As I type this, between 3,000 and 7,000 US military personnel are en route to Afghanistan to conduct a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in Afghanistan.
Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) is the ordered (mandatory) or authorized (voluntary) departure of civilian noncombatants and nonessential military personnel from danger in an overseas country to a designated safe haven, typically within the continental United States. Overseas evacuations could occur under a variety of circumstances, including civil unrest, military uprisings, environmental concerns, and natural disasters. The Department of State (DOS) recommends an evacuation, and the Department of the Army—as the Department of Defense (DOD) Executive Agent for repatriation (RE-PAT) planning and operations—coordinates the execution of NEO.
So they’re sending 7K troops to get 2,500-3K Americans out??
— Naveed Jamali (@NaveedAJamali) August 12, 2021
This is because Kandahar, Herat, and Ghazni have fallen to the Taliban.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban captured two major Afghan cities, the country’s second- and third-largest after Kabul, and a strategic provincial capital on Thursday, further squeezing the embattled government just weeks before the end of the American military mission in Afghanistan.
The seizure of Kandahar and Herat marks the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban, who have taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals as part of a weeklong blitz.
The capture of the city of Ghazni, meanwhile, cuts off a crucial highway linking the Afghan capital, Kabul, with the country’s southern provinces, all part of an insurgent push some 20 years after U.S. and NATO troops invaded and ousted the Taliban government.
While Kabul itself isn’t directly under threat yet, the losses and the battles elsewhere further tighten the grip of a resurgent Taliban, who are estimated to now hold over two-thirds of the country and continue to press their offensive.
With security rapidly deteriorating, the United States planned to send in 3,000 troops to help evacuate some personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Separately, Britain said about 600 troops would be deployed on a short-term basis to support British nationals leaving the country.
Thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will again impose a brutal, repressive government, all but eliminating women’s rights and conducting public amputations, stonings and executions. Peace talks in Qatar remain stalled, though diplomats met throughout the day.
The latest U.S. military intelligence assessment suggests Kabul could come under insurgent pressure within 30 days and that, if current trends hold, the Taliban could gain full control of the country within a few months. The Afghan government may eventually be forced to pull back to defend the capital and just a few other cities in the coming days if the Taliban keep up their momentum.
The onslaught represents a stunning collapse of Afghan forces and renews questions about where the over $830 billion spent by the U.S. Defense Department on fighting, training those troops, and reconstruction efforts went — especially as Taliban fighters ride on American-made Humvees and pickup trucks with M-16s slung across their shoulders.
A lot of people are currently arguing on social media about how this could happen and who is responsible. Some of them are blaming the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), some of them are blaming the US military personnel who have been training them for almost twenty years. Some are blaming both. The simple truth is that some of the ANSF are fighting and doing their best to hold the line against the Taliban. And, from what I’ve seen in the reporting, they’re demonstrating far more of the strategic, operational, and tactical awareness that the US spent almost two decades trying to teach them by recognizing when and where they can fight successfully and when and where if they fight they unnecessarily risk civilian lives.
The simple truth, however, is that this was going to happen no matter how the US and our Coalition partners withdrew. And it was going to happen no matter who was elected president in November 2020 provided the withdrawal was actually undertaken. The Taliban have a singular, focused strategic objective for what Afghanistan should be that is rooted in a revanchist, extremism version of Islam that was exported to Afghanistan by Saudi missionaries. It has been pretty clear for a very long time that while the majority of the people of Afghanistan do not really have an equivalent vision for Afghanistan. While it is pretty clear they don’t want to live under the Taliban and their barbaric rule, there is also no consensus for what Afghanistan should be or how the various ethno-national and ethnolinguistic groups should share it.
Adam L. Silverman, who served as the U.S. Army’s senior cultural adviser from 2010-2014, ran pre-deployment preparation courses and provided analytical support for U.S. personnel deployed in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2014, took issue with Miller’s remarks.
