Accepting the Republican nomination for president, George Bush famously declared:
“Our military is low on parts, pay and morale.
If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report: Not ready for duty, sir.”
It was a lie of course. He told worse.
But, BUT!, Bush fans will argue, the president doesn’t lie, and if he does Michael Moore is fat. Fair enough. If we can’t call it a lie then the next best description would have to be self-fulfilling prophesy. Thanks to the surge plan the military doesn’t have any flexibility left in case things get worse, say, in Afghanistan. But no worries, I heard that things were going swimmingly over there.
Via Cernig, a few reports suggest that might not entirely be the case. From the Atlantic Council, where James Joyner spends his daylight hours:
The US Atlantic Council began its report with the words: “Nato is not winning in Afghanistan” and talks of a stalemate.
“Without urgent changes Afghanistan could become a failed or failing state,” it said.
“If Afghanistan fails, the possible strategic consequences will worsen regional instability, do great harm to the fight against Jihadist and religious extremism, and put in grave jeopardy Nato’s future as a credible, cohesive and relevant military alliance.”
The American Afghanistan Study Group [sponsored by the Atlantic Council and headed by Gen. Jones – C] reached a similarly grim conclusion in a report released on Wednesday.
It said that “resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, too few military forces and insufficient economic aid” were all contributing to the country’s woes.
Unless Joyner hangs out with defeatocrats all day, I take this to mean that we might yet lose Afghanistan.
On Diane Rehm’s show this monday Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s supreme commander for Europe, argued that we didn’t literally pull any troops out of Afghanistan to send to Iraq. Setting aside cases where he is flat wrong, Craddock would still be right only in the most superficial and meaningless sense. You don’t have to pull troops straight out of Afghanistan to shortchange the conflict. One can also drain the available pool of replacement troops and let commanders know – as we have done – that asking for more would be an unwise career move. It just isn’t debatable that divisions upon divisions could be repairing Afghanistan right now if they weren’t occupied babysitting Iraq’s civil war. The Afghanis even want more or less what we want, unlike the Sunni-Shia-Kurd hate triangle that Iraqis left in Iraq can’t or won’t let go. For the most part ordinary Afghans would gladly help us fix their country if we could keep them safe from revanchist Talibs.
Now, thanks to the Kagan clan’s genius surge plan, it doesn’t really matter how loud Afghanistan’s commanders call out for more troops. There’s no reinforcements left. If, god forbid, we have to make an opposed pullout from either country the massive short-term troop increase that would be needed to cover such a dangerous maneuver (as the Iraq Study Group correctly pointed out) just won’t be there.
Commanders in Afghanistan will have to make do with what they’ve got, but what they’ve got isn’t preventing the Taliban from taking back territory. As “surge” troops rotate back from ludicrously extended tours Petraeus will have to work with less. It isn’t with much joy that I look forward to the next Democratic president picking up two miserable wars, a broken army and no economy worth mentioning with which to fix it. Tell me about hope, I see simple math. The troops to salvage either war aren’t there. We won’t even have the spare force to pull out safely.
Then again, maybe al Qaeda will field a navy.