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Thread: The Best Trained, Most Professional Military...Just Lost Two Wars?

  1. #121
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    David:

    Your judgment in these matters is good. You decide.

    But let us amend the original question the C's asked. We'll go from 'How come such a great military just lost two wars?' to 'How come this country of ours that professes to be a cut above, the city on the hill, is probably going to abandon millions of people to lethal killers again?' Just like we did before.

    I remember the aftermath of our abandoning South Vietnam. I hoped we would never do it again though I knew in my heart that we probably would. That won't make it any less sad and shameful though.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  2. #122
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The US politicians - remember Nixon with his "Peace with Honor" BS - seem to be able to sell anything to the voters but after the US troops are safely back at home and the country concerned drops off the radar thats when the real problems begin. More were killed after the war in Vietnam. What are the stats from Iraq using "Mission Accomplished" as the end of the war (they thought).
    JMA, what do the people you talk to in the RSA and other places think of this continuing pattern of behavior of the US, people who aren't Americans?
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Default This question does tie in

    with the OP's question:

    from Carl
    How come this country of ours that professes to be a cut above, the city on the hill, is probably going to abandon millions of people to lethal killers again?
    In answer, it will continue to do so until (1) it ceases to preach that it is "the city on the hill"; and (2) it ceases to preach that it will safeguard "millions of people" from "lethal killers".

    It will continue to do so so long as its strategy continues to be based on what was so clearly stated to be US strategy in Afghanistan from the gitgo:

    Future of Afghanistan
    Richard N. Haass, Director, Office of the Policy Planning Staff, and U.S. Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan,
    Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
    Washington, DC
    December 6, 2001

    Mr. Chairman:

    I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify before the Committee on Foreign Relations in my capacity as U.S. Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan.

    Our aims in Afghanistan are well known to the American people and this Committee. We seek to bring about an Afghanistan that is free of terrorists, that no longer is a source of poppy, and that allows its citizens -- including an estimated five million refugees and an unknown number of internally displaced persons -- to return to their homes and live normal lives in which opportunity comes to replace misery. ... (JMM: much more of the same in the rest of the statement).
    Not to blame Mr Haass too much, who was simply following in the footsteps of a flock of US Presidents (from Wilson to GWB, at the time) and stating what his boss Colin Powell wanted stated.

    If one believes that the US is "the city on the hill" and has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers", then one is obliged, I suppose, to preach what Mr Haass said. The problem is that, if in the course of these neo-colonial wars, one must pull the plug, charges of hypocrisy are well founded indeed.

    I do not believe that the US is "the city on the hill"; or that it has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers" - other than its own citizens. I am therefore a "bad, evil person".

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Very well said, thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    I do not believe that the US is "the city on the hill"; or that it has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers" - other than its own citizens. I am therefore a "bad, evil person".
    I strongly agree that we are not such and further, even if we were, we do not have the physical capability of properly doing that 'safeguard' foolishness. All we do we when we try an fail is instill a false hope.

    That is the biggest single reason we are unpopular with and in most of the world.

    Sensible is not evil nor is it bad; behavior that is emotion based but essentially not sensible is, OTOH, bad. It may not be evil due to good intentions but in its disregard for capability it does more harm than good and is therefor bad...

  5. #125
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    But let us amend the original question the C's asked. We'll go from 'How come such a great military just lost two wars?' to 'How come this country of ours that professes to be a cut above, the city on the hill, is probably going to abandon millions of people to lethal killers again?' Just like we did before.

    I remember the aftermath of our abandoning South Vietnam. I hoped we would never do it again though I knew in my heart that we probably would. That won't make it any less sad and shameful though.
    The word "abandon" is emotionally loaded and I don't see any place for it in a discussion like this. Do you suggest that protecting the populace of the world is an American responsibility? Or that once the US associates with a dysfunctional government they are then committed to defend the governed populace forever?

    If Afghans want to keep the Taliban out, they can do that. They sent the Russians back to Russia, they're sending the Americans back to America, they can send the Taliban back to Pakistan... if they want to. If they don't want to, that's ultimately up to them. I don't see how protecting Afghans from themselves, or from each other, is an American responsibility.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The word "abandon" is emotionally loaded and I don't see any place for it in a discussion like this. Do you suggest that protecting the populace of the world is an American responsibility? Or that once the US associates with a dysfunctional government they are then committed to defend the governed populace forever?