“The attempts by the Acting SecDef to justify this, per his memo this weekend, that the U.S. is a society that seeks peace, not war, is simply factually inaccurate,” Silverman told Newsweek. “The U.S. is 244 years old. The U.S. has been involved in wars or at war in 235 of those 244 years. I counted it up for Memorial Day 2019. And this isn’t even counting the various rebellions and revolts within the U.S. and its territories over the past 244 years.”
He saw the move as a recipe for fueling civil unrest in Afghanistan.
“It might be a good idea to have a policy discussion on whether war should be America’s real national pastime, but that’s not what this is,” Silverman told Newsweek. “What this is is America’s current political geography—the elected and appointed people in charge of our political and national security institutions—preparing to run head-first into Afghanistan’s human geography: Its people, places, and things and how they interact.”
He said categorically that the consequences of withdrawal would be catastrophic, including revitalizing the Taliban and empowering China in the region.
“Afghanistan’s government, military, and law enforcement are unable to survive without our and our coalition partner’s support,” Silverman said, “which leads to the Taliban moving to capitalize on the opportunity that will be created, leading to a potential civil war, more widespread insurgency, or both, that leads to an increase in regional instability creating new challenges and threats for the U.S., its regional partners and allies, and now opportunities for our peer competitors like China.”
In addition to China, he pointed to other international actors who seek greater involvement, including Russia and South Asian rivals India and Pakistan.
Rather than coming through with a political promise based on the phased agreement reached in March with the Taliban, Silverman saw this move as Trump acting on his own.
“What this appears to be, especially given the reporting indicating that the president is trying to do this, do it quickly, and do it so that an incoming Biden administration cannot undo it, is an attempt to lock the U.S. into a course of action that may not be strategically sound or advance any specific U.S. interests or policies,” he told Newsweek, “but personally pleases the president because it achieves one of his personal preferences that the U.S. shouldn’t have military personnel deployed forward in Afghanistan.”
Trump, interestingly, broke some news about all of this today, though I’m sure he didn’t mean to do so:
It was reported that Trump apparently tried to invite the Taliban leadership to Camp David to negotiate with him personally so he could dazzle them with the Art of the Deal. But it had not, as far as I know, been previously reported that Trump had personal discussions about the withdrawal with the Taliban’s leadership.
The larger problem here for the US is that with the exception of the Revolutionary War and World War II, the US seems to be incapable of winning the war and leveraging that victory to secure the peace or is incapable, no matter how much tactical and operational success, of both securing a successful battlefield termination (winning the war) and doing so in a way to set the conditions to secure the post war peace. Our continued and repeated failure to be able to achieve this strategic necessity is one of the main contributors to the fact that the US is constantly having to send troops back over and over and over to the same places.
Last month, in regard to the now proposed withdrawal from Iraq, I stated:
For Silverman, what comes after combat is every bit as important as what happens during it.
“When we commit forces, how do we set the conditions to not just win the war, but to win the peace post-war?” Silverman said. “This has been a major issue in almost every major conflict we’ve found ourselves in.”
What we’re seeing right now in Afghanistan is the result of decisions made years ago. Of strategies that never aligned with the reality on the ground. Of fighting a low intensity war with conventional forces that resented having to do things outside of their military occupational specialties and where every time we rotated in a new corps, division, and brigade we started everything all over again. A twenty year war waged one year at a time multiplied by 20.
Right now the US’s priority is to get our non-combatant personnel, the Afghan citizens who worked for and with us that we’re bringing to the US to protect them and their families, and to ensure that the Afghan government doesn’t collapse. That Kabul does not fall. After that, I’m honestly not sure what the strategy is or will be. The Biden administration most likely has a crisis action plan in place in case they have to flood troops back in to stabilize the country and that may be why sources are telling Naveed Jamali and other reporters that the NEO force is going to be closer to 7,000 uniformed personnel. But we won’t know until we see what happens when they get there.
