A true, expert perspective on WTC

I know the man who wrote this personally. For the last seven years he has worked in the Middle East. He is a retired Colonel, a tank man and the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for action he saw in Vietnam.

He’s a West Point Graduate, has taught at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, literally wrote the book on mechanized cavalry tactics, and after retiring, taught the Saudis how to use their tanks.

Here are his words:

Many of you are probably not aware that I was one of the last American citizens to have spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan. I was first there in 1993, providing relief
and assistance to refugees along the Tajik border, and in this capacity have traveled all along the border region between the two countries.

In 1998 and 1999, I was the Deputy Program Manager for the UN’s mine action program in Afghanistan. This program is the largest civilian employer in the country with
over 5,000 persons clearing mines and UXO. In this later capacity, I was somewhat ironically engaged in a “Holy War,” as decreed by the Taliban, against the evil of
landmines; and by a special proclamation of Mullah Omar, all those who might have died in this effort were considered to be “martyrs” – even an “infidel” like myself.

The mine action program is the most respected relief effort in the country, and because of this I had the opportunity to travel extensively without too much interference or
restriction. I still have extensive contacts in the area and among the Afghan community and read a great deal on the subject.

I had wanted to write earlier and share some of my perspectives, but quite frankly, I have been a bit too popular in DC this past week and have not had time. Dr. Tony
Kern’s comments were excellent and I would like to use them as a basis for sharing some observations.

First, he is absolutely correct. This war is about will, resolve and character. I want to touch on that later, but first I want to share some comments about our “enemy.”

Our enemy is not the people of Afghanistan. The country is devastated beyond what most of us can imagine. The vast majority of the people live day-to-day,
hand-to-mouth in abject conditions of poverty, misery and deprivation. Less than 30% of the men are literate, the women even less. The country is exhausted, and
desperately wants something like peace. They know very little of the world at large, and have no access to information or knowledge that would counter what they are being
told by the Taliban. They have nothing left, nothing that is except for their pride.

Who is our enemy? Well, our enemy is a group of non-Afghans, often referred to by the Afghans as “Arabs” and a fanatical group of religious leaders and their military
cohort, the Taliban. The non-Afghan contingent came from all over the Islamic world to fight in the war against the Russians. Many came using a covert network created
with assistance by our own government.

OBL (as Osama bin Laden was referred to by us in the country at the time) restored this network to bring in more fighters, this time to support the Taliban in their civil war
against the former Mujehdeen. Over time, this military support along with financial support has allowed OBL and his “Arabs” to co-opt significant government activities and
leaders. OBL is the “inspector general” of Taliban armed forces; his bodyguards protect senior Talib leaders and he has built a system of deep bunkers for the Taliban,
which were designed to withstand cruise missile strikes (uhm, where did he learn to do that?). His forces basically rule the southern city of Kandahar.

This high-profile presence of OBL and his “Arabs” has, in the last 2 years or so, started to generate a great deal of resentment on the part of the local Afghans. At the
same time, the legitimacy of the Taliban regime has started to decrease as it has failed to end the war, as local humanitarian conditions have worsened and as “cultural”
restrictions have become even harsher.

It is my assessment that most Afghans no longer support the Taliban. Indeed the Taliban have recently had a very difficult time getting recruits for their forces and have
had to rely more and more on non-Afghans, either from Pushtun tribes in Pakistan or from OBL. OBL and the Taliban, absent any US action, were probably on their way to
sharing the same fate that all other outsiders and outside doctrines have experienced in Afghanistan – defeat and dismemberment.

During the Afghan war with the Soviets, much attention was paid to the martial prowess of the Afghans. We were all at West Point at the time, and most of us had
high-minded idealistic thoughts about how we would all want to go help the brave “freedom fighters” in their struggle against the Soviets.

Those concepts were naive to the extreme. The Afghans, while never conquered as a nation, are not invincible in battle. A “good” Afghan battle is one that makes a lot of
noise and light. Basic military skills are rudimentary and clouded by cultural constraints that no matter what, a warrior should never lose his honor. Indeed, firing from the
prone is considered distasteful (but still done).

Traditionally, the Afghan order of battle is very feudal in nature, with fighters owing allegiance to a “commander,” and this person owing allegiance upwards and so on and
so on. Often such allegiance is secured by payment. And while the Taliban forces have changed this somewhat, many of the units in the Taliban army are there because
they are being paid to be there. All such groups have very strong loyalties along ethnic and tribal lines.