    If Afghans want to keep the Taliban out, they can do that. They sent the Russians back to Russia, they're sending the Americans back to America, they can send the Taliban back to Pakistan... if they want to. If they don't want to, that's ultimately up to them. I don't see how protecting Afghans from themselves, or from each other, is an American responsibility.
    Quoted for truth, as they say. Absolute truth.

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    Posted by JM999

    If one believes that the US is "the city on the hill" and has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers", then one is obliged, I suppose, to preach what Mr Haass said. The problem is that, if in the course of these neo-colonial wars, one must pull the plug, charges of hypocrisy are well founded indeed.

    I do not believe that the US is "the city on the hill"; or that it has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers" - other than its own citizens. I am therefore a "bad, evil person".
    Posted by Dayuhan

    The word "abandon" is emotionally loaded and I don't see any place for it in a discussion like this. Do you suggest that protecting the populace of the world is an American responsibility? Or that once the US associates with a dysfunctional government they are then committed to defend the governed populace forever?
    Lot's of wisdom in the above quotes, and while I emphasize with Carl's lamenting, I have come to a place where I believe the American people have a strong sense of right and wrong, which is a large part of what makes me proud to be an American. The downside to this (and I have definitely been guilty of this) is they feel compelled to act when they see an injustice in the world, but they have no idea where that act will take them or the millions of people impacted by it. We collectively have naive beliefs about how the world works, and then when we find out that can't save all the children or send all the girls to school despite our best efforts, and we get tired of our people coming home in coffins or terribly maimed with no end in sight we abandon altrustic goals for more reasonable ones. The question we need to ask in the beginning before we commit is will we ultimately do more good, or create a worse situation like we did in Iraq where more people died after Saddam was soundly defeated?

    A case in point that is not Afghanistan centric. We generally find it apalling that kids would work in a so-called sweat shop for 10-12 hours a day in a developing nation, although kids did it in the US during the industrial revolution. We find it more disgusting if they're working in a company making goods for a US Company. We're so disgusted that we jump on our white horse and ride to the rescue. In this case Senator Harkin in 1993 proposed legislation banning imports from countries that hire underage workers. Bangladesh saw the writing on the wall, and directed its factories quit hiring children. Bravo! America came to the rescue, we can all sleep better.

    The rest of the story is those kids didn't go to school or stay home and watch Sesame Street, in many cases they ended up in worse jobs, living on the street, and in many cases they ended up as child prostitutes. They worked in those sweat shops because they were the best available alternative and we took that away from them with the best of intentions, because we used mirror imaging, and assuming if the kids weren't in sweat shops they would be going to school.

    We're naive as a people because most of our people view the world through 30 second sound bytes and make a judgment on whether something is good or bad, and may even push to have the government deploy the military to "fix" the problem. The military isn't broke because it can't fix these problems, but our national level decision making process is.

  8. #128
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I believe the American people have a strong sense of right and wrong, which is a large part of what makes me proud to be an American. The downside to this (and I have definitely been guilty of this) is they feel compelled to act when they see an injustice in the world, but they have no idea where that act will take them or the millions of people impacted by it. We collectively have naive beliefs about how the world works, and then when we find out that can't save all the children or send all the girls to school despite our best efforts, and we get tired of our people coming home in coffins or terribly maimed with no end in sight we abandon altrustic goals for more reasonable ones. The question we need to ask in the beginning before we commit is will we ultimately do more good, or create a worse situation like we did in Iraq where more people died after Saddam was soundly defeated?
    I think the sense of right and wrong is only part of the problem. All too often our foreign policy goals are built more around what politicians think will be salable to the home front audience than around what is realistic and pragmatic in the environments where we operate. It's easier to sell armed intervention to the populace with a promise that we're there to "install" democracy, defend human rights, and serve all those other lovely lofty goals that Americans love to hear in a sound bite. The problem is that when the sound bite is history, the domestic audience that bought the sound bite has to confront the reality that any attempt to actually do these things is almost certain to bog down in an interminable morass of lost lives and gargantuan expenditures.

