Andrew Bacevich: On Building Foreign Armies and Watching Them Fail

By Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, among other works. His new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (Random House), is due out in April 2016. Originally published at TomDispatch

First came Fallujah, then Mosul, and later Ramadi in Iraq.  Now, there is Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan.  In all four places, the same story has played out: in cities that newspaper reporters like to call “strategically important,” security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. military at great expense simply folded, abandoning their posts (and much of their U.S.-supplied weaponry) without even mounting serious resistance.  Called upon to fight, they fled.  In each case, the defending forces gave way before substantially outnumbered attackers, making the outcomes all the more ignominious.

Together, these setbacks have rendered a verdict on the now more-or-less nameless Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Successive blitzkriegs by ISIS and the Taliban respectively did more than simply breach Iraqi and Afghan defenses. They also punched gaping holes in the strategy to which the United States had reverted in hopes of stemming the further erosion of its position in the Greater Middle East.

Recall that, when the United States launched its GWOT soon after 9/11, it did so pursuant to a grandiose agenda. U.S. forces were going to imprint onto others a specific and exalted set of values. During President George W. Bush’s first term, this “freedom agenda” formed the foundation, or at least the rationale, for U.S. policy.

The shooting would stop, Bush vowed, only when countries like Afghanistan had ceased to harbor anti-American terrorists and countries like Iraq had ceased to encourage them. Achieving this goal meant that the inhabitants of those countries would have to change. Afghans and Iraqis, followed in due course by Syrians, Libyans, Iranians, and sundry others would embrace democracy, respect human rights, and abide by the rule of law, or else. Through the concerted application of American power, they would become different — more like us and therefore more inclined to get along with us. A bit less Mecca and Medina, a bit more “we hold these truths” and “of the people, by the people.”

So Bush and others in his inner circle professed to believe.  At least some of them, probably including Bush himself, may actually have done so.

History, at least the bits and pieces to which Americans attend, seemed to endow such expectations with a modicum of plausibility. Had not such a transfer of values occurred after World War II when the defeated Axis Powers had hastily thrown in with the winning side? Had it not recurred as the Cold War was winding down, when previously committed communists succumbed to the allure of consumer goods and quarterly profit statements?

If the appropriate mix of coaching and coercion were administered, Afghans and Iraqis, too, would surely take the path once followed by good Germans and nimble Japanese, and subsequently by Czechs tired of repression and Chinese tired of want. Once liberated, grateful Afghans and Iraqis would align themselves with a conception of modernity that the United States had pioneered and now exemplified. For this transformation to occur, however, the accumulated debris of retrograde social conventions and political arrangements that had long retarded progress would have to be cleared away. This was what the invasions of Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom!) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom!) were meant to accomplish in one fell swoop by a military the likes of which had (to hear Washington tell it) never been seen in history. POW!

Standing Them Up As We Stand Down

Concealed within that oft-cited “freedom” — the all-purpose justification for deploying American power — were several shades of meaning. The term, in fact, requires decoding. Yet within the upper reaches of the American national security apparatus, one definition takes precedence over all others. In Washington, freedom has become a euphemism for dominion. Spreading freedom means positioning the United States to call the shots. Seen in this context, Washington’s expected victories in both Afghanistan and Iraq were meant to affirm and broaden its preeminence by incorporating large parts of the Islamic world into the American imperium. They would benefit, of course, but to an even greater extent, so would we.

Alas, liberating Afghans and Iraqis turned out to be a tad more complicated than the architects of Bush’s freedom (or dominion) agenda anticipated.  Well before Barack Obama succeeded Bush in January 2009, few observers — apart from a handful of ideologues and militarists — clung to the fairy tale of U.S. military might whipping the Greater Middle East into shape.  Brutally but efficiently, war had educated the educable.  As for the uneducable, they persisted in taking their cues from Fox News and the Weekly Standard.