Again, the concept of having a place of “honor” and “respect” is of paramount importance and blood feuds between families and tribes can last for generations over a
perceived or actual slight. That is one reason why there were 7 groups of Mujehdeen fighting the Russians. It is a very difficult task to form and keep united a large bunch
of Afghans into a military formation. The “real” stories that have come out of the war against the Soviets are very enlightening and a lot different from our fantastic visions
as cadets.

When the first batch of Stingers came in and were given to one Mujehdeen group, another group – supposedly on the same side – attacked the first group and stole the
Stingers, not so much because they wanted to use them, but because having them was a matter of prestige.

Many larger coordinated attacks that advisers tried to conduct failed when all the various Afghan fighting groups would give up their assigned tasks (such as blocking or
overwatch) and instead would join the assault group in order to seek glory.

In comparison to Vietnam, the intensity of combat and the rate of fatalities were lower for all involved.

As you can tell from above, it is my assessment that these guys are not THAT good in a purely military sense and the “Arabs” probably even less so than the Afghans.
So why is it that they have never been conquered? It goes back to Dr. Kern’s point about will.

During their history, the only events that have managed to form any semblance of unity among the Afghans, is the desire to fight foreign invaders. And in doing this, the
Afghans have been fanatical. The Afghans’ greatest military strength is the ability to endure hardships that would, in all probability, kill most Americans and enervate the
resolve of all but the most elite military units.

The physical difficulties of fighting in Afghanistan, the terrain, the weather, and the harshness are all weapons that our enemies will use to their advantage and use well.
(NOTE: For you military planner types and armchair generals: around November 1st, most road movement is impossible, in part because all the roads used by the
Russians have been destroyed and air movement will be problematic at best). Also, those fighting us are not afraid to fight. OBL and others do not think the US has the
will or the stomach for a fight. Indeed after the absolutely inane missile strikes of 1998, the overwhelming consensus was that we were cowards who would not risk one life
in face-to-face combat.

Rather than demonstrating our might and acting as a deterrent, that action and others of the not so recent past, have reinforced the perception that the US does not have
any “will” and that we are morally and spiritually corrupt.

Our challenge is to play to the weaknesses of our enemy, notably their propensity for internal struggles, the distrust between the extremists/Arabs and the majority of
Afghans, their limited ability to fight coordinated battles, and their lack of external support. More importantly through is that we have to take steps not to play to their
strengths, which would be to unite the entire population against us by increasing their suffering or killing innocents, to get bogged down trying to hold terrain, or to get into
a battle of attrition chasing up and down mountain valleys.

I have been asked how I would fight the war. This is a big question and well beyond my pay grade or expertise. And while I do not want to second guess current plans or
start an academic debate, I would share the following from what I know about Afghanistan and the Afghans.

First, I would give the Northern Alliance a big wad of cash so that they can buy off a chunk of the Taliban army before winter. Second, also with this cash, I would pay
some guys to kill some of the Taliban leadership, making it look like an inside job to spread distrust and build on existing discord. Third I would support the Northern
alliance with military assets, but not take it over or adopt so high a profile as to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of most Afghans.

Fourth would be to give massive amounts of humanitarian aid and assistance to the Afghans in Pakistan in order to demonstrate our goodwill and to give these guys a
reason to live rather than the choice between dying of starvation or dying fighting the “infidel.” Fifth, start a series of public works projects in areas of the country not under
Taliban control (these are much more than the press reports) again to demonstrate goodwill and that improvements come with peace. Sixth, I would consider very carefully
putting any female service members into Afghanistan proper – sorry to the females of our class but within that culture a man who allows a women to fight for him has zero
respect, and we will need respect to gain the cooperation of Afghan allies. No Afghan will work with a man who fights with women.

I would hold off from doing anything too dramatic in the new term, keeping a low level of covert action and pressure up over the winter, allowing this pressure to force open
the fissions around the Taliban that were already developing – expect that they will quickly turn on themselves and on OBL.

We can pick up the pieces next summer, or the summer after.

When we do “pick up” the pieces, I would make sure that we do so on the ground, “man to man.”

While I would never want to advocate American causalities, it is essential that we communicate to OBL and all others watching that we can and will “engage and destroy
the enemy in close combat.” As mentioned above, we should not try to gain or hold terrain, but Infantry operations against the enemy are essential. There can be no
excuses after the defeat or lingering doubts in the minds of our enemies regarding American resolve and nothing, nothing will communicate this except for ground combat.
And once this is all over, unlike in 1989, the US must provide continued long-term economic assistance to rebuild the country.