Frankly, I’m not sure that any strategy we could propose would actually be effective unless we’re going to flood forces back in to kill and capture every last Taliban and then do the long, hard work to completely eradicate their revanchist, extremist version of Islam. That is not going to happen because that is not how the US wages war. But it is also not going to happen because the Taliban are not the root source of that revanchist, extremist version of Islam. Saudi Arabia is. It exports it all over the Muslim world and it has given us the Taliban and al Qaeda and ISIS and al Shabab and a dozen other violent extremist groups at least.
I started to prep to go to Afghanistan and instead wound up at Carlisle Barracks, which made my mother much, much happier. I’ve provided theater strategic analytical support to senior leaders on the religion and culture and society and politics of Afghanistan. I’ve served on working groups and organizational planning teams providing these inputs. I’ve prepped divisions and brigades to go to Afghanistan. What is happening there is both tragic and predictable. And it is just another debt that the US has incurred because we seem to be unable to win the war and to leverage winning the war to secure the post war peace.
Adam L Silverman
I’m surprised that they quoted you so completely, given that what you were saying, while completely objectively true, is not what Americans like to tell ourselves about ourselves.
Adam L Silverman
@craigie: I know a guy…//
Also darkly amused by the idea of the former guy telling anyone that something is unacceptable. As if.
Thank you for this post. Much appreciated.
Adam L Silverman
@Quinerly: You are quite welcome. I wish I didn’t have to write it.
So you think you won the War of 1812? That’s not what they teach us in Canada.
Although really, who gives a damn?
Like his other endeavours, trump’s “peace deal” with the Taliban was fraudulent.
Adam L Silverman
@NorthLeft12: We’re not wearing buffalo check plaid and sayin eh are we? No, no we are not.
Would we be better off if we were? Most likely.
There’s a war memorial in my suburb that has a list of all of the wars our country has fought and seeing that for the first time (25 years ago) was my Aha moment that we are just about never not at war.
But I’d never considered/realized that we basically lose most of them. That is a new Aha moment. Then again, are there any nation-states that consistently win the war and the peace?
And how do we manage to be an empire, one of the most powerful countries in the world, when we keep losing?
And how wealthy would we all be if we did not waste so much money losing wars and peaces (is “peaces” even a word?).
Adam L Silverman
I’m sure one of our pedants will be along shortly to enlighten us all…
unless we’re going to flood forces back in to kill and capture every last Taliban and then do the long, hard work to completely eradicate their revanchist, extremist version of Islam. That is not going to happen because that is not how the US wages war. But it is also not going to happen because the Taliban are not the root source of that revanchist, extremist version of Islam.
With respect, as I understand the situation, this would require us to invade the tribal regions of NW Pakistan. Cannot see how that could ever happen, or how it could ever be successful if attempted.
“every time we rotated in a new corps, division, and brigade we started everything all over again.”
I remember that very same thing being said about troops in Vietnam rotating in and out.
@Adam L Silverman: only part that’s unbelievable with all of that, is how nice the strip club is in Biloxi. Can def tell nobody has ever visited the singular club there. It’s legendary for how legendarily bad it is.
Past that, I hope we can get every single fucking ‘terp and their family out. At this point it’s all I really think and care about.
One might regard invading Afghanistan as one of the classic blunders, on par with going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
My feeling has always been that pulling out of Afghanistan would be like leaving Vietnam in 1975 (I was 15 when that happened, so my “experience” of that was very second-hand). Problem was that the South Vietnamese/Afghan forces had gotten used to the US “umbrella” and had no idea how to fight on their own.
Adam L Silverman
@joel hanes: It would be almost impossible.
Adam L Silverman
@Leto: I had trouble suspending disbelief there. But given how widespread the Delta variant is in Mississippi, it’s good that Deadpool is wearing a mask.
There won’t be cameras this time. I keep having images of when i was a kid and watching on the tv. It was in Saigon and they tried to evacuate as many as they could. This reminds me of that.
