A.J. DiCintio
Afghanistan and Sherman's legacy
By A.J. DiCintio
October 1, 2009

Things are not going so well in Afghanistan, the amorphous, quasi-nation a Dutch NATO commander describes as making him feel he is "walking through the Old Testament."

And, unsurprisingly, thoughts regarding what to do about the situation are as plentiful as the colors of the autumn leaves.

Problem is, few opinions I've read or heard take up three ideas pronounced by General William T. Sherman — ideas that are absolutely essential to the conduct of any war.

The first and second are contained in these lines that contain perhaps the most famous three word sentence ever written:

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.

The third is found in this line:

War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.

There they are: Because war is hell, we must never enter into it lightly. But when we are forced to go to war, our object must be to give the enemy every bit of hell we can muster.

Let's now take a look at how those ideas are so often missing in the discussion of Afghanistan.

With respect to Afghanistan, David Brooks argues that "only the full counterinsurgency doctrine offers a chance of success."

But though Brooks is correct when he warns of falling prey to the "illusion of the easy path," he doesn't explain that the "full counterinsurgency doctrine" is a euphemism for simultaneous nation building and war.

Neither does Brooks take up these questions:

Does nation building preclude our giving the enemy every bit of hell possible? If so, what are the full consequences?

Do we have any reason to believe those who currently control the White House and Congress will do everything they can to give our Islamic extremist enemies all the war "they want"?

(For help in answering that last question, Brooks might want to get some input from the citizens of Kuwait.)

Another group of Americans are adherents to the "give it a try" approach. Thus, they agree with providing General McChrystal with the troops he is requesting but insist on a time limit for a war that has already gone on more than twice as long as it took us to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

This group, too, has been mostly quiet about the questions Brooks et al. don't address.

Finally, there is the view held by George Will that it is "Time to Get Out of Afghanistan."

Of course, Will makes it clear that he doesn't mean "get out" entirely. Rather, he argues, "America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters."

Joining him in this approach, albeit with some differences, are Colonel David Hunt and Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (both retired) who, to their credit, haven't forgotten Sherman's words.

Here is how Peters summed up their thinking when the two appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor."

"If he [Obama] sends them [additional troops], it will not make a difference. . . We need to get back to the basic reason we went to Afghanistan in 2001: to kill our enemies and kill those who support our enemies. I absolutely agree with Colonel Hunt. . . that a smaller, compact, lethal force is the way to go. Kill the bad guys."

In response to Will, Hunt, and Peters, Bill Kristol (Washington Post) writes that such a strategy represents nothing more than "urging retreat, and accepting defeat," even as he admits that the war has been mismanaged from the beginning.

For my part, Kristol ought not heap vitriol on conservatives who sincerely propose ideas for getting the job done in Afghanistan but should direct his tough talk at those who for eight years have "under-resourced and poorly strategized" the war.

He ought to discuss how the political, economic, social, religious, and geographical realities in Afghanistan affect the possibility for achieving effective nation building while conducting a real war.

He ought to explain why he is so sanguine that within the context of such a difficult enterprise, Barack Obama will commit himself to raining hell on our enemies — especially given that the president has treated General McChrystal with the same aversion he is expediently directing at his suddenly toxic ACORN friends.

The considerations just mentioned cause me to think that the "Hunt Plan" offers the best chance for the U.S. to focus on "kill[ing] the bad guys" in Afghanistan and the region of Pakistan to which the abomination called limited war allowed a certain filthy rat to escape and hole up.

But if President Obama chooses the option presented to him by General McChrystal, I won't be hurling any hot words of criticism.

I'll support him 100% — unless he endangers and demeans our troops by directing them to fight as if they were community organizers, thereby making a mockery of the truths bequeathed to us by William T. Sherman, including this one:

Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.

© A.J. DiCintio


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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A.J. DiCintio

A.J. DiCintio posts regularly at RenewAmerica and YourNews.com. He first exercised his polemical skills arguing with friends on the street corners of the working class neighborhood where he grew up. Retired from teaching, he now applies those skills, somewhat honed and polished by experience, to social/political affairs.


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