While I have written too much already, I think it is also important to share a few things on the subject of brutality. Our opponents will not abide by the Geneva conventions.
There will be no prisoners unless there is a chance that they can be ransomed or made part of a local prisoner exchange.

During the war with the Soviets, videotapes were made of communist prisoners having their throats slit. Indeed, there did exist a “trade” in prisoners so that souvenir
videos could be made by outsiders to take home with them.

This practice has spread to the Philippines, Bosnia and Chechnya where similar videos are being made today and can be found on the web for those so inclined. We can
expect our soldiers to be treated the same way. Sometime during this war I expect that we will see videos of US prisoners having their heads cut off.

Our enemies will do this not only to demonstrate their “strength” to their followers, but also to cause us to overreact, to seek wholesale revenge against civilian
populations, and to turn this into the world-wide religious war that they desperately want.

This will be a test of our will and of our character. (For further collaboration of this type of activity please read Kipling).

This will not be a pretty war; it will be a war of wills, of resolve and somewhat conversely of compassion and of a character. Towards our enemies, we must show a level of
ruthlessness that has not been part of our military character for a long time. But to those who are not our enemies we must show a level of compassion probably unheard
of during war. We should do this not for humanitarian reasons, even though there are many, but for shrewd military logic.

For anyone who is still reading this way too long note, thanks for your patience. I will try to answer any questions that may arise in a more concise manner.

Yes, this is an excellent article which I have seen before. The author incidentally is called Richard Kidd. I will definitely look out for more articles from this guy. I hope he is representative of the thinking of the US military in general.

So much better than that other article from the ex-Marine, no?:wink:

Scylla: You’re throwing that out as a debate as to its merits? Of his facts or his opinions?

Regardless I agree with his analysis :slight_smile: . His breakdown mirrors everything I have ever read about the region and his advice is sound.

I will quibble just slightly ( and at great risk of being dismissed, as he has the first hand experience I don’t :wink: ) with his assesment of Afghan military skills. They may be piss-poor at fighting in formation, but I’ve always heard that they were pretty decent snipers ( especially with the old Lee-Enfield .303’s a lot of them apparently still carry ), which is really the best possible military skill for that sort of terrain.

And I will say that most of the leadership of the Northen Alliance is beyond scum. Temporary alliance of convenience, fine. Permanent backing as a replaement government, nuh-uh. Besides which they’re drawn mostly from minority groups and lack the leverage over the Pushtun majority to really exercise effective power. The Pushtun clans, reactionary though they are, need to be included in any effective coalition government.

Finally, as I mentioned in another thread, much of the Taliban fighting power does indeed come from tribal alliances ( much of the Taliban leadership is from the old royal Durani clan ). It looks like that network of alliances is already beginning to fray under the threat of U.S. attack. Especially if it’s all to defend a “foreigner” ( bin Laden ). If he is correct about bribery working, I say pour it on. Separating the Taliban from the bulk of their armed support seems the perfect solution to unraveling that network.

All in all, a fine, nicely balanced piece that coinsides quite nicely with my own ( armchair ) views :slight_smile: .

  • Tamerlane

BTW Scylla,
I think you are confusing this man with someone else. I ran a search for him to see if he had written something else and came across this brief bio.

It’s clearly the guy who wrote the article but it says nothing about him winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. I also checked the medal citations and he isn’t listed. Also he is described as an “infantry officer and logistics specialist” which doesn’t sound like he was a tank specialist.

I think you’re right. The guy I mentioned emailed this to me without attribution, and I thought he wrote it.

The crux of his strategic analysis seems to be pointing towards the difficulties involved in a land war, infantry type conflict in Afghanistan. Hostile territory, hostile population, guerilla conflict where the enemy is an expert and we are hopelessly ignorant. Supply lines ten thousand miles long. This has a ghastly ring of familiarity.

A war of occupation in Afghanistan is a blitheringly insane proposition. It may well be that our enemies will not respect our “manliness” unless we engage them directly. For my two cents, never mind my son, I couldn’t care less if they think we are a nation of mincing pansies, if the alternative is to make body bag production a growth industry. How many men did the Russians lose? What do we have that they didn’t?

And to what end? If I allow, for sake of argument, that it is feasible to occupy Afghanistan, how will that assure us that “terrorism” is at an end, when we know already that the network is spread far and wide beyond Afghanistan.

It may well be that our massive military power is of no value in our current dilemma. Somebody should be thinking about what to do if that is the case.

In the words of my hero, Sam Clemens, its a lot easier to stay out than get out.