Maybe we should let them decide. My whole life it has been Soviet, USA, Taliban intervention. Maybe we should just let them decide. They are the people who live there.
Unfortunately they have been victims for decades.
Adam L Silverman
No arguments here. That is one of the two good things in this whole nightmare that comes out of Biden being president. We’re going to get them out. If Trump was still president we’d have left them there to die.
The other good thing, of course, is that even if there’s no good options for keeping the Taliban from capturing Afghanistan, the Biden team is more likely to find one of the least bad ones to build a strategy around to respond to that problem.
I’ll be back tomorrow to read the whole thread. I’ve found Mr. Frog so my day’s work is done.
Learned a lot from this post, thanks Adam.
Nobody listens to me, but I still say, they should have given the weapons and training to the people who have the most to lose from a Taliban takeover – arm the women!
Heard something on the news about a young woman whose mother bought her a burkha. Not to wear now, but, y’know – just in case. That mother is old enough to remember a Taliban-run Afghanistan, which is why I was shouting at the television – ‘a burkha? Buy her a gun!’
Adam L Silverman
@Ohio Mom: You’re welcome.
I’m just going to say this: General Shinseki was right.
@Adam L Silverman: I also wanted to thank you for the insight – and agree that I wish you didn’t have to write out either. Again, thanks.
@Adam L Silverman:
I honestly hope so because the reporting on the ground, so far, has been pretty bad wrt that (as I’m sure you know). We gave our fucking word.
Unfortunately, the foundational wrong decision in all of this was to invade Afghanistan in the first place. It was fairly obvious from the beginning that there would not be a stable Afghan government once the US and its allies left, for all the reasons you explain so well.
Adam L Silverman
@Mousebumples: You’re welcome.
Adam L Silverman
@Leto: I’m following the reporting and the efforts so far has not been particularly impressive.
Adam L Silverman
@texasdoc: Diverting our attention and the majority of resources to invade Iraq didn’t help either.
The last time the US pulled out of somewhere [Iraq, I believe], all hell broke loose. Our military enforces a Pax Americanus but doesn’t erase the old grudges or the desire for power. So when we leave, chaos ensues.
‘Twas ever thus.
Donde es la biblioteca? Afghanistan was never going to be anything more than it ever was… I believe Rudyard Kipling posted this on his Twitter account
Thanks for this, Adam. I hope you’ll keep updating us with your thoughts.
Yeah my first thought about those numbers was, thank goodness the Biden admin is not treating the generals the way Shinseki got treated.
Praying for US peeps and for the interpreters and their families. Hoping the people I know from there have been able to get their relatives out already.
@Adam L Silverman:
Second working title for “War and Peace,” after “War, What is it Good For?”
Adam L Silverman
@Jackie: I’m thinking of lying down and watching TV. How’s that?//
More seriously, you’re quite welcome.
@Adam L Silverman: me too. I have been avoiding the entire subject. But I did need to catch up. Your insight was helpful.
The Moar You Know
Can’t win a war for a nation that never existed. Afghanistan is not a country. It’s a name for a place inhabited by a bunch of tribes that don’t have much in the way of common interests.
I’m glad we’re leaving. I hope maybe the Western world might finally learn what these tribes have saying to us for over two hundred years: stay the fuck out.
The Moar You Know
William Brydon’s experience might have been a good thing for someone to have read about before we ever set foot there.
My ex-wife would tell me about the time in 1978? when she was in a small town in Afghanistan on the edge of the Desert of Death (actual name) when the Afghan-Soviet war was starting up……she saw some guys come in from the desert to get supplies, and she thought “The Russians are crazy if they think they can beat these people”.
The US did not win the War of 1812.
Sure has been great being able to buy cheap Saudi oil most of the last many decades. It’s been a fantastic value for money: Near the tipping point for the climate, funding far-right religious extremists, and gleefully building exurban fringes where concrete and Q conspiracies both have elbow room.