Yet if the strategy of transformation via invasion and “nation building” had failed, there was a fallback position that seemed to be dictated by the logic of events. Together, Bush and Obama would lower expectations as to what the United States was going to achieve, even as they imposed new demands on the U.S. military, America’s go-to outfit in foreign policy, to get on with the job.

Rather than midwifing fundamental political and cultural change, the Pentagon was instead ordered to ramp up its already gargantuan efforts to create local militaries (and police forces) capable of maintaining order and national unity. President Bush provided a concise formulation of the new strategy: “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.” Under Obama, after his own stab at a “surge,” the dictum applied to Afghanistan as well. Nation-building had flopped. Building armies and police forces able to keep a lid on things now became the prevailing definition of success.

The United States had, of course, attempted this approach once before, with unhappy results.  This was in Vietnam.  There, efforts to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces intent on unifying their divided country had exhausted both the U.S. military and the patience of the American people. Responding to the logic of events, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had a tacitly agreed upon fallback position. As the prospects of American forces successfully eliminating threats to South Vietnamese security faded, the training and equipping of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves became priority number one.

Dubbed “Vietnamization,” this enterprise ended in abject failure with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Yet that failure raised important questions to which members of the national security elite might have attended: Given a weak state with dubious legitimacy, how feasible is it to expect outsiders to invest indigenous forces with genuine fighting power?  How do differences in culture or history or religion affect the prospects for doing so? Can skill ever make up for a deficit of will? Can hardware replace cohesion? Above all, if tasked with giving some version of Vietnamization another go, what did U.S. forces need to do differently to ensure a different result?

At the time, with general officers and civilian officials more inclined to forget Vietnam than contemplate its implications, these questions attracted little attention. Instead, military professionals devoted themselves to gearing up for the next fight, which they resolved would be different. No more Vietnams — and therefore no more Vietnamization.

After the Gulf War of 1991, basking in the ostensible success of Operation Desert Storm, the officer corps persuaded itself that it had once and for all banished its Vietnam-induced bad memories. As Commander-in-Chief George H.W. Bush so memorably put it, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

In short, the Pentagon now had war figured out. Victory had become a foregone conclusion. As it happened, this self-congratulatory evaluation left U.S. troops ill-prepared for the difficulties awaiting them after 9/11 when interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq departed from the expected script, which posited short wars by a force beyond compare ending in decisive victories. What the troops got were two very long wars with no decision whatsoever. It was Vietnam on a smaller scale all over again — times two.

Vietnamization 2.0

For Bush in Iraq and Obama after a brief, half-hearted flirtation with counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, opting for a variant of Vietnamization proved to be a no-brainer. Doing so offered the prospect of an escape from all complexities. True enough, Plan A — we export freedom and democracy — had fallen short. But Plan B — they (with our help) restore some semblance of stability — could enable Washington to salvage at least partial success in both places.  With the bar suitably lowered, a version of “Mission Accomplished” might still be within reach.

If Plan A had looked to U.S. troops to vanquish their adversaries outright, Plan B focused on prepping besieged allies to take over the fight. Winning outright was no longer the aim — given the inability of U.S. forces to do so, this was self-evidently not in the cards — but holding the enemy at bay was.

Although allied with the United States, only in the loosest sense did either Iraq or Afghanistan qualify as a nation-state. Only nominally and intermittently did governments in Baghdad and Kabul exercise a writ of authority commanding respect from the people known as Iraqis and Afghans. Yet in the Washington of George Bush and Barack Obama, a willing suspension of disbelief became the basis for policy. In distant lands where the concept of nationhood barely existed, the Pentagon set out to create a full-fledged national security apparatus capable of defending that aspiration as if it represented reality. From day one, this was a faith-based undertaking.

As with any Pentagon project undertaken on a crash basis, this one consumed resources on a gargantuan scale — $25 billion in Iraq and an even more staggering $65 billion in Afghanistan. “Standing up” the requisite forces involved the transfer of vast quantities of equipment and the creation of elaborate U.S. training missions. Iraqi and Afghan forces acquired all the paraphernalia of modern war — attack aircraft or helicopters, artillery and armored vehicles, night vision devices and drones. Needless to say, stateside defense contractors lined up in droves to cash in.

