As a young 2nd Lieutenant, I was fortunate to have a peer who didn’t always think things through. His bull-in-a-china-shop method always overshaddowed any faux pas I might make. One day, as we sat on a bus waiting to return to the armory, he got inpatient. Going up to the battalion commander, he asked why someone couldn’t make a f***in’ decision. I knew something was up when I saw the battalion staff officers move away from the battalion commander, scattering in what seemed like four different directions.
My peer wanted to get moving in a constructive direction, although his strategy wasn’t exactly correct. The Taliban are resurgent in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s been quite obvious over the last 6 months. The question is, do they really have that much support? Yes, they get engaged in firefights, but improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the preferred weapon. Afghanistan is a poor country with an ineffective central government. Thus, the Taliban can coerce the local populace for support or they can pay locals to emplant IEDs.
President Obama’s pick as top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, called for more troops to avoid mission failure at the end of August. His strategy is to protect the people, to separate them from Taliban pay or threats. He’s following the same basic concept used with the so-called surge in Iraq. McChrystal’s an experienced special forces operator and no stranger to Afghanistan.
While Afghanistan and Iraq are very different places, the similarities with the warfight are eerie. Then Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Eric Shinseki said more troops were needed in Iraq and was marginalized for his views by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. That was in 2003 and it’s taken until 2009 for us to even imagine a winding down in Iraq. In the meantime, Afghanistan has been the forgotten war even though it should have been our primary focus. It’s been fought on the cheap and now some think it’s a lost cause, much like it seemed Iraq was a couple years ago.
Earlier this week, President Obama told a crowd at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, “I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way.” Obama promised to back the military “to the hilt”. If Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) gets it, why doesn’t the President? He’s had ten months now to consider his strategy. Why has he just started having meetings on it? And how long is this going to take? It’s been two months since Gen. McChrystal forwarded his assessment.
I side with Gen. McChrystal. He’s on the ground and knows what needs to be done. Moreover, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan fostered the terrorism that led to 9-11. The fates of Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan are tied together by the Taliban insurgency. Thus, the stakes are high. At this point, it all boils down to one question for Obama: can’t someone make a f***in’ decision?