Well, the US did decisively win a series of wars against the Native nations, & decisively won the peace after, too. Of course, those objectives were achieved by means of diplomatic betrayal & genocide (both physical & cultural)…
@Brachiator: I would add that, though it was an immoral war, as President Grant held, we did win the Mexican-American War, and like our war with Canada, have since had more or less stable relations with our neighbor (Pershing and Pancho Villa excepted).
I don’t put much faith into the revelation TFG had personal talks with Taliban leaders. Trump is simply not a reliable source on, well anything, but especially his own actions.
Describing any war as moral or immoral can be tricky. From a certain frame of reference, the majority of US military adventures might be judged to be immoral.
@Leto: shoot, I saw someone on a Twitter thread asking for supplies for an Afghani family who’d just arrived, kids needing clothes & toys, got out with a suitcase each. I’m worried about them with our own virulent racism; but helping with settling here would be something I would be happy to contribute to. Where the hell did I see that…??
@Brachiator: There is a just war doctrine. Many of our wars were not just. (My personal theory is that unjust wars are less likely to be winnable, because the conquered people know that it is unjust.)
@NorthLeft12: We give a damn in Ohio.
I don’t know from doctrine. I just know a little history. Also, I noted “military adventures,” which goes beyond major wars.
I had a family member who was part of the military … incursion…into the Dominican Republic in 1965. Did his duty but had no idea what we were supposed to be doing there.
This was the first time that I heard a family member with military experience criticize the government. And I had family who had served in WW2 and in Korea. Maybe a few other places.
ETA. And of course, there had been US intervention in 1916 and a threat by the US to install a president if the Dominicans could not resolve their political crisis.
James E Powell
Johnny Horton led me to believe we did.
@James E Powell:
Yeah. Very common mistake.
Reverse tool order
Going to oversimplify this a bit. The concept ‘don’t burn what you can’t hold’ sinks in for most every hotshot crew in America. Maybe sooner, maybe later. Maybe easily, maybe real hard. Point is, Americans are capable of learning and applying that sort of thing.
What is too difficult about applying that notion before going into each of these military excursions? Seems painful enough and over and over enough to learn, at least for adults all in this together. Yeah, actually I know we don’t yet have that level of immunity to the disease in our herd. But we could. Now I’m thinking about a vaccine for that and the fight over taking it. Immunological peace would be an epic.
The allusion may be too obscure, it’s to folks for whom “fight fire with fire” is a day at work. If interested in that distinct topic, the Wiki on those crews will give you a glimmer. The recent movie mentioned there was often technically laughable but reasonably in the spirit.
It’s late, I’m going to hunker.
Question – would we be having as intractable a problem in Afghanistan had we not spent the 80’s allying with the Saudis in promoting the Mujahedin as a foil to the Soviet occupation?
Really glad to see that the supply of Adam posts has not dried up. Bill Kristol is predictably claiming that the US should maintain enough of a presence for a decent status quo (whatever that means), which tells us all just what a dumb idea that is:
Seconded from the UK.
In both wars, plus Iraq, the US seemed to think they would be greeted as liberators. After all, what right thinking person doesn’t secretly harbour a wish that their country was more like America, or even was part of America? Then the US reacts with shocked incomprehension when it turns out that lots of people don’t.
@Brachiator: Do they teach American schoolkids that the US invaded the Soviet Union in 1921?
@Sloane Ranger: Hard to believe that any right-thinking people could refuse the opportunity to be governed by Rand Paul’s warm humanity and economic brilliance, isn’t it?
American foreign policy in distant wars is to select one of the many sides in a tribal or clan conflict that goes back for millenia, supply them with weapons, money and ‘advisors’ and tell them they’re in charge now. After a few months or years the US decides the current bunch aren’t their friends any more and switches to supplying one of the many other sides with weapons, money and ‘advisors’ and so on.
