Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Petraeus’

One problem with our “hearts and minds” campaign in Afghanistan is the centrality of Islam in the land where we are waging a nation building effort.  We are trying to export American style institutions and values, but these often run headlong into the Islamic obsession with respect.  Western freedoms and Islamic law are incompatible, not least in their view of blasphemy in contrast to our ideals of free speech.  We are selling Americanism, but to do so we must downplay certain core values, whether it’s free speech or the rights of women or the role for man-made legislation, which is to say the western concept of politics, and the related ideals of discussion, debate, and dissent. 

Not only must we downplay them abroad, but now we’re told to abrogate them at home, lest we hurt the war effort, which unlike other war efforts does not require focused hatred of the enemy, but is instead a multifaceted public relations effort that requires us to put forward our tolerant, respectful-of-Islam face.

Muslims Flipping Out, As Is Their Custom Which We Should Respect as Good Multiculturalists

There is a simple lesson here.  When Muslims go absolutely crazy, riot for days, and murder innocent aid workers after an obscure Florida pastor’s burning of the Koran, we must see that this is both natural for these people and totally alien to our way of life and values.  We should observe that we cannot build an American-style nation in this region without engendering a fatal conflict of values. 

Some people mistakenly view these riots as merely stupid, a symptom of treatable Third World ignorance.  They are not; they are the acts of committed, rational zealots.  What these Afghan Muslims understand–and what Americans do not–is that there is an irreconcilable conflict between Muslim values and the various western and liberal values that we are exporting to their region. To win this nation-building campaign, we must either become subservient to Islam, or we must destroy Islam.  To destroy Islam, we must do the unthinkable (and the unnecessary). But we do not need to win this particular campaign to emerge relatively safe from Islamic terrorism.  We are better served to protect ourselves and our honor by separating from the Islamic world as much as possible by adopting a strategy of defense, separation, and containment.

Since generals like to win wars, they take things to their logical conclusion, and in this case we have General Petraeus opting to kowtow in the most disgusting manner to the mob in Afghanistan. He said this week:

In view of the events of recent days, we feel it is important on behalf of ISAF [i.e., the International Security Assistance Force] and NATO members in Afghanistan to reiterate our condemnation of any disrespect to the Holy Qur’an and the Muslim faith. We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Qur’an.

We also offer condolences to the families of all those injured and killed in violence which occurred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Qur’an.

We further hope the Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the Holy Qur’an, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.

Can you imagine any scenario where an American general referred to the Holy Bible in such reverential tones?  Or excused mob violence against Jews or people with tattoos or alcohol drinkers some other activity similarly consonant with America’s traditionally broad liberties?

Not only can this war not be realistically won, but it is corrupting the American nation and the American military.  This week we have a four star general and a U.S. Senator–Sen. Lindsey Graham–questioning whether we perhaps should institute blasphemy laws aimed at quenching the insatiable Islamic demands of respect for Islam . . . a religion that only knows respect as preeminence over every alternative. 

Our army is becoming like those Roman Legions on the frontier that shed their armor and their standards and fought, dressed like, intermarried with, and eventually became identical to the barbarians they were fighting.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Something did not sit right with me when General Petraeus weighed in on the controversy just down the road (in Gainesville) regarding the well publicized Koran burning.  For what it’s worth, I do not like such gestures; I find them atavistic, and I recognize that religion is indeed a sacred thing to those who believe.  For every Muslim who is out there seething and hurling bricks, many more are simply respectful of the religion of their forefathers, scared of western influence in their lands, and are getting from this event the wrong impression of Americans, who have no natural disrespect of other people’s religious practices.

There is no reason for either our government or ordinary Americans to sow conflict with Islam, and the best solution, as I’ve said before, is deliberate separation both at home and in foreign policy with a long run and realistic goal of containment.  This too would be offensive to some, but it’s better than the perpetual conflict we have now as we intermingle both at home and abroad in the name of liberal ideas of universalism.

All the same, it is a storied and treasured right of Americans to express themselves, ridiculously if they choose, and it is quite predictable, quaint even, that an old school fire and brimstone preacher would act in this way. It’s a very American eccentricity at work here.  And it has served an important purpose in showing that Islam, far from being a religion of peace, is filled with people that may, at a moment’s notice, become violent.  Further, it has shown the hypocricy and cowardice of the American politically correct establishment.

