Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'No Military Solution' says Obama Official

July 20, 2010, 6:05 a.m.

[For BP disaster see, "Uncanny Prediction of BP Disaster & Response," June 10, 2010; "BP's Commercial: Shame on Media," June 9; "Big Oil: Calling Shots, Corrupting Government," May 26, 2010; "Obama As Finger-Pointer-In-Chief," May 18, 2010; "Big Oil + Big Corruption = Big Mess," May 10, 2010; "P&L: Public Loss From Private Profit," May 3, 2010.]

War Is Not the Answer
(bought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)

About three weeks ago I asked here, "Why Are We in Afghanistan; . . . and how do we get out?" July 1/2, 2010.

It's a set of questions I've been posing since Iraq -- actually since VietNam; for example:
"Ten Questions for Bush Before War," The Daily Iowan, February 4, 2003, p. 6A

"War in Iraq: The Military Objections," International Law Talks, University of Iowa College of Law, February 27, 2003

"General Semantics, Terrorism and War," Address, Fordham University, September 8, 2006

Nicholas Johnson, "General McChrystal: Afghan Efforts 'Not Working,'" August 31, 2009

"Why Afghanistan? Think Oil & Gas," September 25, 2009

"Obama's Afghanistan," December 3, 2009

"There is No War in Afghanistan," December 4, 2009
Now the Obama Administration seems to be asking itself some of the same questions. As The Guardian reports, "'There is a change of mindset in DC,' a senior official in Washington said. 'There is no military solution. . . .'" Ewen MacAskill and Simon Tisdall, "White House shifts Afghanistan strategy towards talks with Taliban; Senior Washington officials tell the Guardian of a 'change of mindset' over Obama administration's Afghanistan policy," The Guardian, July 19, 2010.

In the "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" blog entry, linked above, I wrote about an Amy Goodman "Democracy Now!" program I had just watched:
There is also a clip from Robert McNamera, explaining what was wrong with our analysis of Vietnam as a place for "war" -- insights that are almost perfectly applicable to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I offered President Johnson a similar perspective regarding our Vietnam catastrophe -- but before rather than after that war. While the fate that my message produced was neither as severe nor public as what General McChrystal has recently experienced (nor was my confidential report as ad hominem or public as McChrystal's), I always believed it did have something to do with LBJ's deciding that his young Maritime Administrator, handling sealift to Vietnam, would make a really terrific FCC Commissioner.
And I then went on to quote from the August 31, 2009, blog entry, also linked above:
The top thinkers in the military, many of whom do make their way to the top of their service, or the Joint Chiefs' staff, are well educated, bright, analytical and rational.

When left to their own independent judgment and opinions they are the ones likely to ask questions like those I [ask].

What, exactly, is it you are trying to do in this country? How are our national interests involved? In what ways do you think a military presence could be helpful in reaching that goal (as distinguished from, e.g., Peace Corps presence and building infrastructure; cultural exchanges; or bringing their best students to our universities)? How would you describe that military mission? With what metrics would you measure our military's progress? How many troops will it take to accomplish that mission? How long will it take? What is your basis for thinking the American people, and their elected representatives, will support the cost in human life and taxes over that time? (Support for the Afghan war has now dropped below 50%.) What support is there in the international community for this action? Does that support include financial support and troops? Once in, how do we get out; that is, what is our "exit strategy"? On the assumption the military mission produces the outcome desired, why is it reasonable to assume that progress will be sustained after we leave?

Note what General McChrystal is said to be talking about. Our military efforts "have not made their lives better;" security must be provided by locals "but their army will not be ready to do that for three years and it will take much longer for the police;" and a jobs program would be more effective than continuing to shoot Afghans ("60% of the problem would go away if they could be found jobs").
The bumper sticker says it all: "War is Not the Answer." Otherwise put, in more words than can fit on a bumper sticker, there are some places, times and circumstances in which war is simply not a feasible strategy. Afghanistan is one of those places; the last nine years have been one of those times. In such times, places and circumstances, "Whatever is the question, war is not the answer."

My son, Sherman, brought The Guardian story to my attention. And my son, Gregory, in this context reminded me of the concluding line in one of my favorite movies, "War Games." (As he emailed: "What!!!!??? So after years of analysis, and super computers playing war games, we've finally arrived at an answer? And the answer is: 'There is no military solution.'")

["WarGames is a 1983 American thriller film written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham. The film starred Matthew Broderick in his second major film role, and featured Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, and Barry Corbin." "WarGames," wikipedia.com. Amazon has the DVD; as presumably would Netflix.]

As you've just seen, if you watched that concluding clip, the premise of the film is that a computer genius has created software that enables the military to "take the human out of the loop" -- leaving it to a computer to decide when to launch missiles against the Soviet Union. A young hacker manages to get into the program and starts the computer down a road leading to World War III. Ultimately the program's creator and the kid are able to save us all, by forcing the computer to play tic-tac-toe, and thus to learn, as the computer-generated voice ultimately observes:

"Strange game. The only winning move is not to play."

That's Afghanistan. A strange game. Because our only winning move would have been "not to play," to have kept our military out of there from the beginning. In that place, under those conditions, at this time, war never was the answer. Because, as the British and Russians long ago discovered, and at least some in the Obama Administration are now, at long last, acknowledging: there is "no military solution."

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself.
-- Nicholas Johnson
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1 comment:

Nick said...

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