I remember a blog post here a while back where Adam told us the US State Department was supporting over sixty different rebel groups in Syria, including the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front, the…
This seems like a pretty solid take on why some things at least went wrong:
I’d be curious to know Adam’s view of the piece.
Afghanistan has been an intractable problem, in relatively modern times, since the 1830s.
Look up The Great Game.
Afghanistan was an unstable Soviet client state in the 1970s. The clients could not be restrained and initiated a period of brutality. The Soviets were trying to re-assert authority, but got sucked into a deeper quagmire. They were never really in control. They just didn’t realize it. The US later got pulled in as well.
The UK is sending about 700 troops to get UK nationals (mercenaries, diplomats, NGO staff etc.) and some local collaborators out of Afghanistan before the entire country folds — the press-release timeframe that it will take a whole month for the Taliban to take control of everything in the country is incredibly optimistic.
The folks in the Afghan Army are already talking to their cousins and family relations in the Taliban, planning to hand over their weapons and equipment at some convenient spot while asking if they’re hiring. The same thing happened in 2003, lots of Taliban fighters ‘surrendered’ to Northern Alliance forces without much fighting going on. If nothing else it saved them a lot of ammunition to fight the invaders later.
@Morzer: Much has been made of the poor fighting of the Afghan Army. I’d be interested in Mr. Silverman’s judgement as to how much of this deficit can be debited to the frontline soldiers and officers, and how much to incompetence and corruption in higher military military and civilian leadership.
I thought it was earlier than 1921, and there were British, French and Japanese troops involved as well.
@Robert Sneddon: The rate things are going, I’d be surprised if the Taliban aren’t in complete control inside a fortnight. I hate thinking about what will happen to the Afghan women who really fought for a better world and the girls who got a glimpse of one.
War of 1812: Invaded Canada? Fail.
Repelled British invasion? Success.
Permanently discouraged Britain from trying to reclaim former American colonies? Success.
Two out of three ain’t bad. I’m calling that a win.
Korea: Failed to free North. Fail.
Succeeded in keeping South free: Success.
Won the peace re South Korea: It’s still free, and has become a bona fide democracy. Success.
Again, two out of three ain’t bad. I’m calling Korea a win.
Fuck yeah. Too bad it’s too late to try that now.
Yep, an international effort to support the monarchist White Russians in their fight against Godless Communism.
The Soviets captured at least one British Mk V tank during the ‘intervention’, it’s still on display in Arkhangelsk.
@Adam L Silverman:
It sure didn’t.
Remember the insane right-wing triumphalism of 2003, when they were boasting of our having won back-to-back wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Righto.
The scary thing is, it was apparent at the time that we had no plan for the Iraq postwar: Bush Administration officials testified* before Congress about the postwar plans a month or so before we invaded, and it was obvious that they had nothing.
It’s a real indictment of our press that that was a one-day story, and left no trace on their coverage of the rest of the run-up to war.
ETA: *According to Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate, p.126, the hearing took place on February 11, 2003. Doug Feith and Marc Grossman testified for the Bush Administration.
Reports are that 75 year old warlord Ismail Khan is now in the hands of the Taliban who have taken Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city and the major trading center with Iran. Khan had recently entered the fight, rallying fighters including disaffected Army soldiers
Ismail Khan was a leader in the fight against the Russians, and resisted the Taliban from his stronghold of Herat until a subcommander turned coat and went over to the enemy in 1995. Khan returned from Iran in 1997 to organize resistance but was captured. He escaped from prison two years later. After the U.S. invasion, Khan returned again but was gradually sidelined by the new Afghani government.
Some say the Taliban will simply take up where they left off when last in power. That was bad enough, but there may be a worse dynamic at work now. The Taliban have fought a bitter twenty year war against the Afghan government. They have scores to settle, and may decide that the rebirth of their ideal Islamic state requires the liquidation of Khan and tens of thousands of others who resisted them, military and civilian. Over 4 million Shi’ite Hazara are particularly at risk. Maps show that so far the Afghan government still controls the Hazara heartland in the center of the country, but this will probably change soon.