General Petraeus has suggested that this Koran burning hurts the war effort.  Isn’t that interesting?  What other things that Americans take for granted hurt the war effort?  Wouldn’t the recent push for same sex marriage or five minutes of MTV or women wearing bikinis at the beach also offend Muslim sensibilities?  Didn’t our protection of the Saudis from Saddam offend Muslim sensibilities, simply by allowing Americans to set foot in an Islamic land?  Doesn’t our presence now in Iraq and Afghanistan deeply offend Muslims, not to mention the numerous civilians killed accidentally (but inevitably) by airstrikes and drones and scared shitless 19 year old American soldiers.  Indeed, much of our country and its practices, some good and some not so good, are deeply offensive to any traditionally religious person.   Nonetheless, none of these things have typically been up for debate as part of a “hearts and minds” campaign halfway around the world.  Recall the Danish cartoons, which were eminently defensible, also caused similar mass Muslim rioting.  While uneasy with Koran burning, I see that there is something valuable in Terry Jones’ provocation simply for revealing so many people’s true colors, and this was, in fact, one of his stated reasons for this event.

As for the General, there is something altogether gratuitous about Petraeus’ words.  He undboutedly knew they’d be looked on kindly by Obama, in a way that a condemnation of equally problematic pacifist protests would not.  Where was General Petraeus when the Abu Ghraib photos were plastered all over Time Magazine and anti-war protests?  And what of the demoralizing “Bush Lied, People Died” canard?  Petraeus is hardly taking a courageous or conistent stand here; he is simply saying what he thinks the boss wants to hear.  And it is a problem when the military pursues its own (or the President’s) anti-democratic agenda in a free society; the military is supposed to be the instrument of the elected, political branches of government, and those branches (and the people to whom they are accountable) have varied opinions and views on what Islam means, how it should be addressed, and how that view should be expressed by private citizens. And, lest I remind the general, he took an oath to the Constitution, which includes the First Amendment.

A just war preserves a people and a way of life.  I have not forgotten that Petraeus, ever the politician, let the cat out of the bag sometime ago when asked by Senator John Warner (R-VA) if the war made the US safe, responding “I don’t know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind.”  Indeed.  The current war now has a logic all its own, nearly completely separate from domestic security, which can be easily vouchsafed by capping Islamic immigration and pressuring those here to Americanize or go home.  The idea that to win a war American citizens must be cajoled by uniformed military men to show respect to an alien religion shows the ultimate impossibility of the current nation-building strategy, which aims impossibly and unprecedentedly to reconcile western institutions with an ancient, anti-western religion.   This war, animated by ideological principals of universalist liberalism and multiculturalism, threatens as it drags on to degrade the society it ostensibly is being waged to protect.

Read Full Post »

A halfway intelligent lance corporal knows that the Afghans are sick of our presence, are united by xenophobic nationalism, and that a great many are skeptical of the kleptocratic Afghan government and military.  So the following exchange with General Petraeus suggests a man whose demand for precision ebbs and flows with his desire for a particualr conclusion:

When asked whether nationalism is putting down roots in Afghanistan‘s tribalized society, Gen. David Petraeus is judicious: “I don’t know that I could say that.” He adds, however, that “we do polling” on that subject. When his questioner expresses skepticism about the feasibility of psephology — measuring opinion — concerning an abstraction such as nationalism in a chaotic, secretive and suspicious semi-nation, Petraeus, his pride aroused, protests: “I took research methodology” at Princeton.

Some things can’t be put into a powerpoint slide.  They just are known intuitively, based on long experience with the people involved.  We lack this experience in Afghanistan.  We lack this experience in Iraq.  We are trying to do some good things, and we are doing them honorably on the whole, but the payoff in terms of national security is hard to see.  The alternative–the occasional punitive raid–seems more easily accomplished and more consistent with the primitive conditions of these nations, as well as the limitations of the American government and American military.

I certainly respect Petraeus’ intelligence and his broader view than many of his peers.  That said, his apparent penchant for statistics in the inchoate realm of counterinsurgency suggests a certain hubris.  He is understandably unlikely to announce when the strategy and overall mission are destined to fail.  He is an impressive “can do” person.  That said, the mediocre results in Iraq have been redefined as a great victory, even though Iraq is securely in Iran’s orbit and is still a violent, unfriendly place.  His remarks on “methodology” in particular reminded me of something John Lukacs wrote critical of certain tendencies in academia in his book Historical Consciousness:

For the image of the people-obscured as it is by rhetoric and obfuscated by statistics–is an elusive phenomenon. We live in an age of democracy, of popular sovereignty, of popular rule: but who are the people? Intelligent opponents as well as some of the proponent of modern democracy recgnized that of Aristotle’s ‘s three principal types of government–monarchy, aristocracy, democracy–the last one, government by the people, by the many, is the most difficult. But there more to this. Rule by “the people” is not only difficult; it is also the most complex; and the most abstract. It is abstract, because while it is possible to find out, and later relatively easy to reconstruct, what a certain ruler wanted, or even what a ruling group wanted, who can say what “the people” wanted–with any reasonable degree of certainty.

