The Price of Non-Victory

by Mark Steyn

There’s a detail deep in this Washington Post story that deserves to be more widely known:

As it intensifies its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. military is being forced to fly massive amounts of gear and equipment out of the country instead of using cheaper overland and sea routes, according to Pentagon officials.

Military logisticians would like to send home 60 percent of their equipment and vehicles by trucking them into Pakistan and then loading them onto ships — the least expensive method by far. But cargo is flowing out on that route at only one-third the planned rate, the officials said.

They’re right. Flying the stuff out — to prevent the Taliban getting hold of them — is up to seven times as expensive. So what’s the problem with the land routes? Well, the political class that’s spent a decade blathering about an “exit strategy” apparently failed to anticipate an exit fee:

The government of Afghanistan closed the border this summer after a dispute over whether the Pentagon and its contractors should have to pay $70 million in customs “fines” for taking the military gear out of the country. The Pentagon has refused to pay, calling the penalties a thinly veiled attempt at a shakedown.

There’s a price for everything — except for incurring the displeasure of the superpower. From kleptocrat clients in Kabul to war criminals in Damascus, no one has to worry about that. Imagine what Karzai must think of the guys who’ve kept him alive for twelve years even to attempt this shakedown.

We’ve wasted much of the last month bleating about how some pointless strike on Syria is necessary to maintain America’s credibility. But the biggest blow to that global credibility is the superpower’s inability to win wars.

The American way of war doesn’t work; around the world everybody knows it; and we on the right need to address it.