Oh dear… The ‘Great Game’ was nothing to do with Afghanistan per se, it was aimed at fending off French and Russian efforts to destabilise the North Western frontier. After the Elphinstone Expedition disaster of 1842 Afghanistan was left to rot by the British Raj, with a policy of holding the passes and sowing discord among the many border tribes and clans with judicious bribes and occasional shipments of weapons. Same old same old, hey?
Don’t forget the repeated invasions of Canada in the 1870s by US militias.
Except for that British burn down the White House thing.
The British really didn’t give a rat’s ass. They had been concentrating on that Napoleon dude. A far bigger issue.
The treaty between the US and Britain restored the status quo and largely ignored whatever grievances the Americans thought they had. The issue of seizing Americans and forcing them to serve on British ships was rendered moot by the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Great Game is a convenient modern starting point. Britain and Russia misunderstood each other’s motives for making moves in the region and both sides believed that they could dispose of the countries and the peoples of the region according to their whims.
Yeah, not much has changed.
@RaflW: Comment of the Week.
@lowtechcyclist: The Korean war was a success in preserving South Korea. But the war poisoned American politics for over a decade. One reason LBJ could not bring himself to wind down the American war in Vietnam was his awareness of how the Korean war crippled Harry Truman politically. Johnson drew the wrong conclusion from this. It did not help that cynical Republican leaders withheld public support for deescalation.
I appreciated Ms. Rofer’s counterfactual of two weeks ago, about what might have happened if NATO had not expanded. A good counterfactual for the Korean war would be: what if after the North Korean army was routed in September of 1951, higher commanders ordered MacArthur to stop at a good defensive line 50-75 miles north of Pyongyang, where the Korean peninsula was still fairly narrow, and then sent shiploads of bulldozers, wire and mines to fortify it. I think the Chinese would not have entered the war, and the North Korean rump state would be a relatively minor threat today.
@Robert Sneddon: Most Chinese do not know this, but even the warlords running the Beiyang Government of the Republic of China sent both an army expedition & a naval squadron to Vladivostok & Nikolayevsk to “protect Chinese nationals”, & ended up skirmishing with both the the Whites & the Reds, not to mention the Japanese expeditionary force.
This is rather ironic, given that China had usually been on the receiving end of such military adventures since the First Opium War. This was also a time when imperial powers still maintained large concessions within China, w/ the attendant garrisons, where Chinese laws did not apply. Imperials powers also had control over railroads & ports in China, both strategic assets at the time. British & US navies also patrolled far up the Yangtze River, as a matter of course.
@Brachiator: Also part of the Great Game was Russian (later Soviet) encroachment into Xinjiang & British encroachment into Tibet, to great indignation of both the Qing Empire & its Republican successor. If Chinese governments (not just the CCP regime) display great sensitivity wrt Xinjiang & Tibet, this is part of the historical context.
@Geminid: In this counterfactual, the 7th Fleet is not sent to the Taiwan Strait, and the CCP regime conquers Taiwan and extinguishes the rump KMT regime that had fled there. The Truman administration had already written off the KMT regime at that time, & the CCP taking over Taiwan was widely regarded as only a matter of time.
Along with the UK, the US sent troops to Russia in 1918 – it would be hard to call it the Soviet Union at that point, in a country that was in the middle of a civil war. It wasn’t taught in the public schools I went to, but then neither were 95% of the foreign interventions the US military has engaged in.
Ella in New Mexico
The part of me that is the daughter and sister granddaughter and niece and wife of really smart people who work in the National Defense fields knows this should have happened long, long ago.
But the me that is a healthcare professional aches when I see these children and families ripped to pieces by a terror raid, driven from their homes and any semblance of normalcy they managed to have for the past two decades.