Scylla, nice piece, but I do have a minor nitpick with what he has to say so far as the road situation. I believe that the Poles tried to rely on “General Mud” to help defend their country against the Germans back in '39. The results, of that, of course, are well known. As for air movement, it was said that there was no way the US would be able to resupply Berlin back when the Soviets blockaded it. Again, the results of that effort, are quite well known.

He is right, IMHAGO (In My Humble Armchair General Opinion), in that this war will be a test of wills. Are we as a nation willing to put forth the amount of effort needed to successfully complete this campaign? Assuming we are, we should do as we did with Germany and Japan after WW II and work to restore the Afghani nation to a level of civilization. That seems to be the only thing that’s keep those two nations out of wars for the past 50 odd years or so.

I am no military expert but I think you are misreading strategic analysis in the article. It is a pretty nuanced account of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Taliban not a counsel of despair.

As for what the US has that the Soviets didn’t; several things.

The Afghans were able to defeat the Soviets only with the help of massive supply from the United States and others through Pakistan . This time Afghanistan is surrounded by hostile countries and no one is going to supply the Taliban. Incidentally this is a crucial difference between Vietnam and the current situation as well.

Secondly, especially after the attacks US troops are going to be highly motivated and in any case today’s US troops are much better trained than the Soviets ever were. Lots of the Soviets were conscripts who probably didn’t have a clue what they were fighting for.

The US has better technology than the Soviets; things like heat sensing technology and satellite surveillance which will be really useful in smoking out soldiers who hide in the mountains.

Finally as the article nicely explains the Taliban doesn’t too much support among the population. If the US is shrewd in building alliances and in proving humanitarian aid for the people it can isolate,divide and weaken the Taliban.

I think the greatest problem with a ground war is not that the US won’t be able to win it but the potential effect on public opinion in Muslim countries if the US is seen launching a full-scale attack on a Muslim country. This could undermine support for some of the governments whose help the US urgently needs to root out the terrorist networks.An alternative to a US ground war could be a strategy where the US sticks to arming the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban Afghans and concentrates its own military effort on covert operations to hit the terrorists directly.

OTOH Kidd is also correct that a successfuly ground war will signal US resolve and deter other potential state sponsors of terror in a uniquely effective manner.

It’s hard to say off-hand which of the two arguments is more powerful; that and other issues will require a lot of hard analysis at both the State departement and the Pentagon over the coming months.

Well, I am certainly no military expert, and I am against war, but I will say that the writer raises some excellent points. However, I have to agree with elucidator. I really do not care if ObL and his cronies think we’re pansies or whatever. It’s not going to matter if we prove we’ve got “balls” by fighting them and dying by the thousands on their own turf because they’ve already made up their minds about us. What they want to trick us into doing is fighting them in a conventional war and confuse folks into thinking it’s the Muslim world against the West. I say don’t cater to them on that point because whether they think we’re cowards or not, they want to get rid of us. I agree with giving the Afghans, who’ve played no part in the horrors of 9/11, humanitarian aid and following through with that aid once we’ve put ObL, Inc. out of business through other means. He can’t operate without funding, PR to brainwash more poor suckers to go fight in his insane crusade against the West, secure communications, and the sham front of religious authority that the Taliban provides for him.

I also agree with elucidator on the real concern of making sure we shore up things here in America.

I must say that I am a little concerned about the fact that military strategies are just being aired about by the media for anybody to see. Is this wise? I mean does the general public, including the terrorists who remain at large in the US and other places that have access to the media and to the internet, need to know everything up front? Why can’t folks wait a little bit or until after the implementation of those strategies to air all of this information. This may sound naive or even like a copout–believe me for anything but the present situation we find ourselves in I would want to know what the government is doing–but we’ve elected officials who in their roles have far more information and I would hope far more experience in dealing with foreign policy than the average person. Why not let them do their jobs in peace without trying to second guess them, and let’s focus on things at home?

I’m still dealing with the stress and grief and horror of 9/11, and I was nowhere near NY or DC. No doubt many Americans are still shell-shocked over the attacks, and we need something constructive to do to help us get past them. Still as awful as the events of 9/11 were, they do not change the fact that we have plenty of other problems to deal with here in America that we citizens in our various capacities are more qualified to deal with or take some active role in fixing. I’m talking about coming up with solutions for health care, education, and the economy–things Dopers have been debating all along. I keep hearing on the news that as of now on state and local levels our health care system is inequipped to deal with the threat of biological or chemical warfare. How can we take an active role in seeing that this problem is addressed. I would like to think that folks are getting started on this, but beyond preparing for bio/chem warfare, how can we ensure that public officials address the fact that Americans don’t have adequate health care for ordinary health issues? Or how can we fix our failing public school systems that are not preparing students to be productive citizens, or boost the economy which is reeling under the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Mind you, I don’t have the answers to any of these problems, but I think these issues and others like them are where the focus should be. One thing that every person can do is just to educate him/herself on the similarities and differences in Muslim cultures. This at least I am glad to see we are attempting to do on this message board.