Based on their performance, the security forces on which the Pentagon has lavished years of attention remain visibly not up to the job. Meanwhile, ISIS warriors, without the benefit of expensive third-party mentoring, appear plenty willing to fight and die for their cause. Ditto Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The beneficiaries of U.S. assistance? Not so much. Based on partial but considerable returns, Vietnamization 2.0 seems to be following an eerily familiar trajectory that should remind anyone of Vietnamization 1.0. Meanwhile, the questions that ought to have been addressed back when our South Vietnamese ally went down to defeat have returned with a vengeance.

The most important of those questions challenges the assumption that has informed U.S. policy in the Greater Middle East since the freedom agenda went south: that Washington has a particular knack for organizing, training, equipping, and motivating foreign armies. Based on the evidence piling up before our eyes, that assumption appears largely false. On this score, retired Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, a former military commander and U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, has rendered an authoritative judgment. “Our track record at building [foreign] security forces over the past 15 years is miserable,” he recently told the New York Times.  Just so.

Fighting the Wrong War

Some might argue that trying harder, investing more billions, sending yet more equipment for perhaps another 15 years will produce more favorable results. But this is akin to believing that, given sufficient time, the fruits of capitalism will ultimately trickle down to benefit the least among us or that the march of technology holds the key to maximizing human happiness. You can believe it if you want, but it’s a mug’s game.

Indeed, the United States would be better served if policymakers abandoned the pretense that the Pentagon possesses any gift whatsoever for “standing up” foreign military forces. Prudence might actually counsel that Washington assume instead, when it comes to organizing, training, equipping, and motivating foreign armies, that the United States is essentially clueless.

Exceptions may exist.  For example, U.S. efforts have probably helped boost the fighting power of the Kurdish peshmerga. Yet such exceptions are rare enough to prove the rule. Keep in mind that before American trainers and equipment ever showed up, Iraq’s Kurds already possessed the essential attributes of nationhood. Unlike Afghans and Iraqis, Kurds do not require tutoring in the imperative of collective self-defense.

What are the policy implications of giving up the illusion that the Pentagon knows how to build foreign armies? The largest is this: subletting war no longer figures as a plausible alternative to waging it directly. So where U.S. interests require that fighting be done, like it or not, we’re going to have to do that fighting ourselves. By extension, in circumstances where U.S. forces are demonstrably incapable of winning or where Americans balk at any further expenditure of American blood — today in the Greater Middle East both of these conditions apply — then perhaps we shouldn’t be there. To pretend otherwise is to throw good money after bad or, as a famous American general once put it, to wage (even if indirectly) “the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.” This we have been doing now for several decades across much of the Islamic world.

In American politics, we await the officeholder or candidate willing to state the obvious and confront its implications.

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  1. gordon

    I’m glad to see Bacevich raise the ghost of Vietnam. As one who remembers those days, I agree that contemporary US-supported regimes in the Middle East seem “eerily familiar”. But I think there are a couple of extra points which need making.

    First, Vietnam wasn’t the beginning. For many, many years, the US supported Latin American militaries which functioned as agents of US domination, repressing any movement towards genuine democracy and especially any movements toward what the US defined as “socialism”. The Latin American school, where the US learned foreign relations, was a very bad one. The mindset which produced Vietnam and is still producing Vietnam clones in the Middle East was developed “South of the Border”. The US still shows no signs of unlearning the lessons of successful bullying which underlie its contemporary foreign relations.

    Second, Bacevich asks “Given a weak state with dubious legitimacy, how feasible is it to expect outsiders to invest indigenous forces with genuine fighting power?” and some related questions. Close, but I think he misses the real question, which is why should Afghans or Iraqis risk their lives fighting for a foreign-sponsored regime which was put in place at the point of the bayonet? The soldiers of the old ARVN certainly wouldn’t and I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t either.