    At some point we need to accept reality: we can't "fix" other nations. That's not about military power: even were our military twice as powerful as it is now, we still couldn't use it to "fix" other nations. Trying to use military force to "fix" someone else's nation - meaning to impose our own ideas of how that nation ought to be managed - is a one-way road to failure that shouldn't be embarked upon in the first place.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  9. #129
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Have been following this most interesting discussion. So here is my take. The situation in the current two wars is different than what happened in Vietnam but there is one constant that relates to both the current wars and our past experience in Vietnam and that is we have had a total failure of our Foreign Policy.......so we blame the military! Until we address the fact that we have had a Total Political failure in dealing with the rest of the world our problems will just continue.

  10. #130
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    It might help to not elect leaders near-universally despised even in allied countries.

    The crew that pushed for the Iraq war was actively insulting Germany in multiple ways - and it takes a lot for the average Central European adult to become offended in comparison to some other groups of people.

  11. #131
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    If one believes that the US is "the city on the hill" and has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers", then one is obliged, I suppose, to preach what Mr Haass said. The problem is that, if in the course of these neo-colonial wars, one must pull the plug, charges of hypocrisy are well founded indeed.

    I do not believe that the US is "the city on the hill"; or that it has an obligation to safeguard "millions of people" (actually "billions") from "lethal killers" - other than its own citizens. I am therefore a "bad, evil person".

    Regards

    Mike
    You don't have to believe the US is "the city on the hill" but I want it to be the shining city on the hill and when we turn our back on our promises we are that much further from what I hope we would aspire to be.

    We have no obligation to safeguard the billions except to the extent that we should do what we say we are going to do. What Lincoln said meant something then and can mean something now, and that is important to those billions.

    We are choosing to pull the plug on the people we made promises too. There isn't any "must" about it. The Finns through their history have been confronted with musts, we aren't. What we are doing is getting frustrated, mostly because our refusal to see the world as it is, and leaving those we said we would not leave. That lessens us.

    You judge for yourself what kind of person you are. I will judge for myself what I wish we would be and judge for myself too when we fall short.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  12. #132
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Default But a promise is a promise

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Carl, you act like we somehow lured the Northern Alliance into doing something they were not already completely dedicated toward the accomplishment of. Or, as if the Afghan populace somehow has any more say now in who rules them than they did before. This is still a land where the only sure vote is cast in 7.62mm lead.
    I don't give a darn about the warlords. I give a darn about all the people we made promises to and who will be subject to that 7.62 mm vote when we bug out, cut off the money and don't bother to try and make extraordinary efforts to take people who trusted us with us.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Think about it, if the election process was truly fair and functional, the Taliban government in exile would have simply rallied a "get out the vote" campaign rather than a long, bloody insurgency.
    I have thought about it. I thought to myself that Taliban & Co have never much cared for elections. The results are too unpredictable for them. MO wrapped himself in the cloak of the Prophet, he doesn't do elections.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Government to government relations are contracts, not blood oaths. You worry about what happens if the US "abandons" GIRoA; but answer this, how long ago do you think that Northern Alliance-based government abandoned us?? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? Never really caring about what we wanted from the first place? We were "abandoned" long ago, but were too self-absorbed to notice or even much care.
    Tell me, are there gradations in how seriously we should view promises? Does a promise or a commitment leave more wiggle room than a blood oath?

    That is a nice bit of sophistry, us being abandoned. It cleverly shifts the blame. "Your honor I woulda kept the deal but they broke it first." And you always use "Northern Alliance" so we don't have to think about the little people we are going to bug out on. "Northern Alliance" sort of blocks them from view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Will many good Afghan people suffer when we leave? Yes. But many good Afghan people suffer because we stay as well.
    So one equals the other then? No I think not. That knife is sharp and it will cut deep when we bug out. We can lessen the pain for some if we try to take a bunch of them out with us when we go, or arrange for them to come later if things fall apart. I think we should do that. Do you think we should do that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Time to stop make arguments based on false logic and poor facts. It is only just in the past few months that our senior leaders in Afghanistan are waking up to the fact that the interests and efforts promoted so heavily by ISAF are not anything that GIRoA is interested in at all. If we would have truly honored Afghan sovereignty from the start we would have realized this long ago. Allowing our General's opinions to trump the host nation's President is a bad policy that leads inevitably to places like the one we are in now.
    I agree wholeheartedly with you last sentence. That speaks directly to the point the C's were making in their original post. As you said previously, our generals allowed scores to trump wisdom. That is poor soldiering. Of course since they have made it into the multi-star club, they will benefit now and forever from the impunity that comes from being in the club.

