone will learn a very hard lesson... there is no value in allying with the Americans.
But once we are gone, it is doubtful that Afghanistan will allie itself with either Iraq or Iran. Instead, the Taliban will grow and use it's presense in Pakistan to topple that government. Once that is accomplished, you will no doubt see Indonesia and the Philippines succumb or, at best, turn into a major conflict area. The U.S. policies toward this region have thus far been pathetic exercises in failure. We stand on the brink of having this entire region radicalized, as the insurgency is already there.
And last we have Mexico... which is entirely different. It's very close and does not offer the logistical challenges of middle east warfare. It does however offer overwhelming political challenges... and not so much Mexican politics as much as American politics. You see, the popular focus is on the murders of thousand within Mexico, it's right on our doorstep and all our focus is on the mayhem that exists there. We mostly view it as a "south of the border" problem.
Your question regarding "why can't we pursue the drug criminals into Mexico?" pretty much sums up how most of us feel and where we think the problem exists.
I do not see it so much as a conflict only within Mexico. We have to recognize that the key elements are not so much cartel infighting as much as it is U.S. citizens whose drug habits support the cartels! Bottom line is that they are fighting for U.S. turf... who gets the biggest share of the $40 Billion American Drug habit?
From a textbook point of view, if one wishes to conduct strategic warfare, the two prime objectives are to first limit or deny access to the targets that the enemy is after (that's Defense); and second, to deny the enemy its means of making war by limiting or preventing it's access to weapons and material (that's Offense). The actual attrition of enemy soldiers is not necessarily the prime objective in offensive warfare... as long as those soldiers can be neutralized by the denial of weapons. Without a means of fighting, they are pretty much at your mercy.
So in the Mexico drug wars, the enemy's objective is to sell to the drug users, who just happen to be U.S. citizens. If you eliminate that market, you eliminate the target and source of revenue for the drug cartels. Without that income there is no "cartel" and there is no way to finance influence, intimidation or active warfare by the cartels.
A successful "defense" would therefore be to simply destroy that market. But that takes political will and to some extent an incursion on our rights, as it becomes necessary to pursue and prosecute those who not only sell, but also buy! Today we largely look at junkies as though they are victims... but it is these U.S. citizens who are giving over $40 Billion in revenues to the drug cartel every year. We need the political guts to recognize that problem and to pursue it for what it is: every drug user is a direct supporter of the murder of thousands of people. We must clearly recognize, politicize, and prosecute anyone in the drug trade and that means anyone who uses, trades in, or transports illegal drugs.
The second objective is to eliminate the weapons that the drug cartels are using. According to a recent survey, 80% of the weapons that have been seized in the last several years, can be directly traced back to the U.S. Once again, we need to recognize that without these weapons the Mexican drug cartels would be greatly disarmed and thus far less capable to carry out their murderous campaigns. Again, it's largely political, but action needs to be taken against anyone in the arms trade who deals with any criminal element. We need a much larger investigative force to govern the weapons trade and we need much tighter regulation on international weapons trade and certainly interstate and international weapons transport.
So, if we here in the U.S. are the prime source (to the tune of $40 billion) of revenue, and also the prime source of weaponry (80%), then certainly the major target for our strategic drug defense policy is right here in the U.S.!!! With that in mind, does anyone really think it's necessary or even a wise use of resources to go into Mexico to pursue drug criminals? While they may not be the trigger men, the fact is, most of the drug criminals are U.S. users who are actively providing the financing for this mayhem.
What is essential to winning this war, is to recognize the necessary strategic targets and actively go after them with overwhelming force... and that would be the drug users and the gun traders, which are both on this side of the border. Without a market, there would be no effort to supply.
We must also make all entry and exit points to this country as secure as possible. But again, such security is only needed because of the demand within the U.S.!
Only when we have the political will to recognize and pursue these objectives will we win this particular war.
Re: Reasonable Expectations
Just a few comments to your very thorough post. I believe our mission in afghanistan is to defeat the taliban, but in reality it is to get our troops wounded, and killed and to run up our debt waging a war we cannot afford.
Originally Posted by CWSmith
If our mission to win was to truly defeat the taliban then we would pursue them to their refuge(wherever that is), and take out their support(iran, etc.).
Regarding drug cartels from mexico crossing the border and bringing violence to the USA, no argument that we create a market or demand for drugs and we also profit from cartel's need for guns and ammo. That said, while I agree that we should address the demand end of the problem, I would not ignore the part played by the cartel. Every day, more and more Americans become drug users, chances are the demand will not dwindle even with more proactive steps from our bankrupt government. You and I are helpless spectators in this violent behavior of fighting for marketplace supremacy. We can't force our govenment to prevent, councel and either cure or imprison every American drug user( not that imprisonment would stop their drug use).We can hope that at the very least our government will not sit by and allow these violent crimminals to invade our country and add Americans to their death toll. We are at a point where our frustrations are many, options few and hope of resolution almost entirely gone.