While I am no fan of Bush, I have to accept the fact that he and his administration are acting for America in conjunction with our allies to bring the criminals responsible for the crimes of 9/11 to justice, and to some extent I’m just going to have to trust them. The question we should be asking ourselves now that terrorist crimes have touched us here, is how best can we contribute to but yet not undermine the struggle for the continuance of the freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution.

I don’t know if this is the answer y’all were looking for regarding the writer’s statements, but thus far it’s MY perspective on the aftereffects of WTC.

celestina, how do you propose we “shore up things here in America”? There’s no way to make things completely safe. Even before 9/11, the US had been victims of terrorist attacks, the bombing of our embassies, the bombing of the Cole, the OKC bombing (domestic terrorists, but terrorism, nonetheless), and others too numerous to mention. What 9/11 changed was the level of the attacks. Terrorism used to be a “fun” little game played by everyone. The IRA would call up the Bobbies and say, “Hello, chaps, this is the IRA. We’ve planted a car bomb in front of Harrods. Do be a good sport and go make sure no one gets hurt, would you?” And the Bobbies would reply, “I say! Thanks for the warning! Cheerio and all that!” Then, they’d go and clear everyone out of Harrod’s and wait for the bomb to go off. Someone would bomb one of our embassies, and we’d respond by launching a few cruise missiles in their general direction. We’d be happy because we could puff out our chests and say how we took on the big, bad terrorists, and didn’t lose a single US soldier, and the terrorists could puff out their chests and call us a bully because we bombed a pharmacutical factory or something like that. Some Palestinian would strap a bomb to his chest and set it off in a crowded square, kiling like three people and the Israeli’s could shell the Palestinians. Each side could whack at each other in tit for tat fashion, and while there would be losses on both sides, neither one would lose a lot of people at one time. Heck! In some places, the whole matter was so common that the press didn’t even bother to report it any more. 9/11 wasn’t like that at all. 9/11 was an act which was clearly calculated to kill as many innocent people as possible. Had the terrorists been able to smuggle a nuke into the US, they would have done so. They wouldn’t have picked a military target, they would have placed it in the heart of NYC or LA, or some other city which symbolized America. Sanctions haven’t worked against Cuba or Iraq. Cutting off Bin Laden’s money supply is worth doing, but we’ll never be able to stop his money that’s involved in blackmarket deals. We’re going to have to go into Afghanistan and ferret the bastard out if we hope to stop him. That will, hopefully, slow the rest of the terrorists down for a while. Certainly, it’ll make the nations that harbor them think twice before agreeing to allow the terrorists to operate freely.

Finally, I’m a bit confused by your concern as to the wisdom of airing our “military strategies” by the media, followed by your comment in the next paragraph, " The question we should be asking ourselves now that terrorist crimes have touched us here, is how best can we contribute to but yet not undermine the struggle for the continuance of the freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution." Thanks to the Constitution, the media is perfectly free to air talking heads describing what they think the US military strategies are. Nowhere, have I seen or heard anyone saying, “At 1900 hours, Washington time on October 1st, the 191st Fighting Hellfish will make a vertical insertion at the following coordinates . . .” I can tell you from having watching the Desert Shield coverage followed by the Desert Storm coverage that the talking heads are almost always wrong as to what the US military’s going to do or is doing. There were complaints that CNN’s coverage of the war was alerting the Iraqi’s to US troop movements. So what? Didn’t do them any good, did it?

Tuckerfan, you make some good points and ask some great questions. Thank you for that. :slight_smile: Let’s see if I can figure out how to respond to them. I hope this makes sense.