    I agree with you first sentence also, though probably in a different way. I would apply it to our relations with our enemy, the Pak Army/ISI. But it is probably too late now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    As soon as we stop driving the train as to what "must" be done, there will be a HUGE compression and reduction of security effort by GIRoA. As soon as we stop funding development and security forces there will be an immediate halt to 90% of that as well. We have been self-serving in our approaches just as much as GIRoA has. Time to let this situation find a more natural balance. That is a balance that may well end up with significant Taliban influence over it. We need to prepare for that reality and be willing to swallow our pride and reach out to embrace it.
    I think India, Iran, the Stans, Russia and Turkey are all going to have something to say about that. As for us, if we are going to bug out, which it seems we are fated to do, why on earth would we entreat with Taliban & Co? All those countries know a lot more about it and are a lot closer. After bugging out we wouldn't have any pull with anybody anyway.

    I asked way above if you thought we should stop funding the ANSF after we bug out. I take it that you think we should. We didn't take a blood oath so that is OK I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The only way our true enemies gain undue influence or sanctuary in Afghanistan is if we once again turn our backs on the place or are too proud to reach out to the new management that is sure to rise. Judging by our spiteful positions on Cuba, Vietnam and Iran, however, I am not optimistic that we will this time decide to be the bigger man and extend our hand first. Most likely we will allow ourselves to be manipulated by a vocal diaspora that has fled in our wake to enjoy their il-gotten gains in the safety of our borders
    Yeah, that diaspora will have a voice. Their throats won't be sliced. The ones we made promises too whom we won't take with us, they won't be heard, for they will be dead.

    A lot of your arguments, they abandoned us, things will reach their natural level when we leave, the enemy isn't really that bad (Mullah Omar, the getter outer of the vote) remind me of the things that were said from 1973-1975. It was all said then too so our self esteem wouldn't be lessened when we pulled the plug.
    Last edited by carl; 11-06-2012 at 02:55 AM.
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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The word "abandon" is emotionally loaded and I don't see any place for it in a discussion like this. Do you suggest that protecting the populace of the world is an American responsibility? Or that once the US associates with a dysfunctional government they are then committed to defend the governed populace forever?

    If Afghans want to keep the Taliban out, they can do that. They sent the Russians back to Russia, they're sending the Americans back to America, they can send the Taliban back to Pakistan... if they want to. If they don't want to, that's ultimately up to them. I don't see how protecting Afghans from themselves, or from each other, is an American responsibility.
    The word abandon is a simple description of an act. You promise to stand by something and you don't, you have abandoned it. If that is emotionally loaded that is a measure of the 'don't you dare hurt my feelings' culture we live in now, a culture that in my view blinds us to consequences of our actions.

    Your first question is a simple device to distract. We'll move on.

    When we say we are going to stick with somebody we should, at least to the point where we make a good faith effort to try. We never did because we never recognized and dealt with realistically the Pak Army/ISI. So now we are going to bug out. Since that is a done deal seemingly we should keep the money going to the ANSF and we should make arrangements to take those who worked with us, with us, when and if they need to go. We won't of course. To damn difficult to assimilate people like that (the word that is to be uttered disdainfully with slightly curled lips). We have incurred, I think, certain moral obligations. (I know what's coming so please don't present me with the argument that nations only have interests, not moral obligations. I don't agree.)

    Your last paragraph I heard before, almost 40 years ago. Only then instead of Afghans, it was South Vietnamese. The argument facilely ignored outside actors then, just as it does now.
    Last edited by carl; 11-06-2012 at 02:40 AM.
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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I don't give a darn about the warlords. I give a darn about all the people we made promises to and who will be subject to that 7.62 mm vote when we bug out, cut off the money and don't bother to try and make extraordinary efforts to take people who trusted us with us.
    Carl, who are you referring to when you say we made promises to people?