General Petraeus needs to consider this.  We don’t know Afghanistan.  Polling of the smallish number of accessible Afghans in the city won’t change that.  We don’t know Afghanistan, in part, because of the failure to train up specialists in the relevant languages that could help us know what the hell these people are saying, thinking, writing to one another, and the like.  We are, in spite of ourselves, the arrogant, ugly American, giving people what they don’t want and surprised when they turn around and want to kill us and our proxies.

Read Full Post »

General Petraeus advocated a surge. Then he, inexplicably, said it was working so well that it was time to change course again and reduce the surge. I discussed this illogic here. Andrew Bacevich–Army veteran , BU Professor, and father of deceased Army Lieutenant KIA in Iraq–explains the political roots of Petraeus’ backing down from his earlier enthusiasm for the surge in this article in the American Conservative:

If Petraeus actually believes that he can salvage something akin to success in Iraq and if he agrees with President Bush about the consequences of failure —genocidal violence, Iraq becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against the United States, the Middle East descending into chaos that consumes Israel, the oil-dependent global economy shattered beyond repair, all of this culminating in the emergence of a new Caliphate bent on destroying the West—then surely this moment of (supposed) promise is not a time for scrimping. Rather, now is the time to go all out—to insist upon a maximum effort.

There is only one plausible explanation for Petraeus’s terminating a surge that has (he says) enabled coalition forces, however tentatively, to gain the upper hand. That explanation is politics—of the wrong kind.

Given the current situation as Petraeus describes it, an incremental reduction in U.S. troop strength makes sense only in one regard: it serves to placate each of the various Washington constituencies that Petraeus has a political interest in pleasing.

A modest drawdown responds to the concerns of Petraeus’s fellow four stars, especially the Joint Chiefs, who view the stress being imposed on U.S. forces as intolerable. Ending the surge provides the Army and the Marine Corps with a modicum of relief.

A modest drawdown also comes as welcome news for moderate Republicans in Congress. Nervously eyeing the forthcoming elections, they have wanted to go before the electorate with something to offer other than being identified with Bush’s disastrous war. Now they can point to signs of change—indeed, Petraeus’s proposed withdrawal of one brigade before Christmas coincides precisely with a suggestion made just weeks ago by Sen. John Warner, the influential Republican from Virginia.

The article is worth reading in full. The idea that the Bush administration can dress up its helter skelter lack of strategy in Iraq is much more insulting to the uniform than any propaganda peddled by moveon.org and company.

Read Full Post »

In the wake of the Cold War, the US military was cut dramatically. We went from a 750,000 man Army to one of about 475,000 today. The Navy and Air Force undertook similar cuts. We went from spending about 5.5% of GDP on the military to 3%. One consequence has been that the “all volunteer force” is stretched thin, has had to make due with relaxed recruiting standards, and there is a great deal of grumbling from senior commanders that the Iraq War and the repeated, lengthy deployments are killing recruiting and retention.

A larger military, both now and in the future, likely would be easier to recruit for and retain manpower, even during a time of war, than the present system. There is a reason for this paradox: such a military would allow greater time between deployments, greater flexibility when a surge of any kind is needed (including for contingencies in other theaters), and it would ease the strain on the battlefield through more overwhelming force whenever a large number of forces may be concentrated. Since one of the missions our troops will likely be called upon in the future is counterinsurgency, large numbers of skilled, trained, and well-rested infantry will be needed. The basic dynamics of this type of war are less technology and more manpower intensive than their counterparts. The U.S. had over 500,000 troops in Vietnam and the French had more than 400,000 in Algeria. We have now approximately 160,000 troops in Iraq. Since our goals in the wake of 9/11 have been so ambitious–indeed, overly ambitious and utopian in my opinion–Rumsfeld and Bush’s continuation of the “peace dividend” military and their failure to demand a larger military (particularly when support would have been high right after 9/11) has proven foolish indeed.

This is not just a matter of 20/20 hindsight. Their decision-making was truly warped. Who looks at the Soviet problems in Afghanistan and blames them on troop levels rather than on the Soviet penchant for “scorched earth” tactics and the inherent unpalatability of its ideology to the religious Afghan people? Who looks at a looming occupation and thinks gratitude will grease the wheels when governance and power are necessary? Who looks at a country the size of Iraq and thinks troop levels that are a fraction of the number of (per capita) police in the peaceful United States will get the job done? The combination of incompetence and ideological blindness is the root of the Bush administration’s failures in Iraq. Some hard-headedness, including about the size of the military, will be needed in the next administration. We should not, because present-day recruiting problems avoid planning for the next conflict in a way that is sustainable, avoids a draft, and allows the military to accomplish the mission.

Read Full Post »