Re: Reasonable Expectations
The world has been fighting the drug cartels for over sixty years and it is worst than ever no matter what we do we carn't stop it as there is just to much money in it to be made and the only way to fight it is legalize it and cut out the cartels I remember the US had probation early last century and what happened then we just don`t learn but also feel our law inforcement and governments world wide have their fingers in the pie and pay lip service to our demands to stop it
Re: Reasonable Expectations
Frank, the Taliban is an objective, but it didn't start out that way. After 911, the focus on Afghanistan was purely to disrupt al qaeda and capture OBL and his cronies. The Taliban quickly became a target when it became clear that they were on the side of the bad guys. Thus one of the initial objectives of the Afghan war was to depose the bastards. It was thought that without the Taliban sheltering the terrorists, al qaeda would be easier to get to. THis hasn't really proved to be the case. Getting them out of power was fairly easy. But because of the nature of the war (a guerilla/insurgent war) they are hard to completely eliminate and continue to be a thorn in our side.
Originally Posted by Frankiarmz
Unfortunately, The US seems to have not learned much from either Viet Nam or the Russian experience in Afghanistan. Typical military ops, (tanks and troops and artillery etc) achieve very little in a guerilla warfare environmnet. This was the case in Viet Nam, it was a problem for the Soviets in Afghanistan and it's a problem for the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
A superior military force such as the Soviets or the United States has little problem when faced with a similar, organized opposing army. To wit, look at how easily the US was able to handle Iraq during both the first gulf war and the second gulf war. During the time of the first war, Saddam's army was the fourth largest conventional force in the world (only the Soviets, the US, and China had a larger conventional military). Yet they were trounced in a matter of weeks. By all assessments, the Soviet land forces are were so overwhelming in terms if both number of troops and level of equipment that they should have completely dominated Afghanistan. The US eventually ended up supplying modern weaponry to the rebels, but the essential advantage that the rebels had was that were able to use those weapons to "sting and run". The Soviets weapons and forces couldn't defeat the rebels, largely becasue they couldn't FIND them. After 15 years of frustration, they went home with their tail betweeen their legs.
The problem is that once the conventional forces are defeated, one is left with the guerillas (we call them insurgents nowadays). These people are very difficult to deal with compared to a conventional force. The biggest problem is, you can't identify the enemy. It is hard to defeat an enemy that you can't find. Insurgents are just a part of the civilian population that is bound and determined to kill you. The look like every other man, woman or child walking the streets of Baghdad or Kabul. Imagine yourself as an American soldier in that environment. Who do you shoot at? That's why guerilla warfare is so effective. You can't defeat an enemy if you can't find him/her. But he/she has no problem identifying an American GI.
This was essentially THE tactical problem with Vietnam. The Chinese and Soviets had a strong flow of guns and weapons flowing into the north. Much of it went to the NVA, but a lot went to the Viet Cong. it was really the Viet Cong that defeated the US. The Viet Cong were nothing more than a significant segment of the South Vietnamese population. The VC in many cases lived among and were part of the Vietnamese villages. Call them guerillas, insurgents or terrorists... all the same thing. The intense frustration caused by the VC not only hurt the US effort, it also led to US atrocities against civilians. Were they really civilians or were they VC? The troops didn't know and we will never know, either.
My point is that sending copious troops and weapons - essentially throwing money at the problem - won't always work. You have to be playing the right game if you want to win. IMO, you are spitting into the wind if you want to defeat a terrorist organization by rolling tanks and marching troops down main street. The black hats will laugh at you.
You need to play a different game. Covert activities that identify and infiltrate terrorist organizations are probably the best approach. When you hear that we executed a missile strike against a suspected terrorist site, understand that the site became "suspected" because of covert information - either infiltration or informants. That is effective. Unfortunately covert activities aren't discussed on the 11 oclock news and don't have a lot of political value. As we have clearly learned, having large numbers of uniformed troops occupying these places does little other than provide easily identified targets for the terrorists/insurgents/guerillas. These people are neither impressed, shocked or awed by our military might. It IS a fantastically capable and impressive force, but it's a totally inappropriate way to address the guerilla threat. Look at the nature of the conflict... defeating the organized army was essentially no challenge for the US... it's dealing with the insurgents that has been frustrating and costly.
Back in the first Gulf War, Bush 41 (not a super Pres but at least he had a functioning brain compared to Bush 43) decided to pull Shwarzkopf's land forces back before he got to Baghdad. He was WIDELY criticized for this. In fact, it was CLEARLY the correct move. The last things the US wanted were 1.) to have to face the inevitable guerilla war, and 2.) to have to rebuild the infrastructure and government. Bush 43, unfortunately for all of us, made just about every mistake it is possible to make. And that's why we're in this pickle. I am not an Obama fan at all, but the numbskull that preceeded him handed him an intractible problem on this one.
As for the war on drugs, I agree that it isn't working. I do know that I am not ok with legalizing drugs. I understand the theory, but it just feels like it would be a catastrophic move to me. I suspect we need some out of the box thinking to solve the problem. There is always a solution to a problem. THe problem we face today is that the US government doesn't seem to be able to solve problems. They simply do more and more of the same things, with more and more of the same (lack of) results.
Re: Reasonable Expectations
Great post with excellant analysis and thought! I couldn't agree more.
Re: Reasonable Expectations
All I have to say is..we should of listened to General Patton!!
I absolutely hate the way we fight wars today. We need to leave the Politicians out of it, and let the Military do their jobs.