    1. Jagger

      ——-First, Vietnam wasn’t the beginning. For many, many years, the US supported Latin American militaries which functioned as agents of US domination, repressing any movement towards genuine democracy and especially any movements toward what the US defined as “socialism”.—-

      Actually I wonder if we could look back even further to southern Reconstruction after the American Civil War to see another example of failure. The use of carpetbaggers, scalawags and blacks to form state and local governments in the south backed by military force collapsed against guerilla opposition when military force was withdrawn in 1876.

      In Iraq, we replaced the ruling Sunni’s with the underdog Shiites. It didn’t take long for the Sunni’s to revolt against an oppressive Shiite government once US forces withdrew.

      Military force is good for winning open battles but too expensive and ineffective to achieve long term political goals against determined guerilla opposition.

  2. Oregoncharles

    So was this large insight even mentioned in the debate tonight? Because I saw no reference to it in the comments.

    1. jgordon

      I didn’t watch the debate (I find listening to politicians speak to be an utterly revolting way to waste time; I’ll wait for the transcript), but I doubt that any candidate would allude to the fact that America is failing and well on the road to ruin.

      I have a Ukrainian friend who utterly loathes Russians, and Putin in particular. But earlier tonight I was talking to him and he admitted that because of what’s been going on in Syria over the past couple of weeks he’s seriously rethinking things. My opinion is that if he, of all people, started having a positive impression of Putin over this, things must be a lot uglier for America in the perception department than even I was thinking. And being confronted with that reflection is something Americans can’t handle. But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe they did talk about it!

      1. Norb

        I often ask people who make negative remarks about Putin and the Russians if they have actually read or herd Putin’s remarks directly- gone to the source material. Invariably, the answer is no. Then the tone of the conversation turns defensive. As Americans, we can’t give up on our dreams and illusions.

        In the end, when the contradictions of American society finally catch up to reality, we are headed for a rough time.

    2. cwaltz

      Uh not really. Some of them mentioned Iraq as one of the biggest mistake but for the most part there was little evidence that our feckless Democrats understand how our efforts in Iraq apply to area like Syria or Ukraine. Blame Russia seemed to be the theme- with some common sense thrown in with folks like Sanders saying a no fly zone over Syria would be a mistake. Even then Sanders still sounded garbled and O Malley even had the balls to blame Assad for “invading Syria”(because apparently no one has told him that Assad was elected in 2007 and has been in Syria since before 2000.)

      1. RabidGandhi

        And of course this is the liberal end of the spectrum: invading Iraq was a “mistake”; not “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          This disconnect about Iraq is a major reason Hillary might lead Team Blue to defeat. Too MA you people agree with the second position and won’t vote for an Iraq War supporter under any circumstance. Let’s be honest, a party with the history of the Democratic Party, which is older than anything outside of the tories, should have a candidate who at least didn’t vote for the Iraq War in 2016. 47% was the max support for the non-UN backed invasion, and since younger people were the ones most likely to be affected, it’s unlikely they have fond memories of the war.

          1. RabidGandhi

            I remember being in Oregon in 2008 and hearing the Dem Faithful swear up and down that Obama (in spite of clearly stating to the contrary on his own website) was somehow a break from the past. The war was hands down issue #1 for them. Seven bombed countries later, we have all the Dem candidates brandishing sabres in last night’s debate. Plus ça change…

            No worries though, the GOP will be there to slurp up any sloppy seconds that might fall from Team Blue’s plate:

            RNC: Hillary Bad Because She Voted For Iraq War

            file this one under Praying for Voter Amnesia

  3. Clive

    The U.S. (and such allies as it can dupe into following its lead, the U.K. is unfortunately just such a country) should have learned by now the lesson that smart businesses have already begun to grasp. Namely, that if you outsource a critical process — nationbuilding here — then never, ever for one second delude yourselves that the outsourcee is remotely interested in you achieving your aims. They are only concerned with grabbing as much as they can and getting out before the roof falls in.