First let me say that I understand completely that the events of 9/11 changed the way the “game” of terrorism is played, and I think that is truly awful because now we will have more crackpots out there trying to see how many more innocent folks they can kill. [insert rolleyes] However, to get past the horror of that fateful day, I think that the average American’s interests are hardly served by speculating on what the military should do or even how cowardly or not the military is perceived by terrorists or other countries. The average American should focus his/her energies on fixing problems that they can take an active role in and that don’t involve speculation. I also understand very well that under the Constitution the media along with individual Americans are guaranteed the right of freedom of speech, but again with that freedom of speech comes the RESPONSIBILITY to USE IT WISELY. I understand very well that the media can’t give a play-by-play version of what the military will do from one moment to the next because they are not privy to that information. I do have to wonder, though, that if they did have access to that information, would they air it in the interests of keeping up their ratings? I would certainly hope that that wouldn’t be the case. But here I go speculating. I also understand and kind of have to laugh at my nerve in posting what I did; it is because of the Constitution that I have the right to come into a debate on what our military strategy should be and say that I don’t think this is a productive line of inquiry, :slight_smile: realizing that whatever I think, it’s not going to stop folks from talking about it and wondering what we’re going to do next. That’s fine. It’s wonderful that we are free to discuss anything we want. I just wonder if our efforts wouldn’t be better served talking about other things. That’s basically it.

As far as the internet is concerned, I am wondering as to the wisdom of debating military strategy on it as well because it puts that information out there for anyone to see. I read or heard in some news report somewhere that one of the reasons the terrorists were so successful was that they used the internet among other things to get information. We still have terrorists at large here in America and in other places that have access to the media and to the internet. While the media and folks talking about military strategy or whatever on the internet may be circulating inaccurate information, it is still information that may be used against us. Still, I well understand that there is no way that anyone can monitor the internet or stop folks from putting on it what they want. Fine. I still put my two cents in along with everyone else.

What I meant by shore up things here at home was simply that I think that we should get back to working on the problems of health care and education that we had before 9/11 and think of ways to deal with the economic fallout that resulted from the 9/11 attacks. I know that there’s not much we can do if bio/chem agents are set off, but we should have some system in place to make sure that we can control the spread of those agents. Beyond that, we should be advocating for some system that will ensure that every American has access to adequate health care. People are scared and looking for something that they can do. Sitting back and speculating on what the military will do is not going to help, although it may be an interesting pasttime. I in no way mean to dismiss or disrespect the tragedy that the terrorists attacks were, but I think that to get past it, we should focus our efforts on issues we can take active roles in, whether it’s lobbying our congressional representatives to make strides in raising teacher salaries, or parents taking an active role in overseeing their children’s education by going to PTA meetings or advocating their school boards for curriculum changes, or disciplining their children, or whatever.

What I meant by undermine the struggle to ensure the rights we are granted by the Constitution, again, if average folks focus their energies on speculation on things we don’t have enough information on, rather than take an active role in things we can fix, then these terrorists win. They’ve subverted our energies away from what we should be focused on and onto their territory, figuratively as well as literally. I, for one, refuse to play that particular game.

Interesting article, followed by some interesting responses. I would, however, take issue with the title of the thread. The article is not a “true, expert perspective on WTC”. It is one particularly informed opinion on the possible way of dealng with the problems presented by a US intervention in Afghanistan. Anyone who believes that such an intervention will bring an end to anti-US feelings among many in the middle east, or will get rid of all the radical Islamic fundamentalists who support the actions of September 11, is dreaming. Bin Laden himself has said that he is happy to die for his cause, and that the movement is much more than just him as an individual. Kill me, he said, and there will be a hundred others waiting to take my place. Afghanistan is not the whole problem, and intervention there will not be the whole solution.

And also, whenever i see someone present an article as a “true, expert” piece, my radar goes up straight away. If it’s as convincing as you believe it to be, why not forego the pre-emptive praise? People will make up their own mind anyway.

Assuming the provenance of this article is correct and that the writer really does have the background he claims, it has some reasonable things to say.

However, I see a continuing theme among Scylla’s experts which is disturbing, from “Nuke 'em” Fred on through “Spitting Image” Tony Kern and now Richard Kidd. All three postulate some sort of need for a sustained ground offensive by the U.S. against Afghanistan for which we are said to be ill-prepared or suited. Fred and Tony seem to have in the back of their minds a need for the U.S. military to erase the memories of Vietnam, a conflict which we presumably would have won if not for the lack of support back home, while Richard wants to prove to the locals that our soldiers are willing to die in face to face combat.

A tandem theme which not all of these gentlemen overtly advance, but which is especially common among right-of-center observers, is establishing that the terrorists who attacked the U.S. were not cowardly. It’s hard to understand this low-grade obsession with building up the character and accomplishments of these people, unless it’s felt that we need a Noble Enemy to vanquish in soul-cleansing combat, there being little satisfaction in hunting down sleazebags.
I’m going to have to go with elucidator here. I don’t think we should be willing to sustain large-scale casualties merely to make the ex-military feel better about Vietnam, or to impress the opposition with our ability to shed blood needlessly. I want us to win in the most efficient way possible.


