Military reporter Joseph E. Ricks has just blogged about a July 2008 battle at Wanat in eastern Afghanistan: a fight, he writes, “that the Army’s chain of command doesn’t seem to want to talk about, but which some of those with knowledge of the incident have encouraged me to look into.”
Ricks approaches the episode from a sympathetic perspective: He assumes that the war in Afghanistan is correctly motivated and should succeed, provided only that it is properly executed. Never mind that our effort to punish the Taliban seems to have had the opposite effect, while terrorizing the very people we’re supposed to be helping.
We might have taken to heart the lessons of the 1916 Army campaign against Pancho Villa, which strengthened Villa’s guerrilla movement and weakened the legitimate Mexican government. (We forget that the first “terrorist strike on American soil” was in 1916 at Columbus, New Mexico.) The only way to win that one was to withdraw and claim victory. I’m sure the same will turn out to be true in Afghanistan.
Army leadership, however, appears to be mesmerized with its own dogma. The upper echelons are willing to jaw endlessly about “facts on the ground,” but unwilling to accept unwelcome truths.