    Those Afghan militias are way, way savvier than a typical Pentagon general. And a career in the Beltway doesn’t alas give you the kind of street smarts that tribal politics in Helmand gives you. I’ll bet they saw them coming a mile away. Of course, an unchallenged, insulated elite is a lazy, dumb and just waiting to get taken for a ride elite.

    1. Norb

      Unfortunately, as long as the elite’s in this country can externalize the costs they still see themselves as the smartest people around.

      A new word needs to be invented to describe our lazy and misguided elite. Something that has much negative connotation and implies someone who is consistently wrong.

      The 1% has been a good beginning- but something stronger needs to take hold.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Pentagon through much of the Iraq war was dominated by guys who were majors by the Persian Gulf War with no Vietnam experience or experience outside of Grenada and the farce that was the Persian Gulf War. They brought “team players” with them who admired them as conquering heroes instead of guys who were lucky Hussein didn’t order a counter attack during the dust storm. The early days of Afghanistan and Iraq when our foes expected a rebuilding effort or for us to leave once we found Bin Laden or were embarrassed by the lack of WMDs reinforced the myth of U.S. invincibility.

      A Russian general noted that the Kiev army drove it’s tanks as if they are in flat deserts of Iraq instead of steppe country where ambushes are easy to executed. For him it was an indication Americans were directly in charge and we’re just going to what worked in the past.

    3. fajensen

      Americans have a hard time grasping a few simple facts: Very few people *wants* to become “an American”!

      People *do want* whatever benefits are offered by “American’ism. In exchange they pretend for a while that the mythical “American struggling to get out inside every foreign person” has indeed emerged. It’s similar to when some serial killer finds Jesus – there is always some sucker of a priest who believes in this “reformed character” just because he drinks the same brand of cool-aid as the priest does.

      Second, the idea of the nation state as something special to be served and treasured is not universally accepted. In many places Tribe, Family, Religion is what defines “A People”, the state is seen as yet another tribe of dumb foreigners trying to impose something, someone who must be fought or taken advantage off as the situation merits.

      The Afghans, they are a special case. Alexander the Great got his ass handed to him and even the British Empire – the leading experts in population management and resource extraction – managed to defeat the Afghans. In fact, they got massacred. Invading Afghanistan is perhaps the indicator of imperial brain-rot?

      1. shinola

        I don’t know who to attribute it to, but an old saying occurred to me when Bush jr. decided to invade Afghanistan:

        “Afghanistan – where empires go to die.”

        1. Minor Heretic

          I heard that line from the lips of Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan American working for the U.S. military. At the time (2007) he was living in Houston and training soldiers in Pashtun and Afghan customs and culture. He had been a high level official in one of the mujihadeen groups fighting the Soviets.

          FWIW he was also the go-between and translator for negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. back in 2000-2001 on the subject of killing Osama bin Laden. The negotiators reached an agreement on November 2, 2000, that the Taliban would give the coordinates of bin Laden’s “safe” house and we would provide a couple of cruise missiles. The election came two days later and GW Bush never picked up the ball.

      2. digi_owl

        I seem to recall a claim that the reason the Romans had such success was that upon invading they chopped of the head of the local ruler, but left the power structure largely intact.

        So outside of the new ruler being the roman emperor, the local pantheon being an aspect of the Roman one, and the taxes now flowing to Rome, it was business as usual for the locals.

        The pantheon thing didn’t work so well with a bunch of monotheists out east though…

  4. Norb

    “In American politics, we await the officeholder or candidate willing to state the obvious and confront its implications.”

    I wonder if this is even possible on the national level. It seems too much energy is wasted trying to make changes at this level. The government is too corrupted for that.

    We need the best local officials that can be held accountable for their actions more easily. In the end, as the empire shrinks in size, local authority will have more power. True believers in Liberty and Democracy will have to fight for their community. So far, we are behind in this battle because we are only now realizing it is being taken away.

    From the broader scope of history, the battle for Democracy seems to yet be decided.