You are pretty much completely wrong.


Well, we know who wrote it. If you’re doubting his credentials, I think it behooves you to suggest why.

I don’t think I brought Tony Kern into any debate.

Do you think the idea that we may be fighting in Afghanistan is an unreasonable postulation?

That’s quite a reach. They said nothing of the kind, but simply used Vietnam as an example of the kind of resolved fighting we are likely to see. Based on the Russians experience, this seems like a reasonable analysis. Please cite where you think they’re looking for an erasure.

Again, a rather simplistic interpretation of what Richard said, and completely ignores his rather detailed rationale of why he thinks we need to do this.

I don’t understand why that is a right-wing observation. Again, the reasoning seems to make sense. Hijacking a plane with a knife and then crashing it into a building may be stupid, but it’s not the act of a coward. I think they got this right.

An asinine and false observation. Underestimating an enemy would be a very serious mistake, and their is certainly evidence to suggest that we have underestimated Bin Laden’s and his cohorts commitment and abilities, as well as underestimating the rationale of suicide bombers. The Afghans as fighters have certainly been underestimated by the Russians, and in point of fact, Richard goes into detail about what he perceives are their strengths and weaknesses and suggests that in some ways they are not as good as advertised.

Suggesting that they are trying to build up the abilities of the enemy, to somehow make us look good if we happen to stomp them is seriously calling into question the ethics and qualifications of these writers. It’s not something that should be done unless you have something to back it up.

Well, you certainly beat the shit out of that strawman. Not one of three articles suggested anything of the kind.

Jackmannii: A quibble, sir. I did not suggest, or at least did not mean to suggest, that the motive of the war-bird fringe is to “erase the shame of Viet Nam”.


Unreasonable? Not quite. “Insane”. Yes, that says it for me.


Where to begin? So much madness, so little me.

  1. Lack of an attainable goal:

What is it we would seek? The head of OBL in a basket of figs? Would we know it if we had it? If the death of OBL is the goal, surely there is a better way. When we know, without doubt, that innocent bystanders will die when massive military force is applied (and surely that is not in doubt), the application of massive military force to kill one criminal is in itself criminal. Surely you can kill a flea with a hammer, but the dog has every right to resent it.

Ending the terrorist threat? Nonsense. There is no reason to believe that the entire threat is localized in Afghanistan. The network of terrorists is diffused throughout the world, if every Afghan dropped dead tomorrow, the threat would still persist.

Further, it is precisely OBL’s goal to provoke just exactly that reaction. He is a madman, bent on provoking an Islamic Armageddon, he is depending on a massive military reaction so that he can capitalize on the death of innocents to justify his cause. If we were to nuke Kabul, we might kill 100 terrorists (more likely 10), ten thousand innocent civilians, and would create 100,000 volunteers for Al-Queda. What is more insane than deliberately recruiting for our enemy?

Vengeance? Vengeance is an unworthy goal, beneath the contempt of a great nation. I will not dignify that. This is not a schoolyard fight, where a bloody nose can be answered with a bloody nose. If we answer the death of our innocent victims with other innocent victims, we are no better than our enemies. My Lai is enough shame to last us a century.

What other goal? What is it that you want, how would you achieve it? You seem to feel the burden of proof is on me, as if I must somehow prove that slaughter and death is undesireable. I “hold that truth to be self-evident”.

I’ll leave it at that. To this day, I have yet to hear a definition of an attainable goal. Enlighten me, Scylla. What is it that you would have our soldiers die for? Who would you have them kill? And when will you say, “Hold! Enough!”

They need to close the terrorist camps so that they won’t be used again, and prove there is no safe harbor. They need to oust the Taliban as Government, both to show the consequences of sponsoring terrorism, and prevent further terrorist activities.

Certainly this will not end terrorism. It will end this specific threat.

Other actions will need to be taken in other countries to destroy Bin Laden’s organization.

Some of these tactics will be political, some economic, some covert, and some military.

Just because you can’t get rid of all the termites in the world doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat for them when they invade your home.

In that scenario, ground action in Afghanistan could be a reality with achievable goals.

elucidator (I realize that your question was directed at Scylla, but I can’t resist throwing in my .02 cents here.), ah, yes, the “exit strategy” problem! We’re not fighting a “conventional” foe, but we must have an “exit strategy”! First of all, who says that we’re going to go after these guys in the same manner as we did Saddam, the Viet Cong, the North Koreans, or anyone else we’ve fought. I’ve yet to see a credible report (i.e. a press release from someone in the US Gov’t) stating what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. Armchair General comments aside, we simply have no information on what the gov’t is doing or planning on doing. We know that they’ve called up some reserve units, but so far they’ve done nothing on the scale of what happened in the wake of Pearl Harbor or the invasion of Kuwait.