Our city has a substantial refugee population who come from the Middle East and Afghanistan and what I see in these families is lots of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, IBS, hypertension, migraines, body aches and pain. Overlaying it all is their anxiety and depression.
The trauma of war and running and relocation finally takes its toll in the body. People who are in their 40’s with health problems and disability a 70 year old might have. People who often only their house to go to the doctor and demand we let them make a monthly appointment, just to “check in”.
I really wish we could find a way to get out a d yet protect these people. Human suffering like this is so unnecessary. And it leaves so much bad Karma on our species. It’s why we’re never at peace on this planet.
The US continues to bomb Afghanistan with B-52 and AC-130 gunships. I imagine is a farewell message after another nation-building failure and a last hurrah for the war profiteers.
Are you omitting the Mexican-American War and the Spanish-American War?
@YY_Sima Qian: That is an interesting counterfactual. I wonder if it will still come to pass next decade.
Budgets as a moral statement of priorities:
Conservative cost of the 20 years in Afghanistan <> $2 trillion
Climate funding request in the infrastructure package = $64 billion
Pentagon 2022 budget requested by Democrats = $740 billion
@balconesfault: The question does arise.
Great power rivalry and proximity to Pakistan haven’t been helpful.
It’s not a strikingly artificial state by contemporary standards, just an unsuccessful one.
It’s interesting to note, as Adam does, that we handled the aftermath of WWII effectively (and with some subtlety). It seems in that instance rivalry with the Soviet Union focused the mind, much like the prospect of an imminent hanging.
The next question I think is how to conduct our future relations with the new government, once in power. Hopefully there is still somebody employed at the State Department to think about such things, with some prior experience.
“The larger problem here for the US is that with the exception of the Revolutionary War and World War II, the US seems to be incapable of winning the war and leveraging that victory to secure the peace or is incapable, no matter how much tactical and operational success, of both securing a successful battlefield termination (winning the war) and doing so in a way to set the conditions to secure the post war peace.”
Americans love the pretty fireworks (preferably in somebody else’s yard), but have no interest in the tedium of cleaning up after the party.
The one time that wasn’t true (1945), the benefits for Western Europe and Japan (and America for that matter) were so dramatic, it’s almost heartbreaking to consider how much more good we could have done in the world if we cared about all the boring civilian kind of overseas involvement as much as we care about the tanks and planes.
“… and so, the United States and Canada have the world’s longest undefended border, because our two nations have always lived in peace. Apart, of course, from that time you invaded us in 1812 and we sent you packing, but that’s hardly worth mentioning.”
– Due South
Back as I promised, to this very dead thread.
I will note that during my 1960s NYC public school education, we skipped the chapter on the War of 1812. Our teacher assured us it was not important.
Nobody in particular
Spears and arrows are designed to penetrate quickly and make it difficult to withdraw. The old saying goes: Wannabes and armchair generals talk tactics. Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics. A landlocked country, no power projection other than air dominance. The intelligence failed – but after Trump demoralized them.
“This is a huge shit sandwich and we’re all gonna have to take a bite.”
Gus Hasford, Full Metal Jacket
Par for the course with the “Exceptional” America.
Nobody in particular
Diverting our attention and the majority of resources to invade Iraq didn’t help either
@Adam L Silverman:
Of course, this is directly related to W’s decision to go into Iraq because “he tried to kill my dad.” And there was oil and seapower.
This is the hard math of conflict and treasure. Blood’s cheap.
Nobody in particular
“This has been a major issue in almost every major conflict we’ve found ourselves in.”
In most cases, a less kinetic exit strategy requires a political solution. We and the English have a long history, going back to Operation Ajax, of interfering with democracy and self-determination, or liberty. But, a right-wing dictator like the Shah and the Savak was preferable to Mossadegh, a dirty democratic socialist. Ho Chi Minh was shocked when we didn’t back him. He idolized Jefferson.