  5. david

    endless cul-de-sacs – repetition with amnesia

    Listening to the debate last night and the key words this time which were: “I am a woman – vote for me” – the bright shiny thing this time is no longer the black guy who takes selfies –

    I realize there is no way out – the voters will “react” in enough numbers to pass the finish line despite her and her husband’s clear record for all to see.

    way to depressing to think about any more

  6. Jim A

    One strange article of faith in certain political circles is that more freedom => more friendly to the U.S. In predominantly anti-Western populations this is laughable. They don’t “hate OUR freedoms,” but they don’t particularly value the Western values that we revere. So “Freedom” for these populations becomes redefined as friendly to our goals.

    When you have a military and a police organization in the service of a state that nobody feels loyalty towards, at best you have inconstant mercenaries who will run once they face any significant opposition and at worst you have an occupying force that will CREATE insurgents by their actions.

    1. Praedor

      Don’t confuse “friendlier with the US” with “willing to do US bidding without explicit use of force”. What is meant, always, by the US government and “think tanks” by “friendly to the US” is the latter: the people in charge (or placed in charge) of target country are willing to do the full economic bidding of the US. The people can like or dislike Americans or America so long as the leadership practices “free trade”, hands its resources to western private contractors, sets up and doesn’t regulate a stock market (and even opens it up to the tender mercies of US market companies). Such a country (government) is “friendly” to the US.

  7. shinola

    I do have a quibble with this article. It is this line:

    “…ISIS warriors, without the benefit of expensive third-party mentoring, appear plenty willing to fight and die for their cause. Ditto Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.”

    I’m just sure that I’ve read articles, some here at NC, that claim secret funding is being provided to ISIS from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan & perhaps other Muslim countries that are supposed U.S. allies.

    Perhaps I misunderstood…

    1. RabidGandhi

      Makes sense if we stick with Bacevich’s Vietnam analogy. The Vietnamese NLF were beneficiaries of Soviet weapons, but this did not make them any less dedicated to their cause; they were supported by the vast majority of the population.

      US-backed armies on the other hand, such as the ARVN, the “Contras”, the FSA… would not exist if it were not for the US propping them up. ISIS would exist, however, without Saudi help because it has internal support from Baathist veterans, local radicalised Sunnis…

  8. Minor Heretic

    This makes me think of Chairman Mao’s most idiotic famous quotation: “political power comes from the barrel of a gun.” Maybe he was deluded and maybe he was being deliberately misleading – I’m not a historical mind reader.

    Gun barrels don’t aim themselves. Political power comes from telling people a compelling story, a story that orders the world in a way that makes people want to do your bidding. The story has to take into account the existing mindset of the people in question. The Taliban and IS have compelling stories, whether we like them or not. They are straightforward stories about belonging, good, evil, rules of conduct, action, and reward. The governments of Iraq and Afghanistan have muddled, nuanced, essentially false stories based on a mode of thinking alien to the inhabitants of those areas. Of course their troops folded. They had no compelling reason to risk their lives.

    One of the (many) reasons the American Civil War was so bloody is that both sides had stories that were convincing to their participants. Men walked upright into hailstorms of lead because they were convinced of the righteousness of their respective causes.

    Today, members of the Taliban and IS take suicidal risks, and sometimes commit deliberate suicide, in pursuit of victory. They treat opponents and their fellow travelers with unflinching brutality. They tolerate harsh conditions. This implacability is both militarily effective and demoralizing to their opponents.

    Any attempt to “win” in the Middle East should have started with the question of the beliefs and motivation of the people who live there. But of course, this approach doesn’t set up the hog trough for military contractors or resource extraction companies.

    1. JTMcPhee

      …of course ISIS looks remarkably like our prescient, percipient Frank Herbert’s “Dune” fanatics, the post-Muslim Fremen… slightly different ideology, same mental processes and physical and political-economic outcomes. If water gets scarcer, will they develop stillsuits and suck off the H2O from corpses in “deathstills,” to fill their cisterns? Too bad there’s no such thing as the spice melange…

  9. Tom_b

    Excuse me if I am naive, but, whatever your opinion of American “Democracy”, turning tail and running from IS or the Taliban seems self-defeating, as well as likely to get your city taken and your family slaughtered. I’m missing something here.