Secondly, does a pre-planned “exit strategy” really make sense? I don’t think that there really was one for World War II. Oh sure, we called for the “unconditional surrender” of the Axis Powers (at the Conference of Yalta, I believe, which took place some months after the war began), but did anyone think that the war would go on as long as it did or end in the manner in which it did at the beginning? No doubt, if we snag Bin Laden alive, we’ll have to re-evaluate the conflict. If we manage to disrupt enough of his organization once we capture him, I imagine that the whole world will lose interest in the matter and we’ll be content to carry on about our merry way until someone else decides that they want to fill Bin Laden’s shoes. That could happen immediately after we snag Bin Laden, or it might never happen. We won’t know until it happens, of course.

Third, name a war which didn’t have civilian casualties! You can’t. The Allies made some horrible mistakes during WW II (the fire bombing of Dresden comes to mind) and thousands of innocents died. That is the horror of war. You can’t have one without innocents being killed. The question is: Is the number of innocents who will be killed greater if we take action or if we don’t take action? The Allies knew that if we did nothing, and tried to appease Hitler millions more would be killed than if we went after him. At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese picked a military target, on 9/11 the target was a civilian one. Do I think that the next target Bin Laden and the others will pick will be military? Not on your life. Also, I’d much rather have us carrying the war to Bin Laden, than to live like people in Northern Ireland had to do at the height of the IRA bombings with soldiers on every street corner, constant searches everytime one wanted to enter a public building or place.

Finally, all of this, including my comments, should be understood for what they are: WAG, which don’t mean anything in the big picture. We don’t know what’s going to happen or when it will happen. We can speculate all we want, but to paraphrase an old saw: Speculate in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up faster.

No thanks to you.**

a) He’s speaking outside his area of declared expertise. b)I have no idea what sort of credentials this guy has in the military/intelligence community. You quoted him at length (again, probably a copyright violation - jeez Scylla, you’ve been warned once over Fred) instead of linking to an article in a major journal, assuming he’s been published in any. c) Speaking of “Frame Libya Fred”, who you presented as an authority worthy of serious consideration, I would think you’d be too embarassed to harangue someone for doubting the credentials of an “expert” you submitted. d) I tend to be skeptical of Internet experts in general. e) I am even more skeptical of Internet experts who are gushing about their being “popular in DC”.

You’re correct that you didn’t submit Tony Kern. He just popped up in your thread. Mea culpa.**

Read what you quote. I know of no need, suggested by the Bush Administration or responsible parties currently in the U.S. military, for a Soviet-type long-term ground offensive. Of course, your stable of military sources may feel otherwise.**

Not much of a reach. Fred babbles about our humiliation in fleeing Vietnam, then goes on to promote
an insane Middle East adventure. Tony refers to Vietnam at length, talks about our failure in Vietnam despite not losing a major tactical battle, dredges up that old garbage about Americans spitting on returning Viet vets, emphasizes that the current struggle hinges on a will on the home front to continue fighting, and closes with a statement that it is essential that we fall in line behind the President and military to avoid losing the current fight.

I’d say they were plenty hung up on Vietnam.**

“the overwhelming consensus was that we were cowards who would not risk one life in face-to-face combat.” “Infantry operations are essential.” Cripes, do you read your own stuff??**

Nor do I, but most amateur and “pro” pundits who harp on this seem to be from that part of the political spectrum.**

More accurately, it’s like the act of an estranged husband who murders his wife and then turns the gun on himself. I just can’t muster what it takes to call this stuff “brave”.**

Casting doubt on the moral character of your enemy has nothing to do with estimating his capabilities. Have you got any examples of people saying, “Well, they were cowards, so we don’t have to take them too seriously”? Bring 'em on.

The “underestimating the enemy” stuff that we are hearing now, does, in my opinion, have in part a genuine desire to make sure we have the capabilities for a sustained struggle. It also is sure to be used in making a case for a large boost in military spending, some of which will do little or nothing to enhance our ability to meet this threat. And if you doubt this, there are still some excellent bridges on sale at BestBuy.[b/


But only on the subject of avoiding needless casualties. The other conclusions are mine own.

And after reading his latest stuff, elucidator is on his own.