Like many others around these august pages, I grew up respecting the armed forces, was the son of a veteran, and had immense respect for the dedication and sacrifice of our military. My default was that it was competent and intelligent and patriotic and understood its place within our society and our political structure. It was unique in an otherwise mediocre collection of government programs and departments and branches.
Was it perfect? Of course not; anyone who remembers the tumult of the 1960s and 1970s knows that the armed forces were not immune. But they fixed themselves, and for many years we had a professionally-run military that may have chafed at the chaos of their civilian superiors, but still did what was required of them.
But all good things must come to an end, and according to this unnamed general officer, the United States armed forces have reached that point.
We should blame President Bush, not for the decision to attack into Afghanistan following 9-11, but for his decision to “shift the goalposts” and attempt to reform Afghanistan society. That was a fool’s errand any student of history would have recognized. And yes, we should place blame on President Obama for his decision to double down on failure when he “surged” in Afghanistan, rather than to withdraw.
However, most of the blame belongs to the leadership of the US military, and the Army in particular. The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” detailed years of US officials failing to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan, “making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” That report was two years ago, and the stories within it began more than a decade before that. Afghanistan was, and always will be, “unwinnable”.
Our military is broken, and while that isn’t news to most of us, the damage is at the top, and it has destroyed the effectiveness of our armed forces by catastrophically changing the core principles of the military while allowing unprecedented involvement in our political process…something that is anathema to every honorable officer with a cursory knowledge of the Constitution and the UCMJ.
I am reminded of Eisenhower’s “In the event of failure letter” which he wrote before D-Day. He knew that he was expected to succeed, but that he was responsible regardless. There is no rational argument that can be made absolving the United States military from responsibility for the ongoing outrage in Afghanistan. Those in authority knew that the collapse was imminent and were incapable of managing a safe withdrawal for the military and all of those dependent on America; in which case they were incompetent and should be fired and held accountable. Or they did not know, in which case they were incompetent and should be fired and held accountable. Resignation is a time-honored response to orders, or lack of orders that fly in the face of duty. Acceptance of the status quo is in this case agreement with the status quo.
There is a third explanation which is unfortunately possible…that they knew what was about to occur and allowed it because that was the plan. In which case it is a criminal matter.
Regardless of the circumstances that led to the Afghanistan debacle, America has been done a disservice by its political leaders, who have allowed such chaos to reign over what was once an honorable and competent institution. As the letter suggests, we need to return to a time in which the use of the military was driven by the needs of America, not the fantasies of a globalist elite or the frantic demands of nation-building fanatics.
The lives of our servicemen are far too important to be used as pawns in a game played by people who are comfortably removed from the effects of their decisions. The honor of America is far too valuable to be squandered in the span of a few months as if it were a political tool.