    Machiavelli had it right about mercenaries, but for goodness sake, these guys are trying to live there. Do they feel no incentive to defend it (other than the Free Stuff from our Pentagon).

    Otherwise, a very interesting article. A number of things were always puzzling to me during the execution of the Iraqi war. From a practical point of view, why install puppet local leaders AT ALL, and why Shiite? This aside from the fact the 911 terrorists were all Saudi– I guess Bush was weak on geography as well.

  10. blert

    There are a number of dynamics that elude both the Pentagon and academe.

    1) The Western way of war REQUIRES Western culture.

    In every campaign// war cited, the Western power did not get involved in the ‘sticky’ culural transformation that — in some cases — would’ve required either genocide or ‘ethnic displacement.’

    2) After any extremely backward society and military sees how the premier military power operates — they become culturally demoralized.

    It is IMPOSSIBLE for any such backward society to not feel naked when ‘Superman’ leaves them to their own devices. I mention Superman — the comicbook super hero — because even in fictive plots it is evident that Superman’s existence warps all human behavior. Every New Yorker comes to expect Superman to bail them out of folly and disaster.

    For nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan — American troops ARE supermen.

    I will not belabor all of the astounding physical attributes that cause Arabs and Afghans to really believe Americans are supermen; just a short list: height, strength, endurance, smarts, eyesight, memory, accuracy, bravery, and above all heat and altitude tolerance.

    ( Those latter traits freaked out both the Communist Chinese and the Nationalist Chinese. Both nations selected their most elite troops to replicate the observed performance of American soldiers and Marines. None could. They simply collapsed on their feet. They couldn’t even match up well with female American soldiers and Marines. (!)

    3) The withdrawal of American logistical support cripples morale. Neither Arab nor Afghan deems toting ammo and supplies as sufficiently martial to perform. So, every Arab and Afghan force — friend or foe — constantly runs out of ammo and food. Hence, their hit and run tactics. It’s the best that they can do — period.

    If you read closely, the Baiji refinery battle featured Iraqi troops — low on ammo — always begging for resupply — and for water, too. But, such is ALWAYS true for Iraqi troops. They were able to take downtown Tikrit — and then ran out of ammo — and had to run away.

    The exact same thing happend at Kunduz — and EVERY ANA skirmish that has ever been.

    They take the field equipped to hunt deer — not fight a battle.

    And the capper with all decrepit armies: Zero fire discipline. They spray bullets everywhere. This is true for ANA and Taliban. There are no end of accounts: FOUR American soldiers hold off and kill 200 Taliban over an eight-hour period. They had advanced into a Taliban ambush. No less than a regiment of Taliban soldiers was camped a few miles off.

    The Americans simply shot down advancing Taliban troopers — with single shots — long before the Taliban could close to effective range — a big limitation for the AK-47 and AK-74.

    The above dynamics dictate that native forces are functionally children. The vast bulk of the men in the ranks is low in intelligence, strength or morale. In Afghanistan, the typical trooper is a hashish addict. It’s typical for the entire unit to be ‘high’ at the same time.

    And in all cases, the troops are most unwilling to fight far away from home, as in dropping their weapons and running for the hills.

    Their opponents usually attack while high on drugs. This was seen constantly in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and in Iraq — and now Syria.

    But then, the Vikings of old would get totally blotto on beer and worse. So it’s an old custom.

    The ONE thing that would work, we refuse to do: violate their religious taboos.

    Pershing did exactly that a century ago. He quelled the Muslims very promptly — with a trivial loss of blood. All it took was one demonstration of pig + Muslim burial — and the Moros had seen enough.

    Pershing, the father of the modern US Army, would’ve been court martialed in today’s army.

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