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    Originally Posted by Dayuhan
    The word "abandon" is emotionally loaded and I don't see any place for it in a discussion like this.
    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    The word abandon is a simple description of an act. You promise to stand by something and you don't, you have abandoned it. If that is emotionally loaded that is a measure of the 'don't you dare hurt my feelings' culture we live in now, a culture that in my view blinds us to consequences of our actions.

    Your first question is a simple device to distract. We'll move on.
    Agree. Glad to see someone else has picked up on that.

    You are correct. We have now entered the era of the 'spin'.

    Surely there is some smart young guy with time on his hands who can plot the path of spin from the beginning when the intervention was being justified up to now when the spin is being applied to justify cutting and running.

    I am constantly amazed how some people (many around here) just jump onto and defend to the death the current spin band wagon being applied by the current Administration. Worthy of study.

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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    JMA, what do the people you talk to in the RSA and other places think of this continuing pattern of behavior of the US, people who aren't Americans?
    As Ken has told me many times he and presumably many/most/all USians don't care what outsides think.

    Nobody I know trusts or believes what an American President, diplomat or spokesman says.

    There is a little more sympathy for the military because it is appreciated that they are vulnerable to political whim and fancy and as such don't have much real authority.

    To an outsider the US system of electoral collages and micro-management of the military by unqualified members of congress is about as ridiculous as what passes for a government system in China.

    USians will of course not see it this way as they see their history justifying their current system... much like the Brits preaching democracy to the 3rd world while they themselves had/still have an unelected upper house. There are none blind as...

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Afghan Exit: new thread

    Moderator's Updated Note

    Today I have created a new thread 'Afghan Exit: why, how and more in country and beyond': http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=16907

    Fifteen posts from here to there were copied over.

    Why? These posts have significantly left the thread's subject behind 'The Best Trained, Most Professional Military...Just Lost Two Wars?'

    Please add posts on the wide ranging issues of an Afghan Exit there.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    The only "spin" is see in all this is the hair-tearing garment-rending hysteria implicit is terms like "abandon", "bug out", "cut and run".

    Try dropping that and looking at it calmly.

    Obviously every strategy and every campaign requires periodic assessment. If there's no visible progress and returns on investment are totally out of proportion to cost, those campaigns either need a completely new strategy or they need to be terminated. There are no blank checks and no nation can afford to eternally throw resources into a black hole that shows no sign of progress, especially when no remotely vital strategic need is served.

    Is the campaign in Afghanistan working? I don't think so.

    Has anyone proposed a clear, coherent, realistic strategy to make it work... not just another strategy for suppressing the Taliban, but a strategy for putting together a self-sustaining Afghan state that fits American preferences? If they have, it's a well-kept secret.

    So realistically and without emotional hysteria, given the enormous cost, the economic and political constraints, the absence of any evidence of progress and the lack of viable alternative strategies, what's the argument for staying in?

    There are no blank checks or eternal commitments; never have been, never will be. It seems pretty clear to me at least that at this point our presence is an actual obstacle to progress: as long as the Americans are there to do the spending and the fighting, there is no incentive for the Afghan Government to even try to sustain or defend itself.

    The US cannot transform Afghanistan or guarantee Afghan security, any more than we can for any country other than our own. The most we can do is give them a half chance and a window to put things together on their own. At some point they have to stand up and take responsibility for themselves, and it looks like that point is getting closer. I don't see any abandonment or betrayal in recognizing that.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The only "spin" is see in all this is the hair-tearing garment-rending hysteria implicit is terms like "abandon", "bug out", "cut and run".
    You are fond of that rhetorical technique, I think its called labeling. Inigo's comment was best, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    See you at the other thread.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Has anyone proposed a clear, coherent, realistic strategy to make it work... not just another strategy for suppressing the Taliban, but a strategy for putting together a self-sustaining Afghan state that fits American preferences? If they have, it's a well-kept secret.
    Who selected that aim? .... ("putting together a self-sustaining Afghan state")

    You?

    The military - in this case the US military - have have to attempt to operate in an ever changing strategic environment (like shifting pack ice) due to political, whim, fancy and vacillation.

    Why do you keep asking outsiders to do the thinking you elected politicians to do? After four years in office the buck stops with the Obama Administration. Go ask them what the strategy is.

    USians elected Bush for a second term, now you put this guy back in the Whitehouse for "four more years". In a democracy you get the government you deserve.

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