Iraq And Afghanistan: Actually – All Is Not Lost

Of all people to be taken in by the “we can’t win – all is lost!” talk, why you, El Cid? You have been fighting the Jihadists since the 1050s, and now that you have a chance to take them on away from your homeland, and you want to stop now?

It’s called ‘The Long War’ for a reason…

Here is the deal. As much as I respect Michael Scheuer’s service in the CIA, he is ideologically wedded to the idea that he cannot win in the Middle East and therefor should not be there (in fact, as he wrote in his book Marching Toward Hell, he believes we are in the Middle East because are doing the bidding of “pro-Israel Americans in both parties and large parts of academia, the media, and Hollywood – complemented by what can only be described as superbly effective covert political action by Israel’s intelligence service – [who have entwined] U.S. support for Israel ever more deeply and inextricably into U.S. domestic politics.” Pro-Israel Americans in large parts of academia, the media, and Hollywood ??? When did that happen?).

The War on Terror is called “The Long War” for a reason. The question to ask is not “are we there yet?”, it’s “are we moving in the right direction?”. To borrow from a few of my favorite Reagan speeches (“A Time for Choosing” and the “Evil Empire” speech), against this enemy peace without victory is only an illusion of peace. How long did it take to win the Cold War? How long did it take for El Cid and his successors to drive the caliphate from Spain? So, when the liberals forced our defeat in Vietnam, or when the jihadists wounded El Cid (historians claim that arrow in the heart killed him, but they don’t know what they are talking about because he recovered and works for Breitbart), did that mean that the West lost?

In Iraq (for these analyses I rely heavily on The Institute for the Study of War), General Petraeus’s 2007-2008 counterinsurgency offensive crippled Al-Qaeda in Iraq to the point where it is no longer capable of seizing power by force – and the newly regrouped Iraqi Army proved its growing capabilities in the March-May 2008 battle for Basra, during which the Iraqis took back this key city from deeply entrenched Iranian-backed Shia terrorists, and then proceeded to crack down on the Shia terrorist groups across the South. Things have been largely quiet ever since, with the occasional terrorist attack which, while horrific, do not seriously threaten stability – thanks to the ever improving performance of Iraqi security forces. The main threat comes from Iran’s ability to influence the political scene, as Mr. Scheuer points out. What he misses, however, is that we also have and can maintain a significant influence over the political process as well, especially do to our remarkably close relationship with Iraqi security forces. And over at Pajama’s Media, Michael Ledeen says he is hearing reports that ” the Obama administration is now considering more forceful action against Iran in Iraq”. Do I have criticisms of the situation in Iraq? I certainly do, especially over the failure to provide adequate protection to Iraqi Christians – who have been a target of the Jihadists. But to say that we lost the war is a sentiment that, I believe, cannot stand up to objective scrutiny.

As to Afghanistan, it certainly is a tougher situation, and while there are encouraging developments, as retired four-star General Jack Keane – one of the masterminds of the Surge in Iraq – discussed with Frank Gaffney on Secure Freedom Radio, I believe we aren’t taking the situation seriously enough. The ridiculous rules of engagement (ROEs) that are getting our brave Military men and women killed are a scandal and disgrace. Farther, when our Generals ask for a certain number of troops, especially Generals as accomplished as Stanley McChrystal why are they being shortchanged? Why not have the force levels necessary to replicate what General Keane describes in other parts of the country, instead of doing everything half-asked? In Afghanistan, we don’t necessarily need a strong central Government – the corruption in Kabul is actually a major impediment to our efforts. On this problem, two more of the Iraq Surge’s masterminds, Fred and Kimberly Kagan, write for The Institute for the Study of War that:

Improvements to Afghan governance will come through greater local participation in representative institutions in the Pashtun areas. This is not a foreign, ideological drive to “democratize” Afghanistan, but rather a recognition that local representative institutions are the foundation of Pashtun tribal culture.

Pashtun cultural traditions, which have eroded over time and can fairly be said to be norms only in some areas, have been produced by skeptics of success in Afghanistan as evidence that the Pashtuns are fundamentally unconquerable and also ungovernable. The fact that the U.S. and its allies are trying neither to conquer nor to govern Afghanistan is often lost in this discussion. The issue at hand is not whether Westerners can govern Afghanistan, but whether or not Afghans can and, if so, what such an Afghan government would look like. The history of Afghanistan before 1978 (and even, to some extent, since then) strongly suggests not only that Afghanistan is governable, but that there is considerable consensus among Afghans about the general shape the government should take.

The current government structure runs counter to traditional Pashtun expectations about the relationship between local communities and the central government because it excludes the communities from having a meaningful voice in almost any decision. It hyper-empowers the executive vis-à-vis representative bodies at every level. This imbalance of powers generates a feeling of alienation and resentment among many Afghans, particularly Pashtuns. It has also facilitated discriminatory and predatory government behavior that fuels a sense of injustice and, therefore, passive and active support for the insurgency. Corruption and abuse-of-power must be addressed by the United States because they fuel the insurgency. Our challenge is not eliminate corruption in Afghanistan but to help the Afghan political leadership behave sufficiently in accord with Pashtun norms that groups that now feel marginalized and preyed-upon see an advantage in at least tolerating the new order.

The emergence of a functional and credible local security program in 2010 is perhaps the most striking and unexpected development–and potentially one of the most important. The Afghan Local Police (ALP) program is designed to extend the reach of Afghan and Coalition forces to rural areas rather than to replace them. Perhaps more importantly, ALP empowers villages and clusters of villages–not tribes–to resist the Taliban by supporting the consensus decisions of local elders arrived at in traditional Pashtun ways. It brings these traditional local structures into coherence with the central government at the level of the district–ALP sites are subordinated to district chiefs of police. This program offers a promising view of what at least part of the ultimate political solution to this conflict might look like.

There are other problems, and other recommendations to those problems, but the point is that defeat is not inevitable.

I believe we conservatives should not take the idea of walking away from the war against the barbarians who attacked us laying down – leave that for the left to advocate.


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