The Corner

Washington’s Shame, Mitt’s Opportunity

“Taliban mock US as Afghan war enters 12th year,” reads the hed on an AFP story yesterday, something that ought to shame both the Bush and Obama administrations. But don’t worry — it gets worse:

America’s longest war entered its 12th year Sunday, with the anniversary marked by a Taliban statement claiming that NATO forces are “fleeing Afghanistan” in “humiliation and disgrace” . . .

“With the help of Allah, the valiant Afghans under the Jihadi leadership of Islamic Emirate defeated the military might and numerous strategies of America and NATO alliance,” the Taliban said in a statement Sunday.

“And now after eleven years of unceasing terror, tyranny, crimes and savagery, they are fleeing Afghanistan with such humiliation and disgrace that they are struggling to provide an explanation”.

A total of 3,199 NATO soldiers have been killed in the war, more than 2,000 of them Americans. Most deaths occurred in the past five years as Taliban attacks escalated, according to

Even among the “anti-war” Left, it’s become a commonplace to “honor the troops” for their service. But the very fact that Afghanistan is now America’s longest war — and is slated to end in ignominy in 2014 — ought to be a profound source of shame both for the Pentagon and its civilian masters across the Potomac. The Taliban was quickly routed after 9/11 by a platoon of Marines and a set of steak knives, and the American forces since have distinguished themselves on the battlefield, tactically. But strategically — that’s a different story. Thanks to a total lack of understanding of the meaning of the word “victory,” a failure to finish the job– a failure of will — has been the hallmark of both administrations.

When American entered WWII, it had to think both tactically — how to win any given battle — and strategically — how to annihilate the enemy so that his will to fight and his capacity to wage war were both reduced to zero. Fewer than four years later, Germany lay in complete ruins, its cities bombed to rubble, its army defeated, its chancellor dead in his bunker. Two of Japan’s cities were atomized, Tokyo (like Dresden) was firebombed, the Rising Sun’s Empire was dissolved and its emperor barely escaped the noose from which dangled his prime minister, Tojo, and six others.

That’s because FDR, his cabinet and his generals understood the urgency and necessity of total victory via total war. And, indeed, we’ve long since seen the end of the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan. Tactically, we won some (Midway) and we lost some (Bataan); some, like the Coral Sea, were tactical defeats that led to a larger strategic victory. And strategic victories — not body counts, pacified villages or friendly tribal elders — are what count in war.

And yet, almost from the start for the so-called “War on Terror,” it was clear that the U.S. would not have the will prosecute the war the way Roosevelt and Eisenhower would have — to go right to the heart of the enemy and destroy him. #more#The Japanese had to be violently disabused of the notion that their emperor was a god; the Germans had to have it explained to them in the plainest possible English that the Fuehrerprinzip was headed to the ashcan of history with a bullet in its head.. Equally, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Islamists were in dire need of an attitudinal readjustment regarding their motivational superstitions as well — one even more dispositive than Tours, Lepanto, Vienna, or Omdurman. You become friends with your enemies after you’ve thrashed them, not offering them cups of tea while you’re still fighting them. 

But this is where the evil scourge of political correctness must always lead: to a policy of suicidal defenselessness, thus illustrating Robert Frost’s famous dictum that a liberal is a man “too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.” Sympathy for the devil is an unmistakable sign of weakness to those blessed cultures, otherwise benighted, who never adopted the decadent intellectual charlatanism that seeks blame within and recognizes no external moral authority outside the self. And after more than a decade of  Bush and Obama warfighting doctrine — which has basically amounted to “hit ‘em where they ain’t” — we have now arrived at this unhappy place:

Saudi Arabia — the fons et origo of the ideology that attacked us on 9/11 — remains unmolested. The Iranians, ruled by crazed Twelvers who need to destabilize the existing world order so that their hidden imam may emerge to bring “peace,” are on the verge of a nuclear weapon. In Afghanistan, the typically treacherous Afghans now turn their weapons on the Americans with increasing frequency — after all, what’s the downside? Hezbollah is firmly entrenched in Mexico along our southern border, and stretches its tentacles all the way down to Paraguay. And now the Taliban are mocking us, knowing it’s only a matter of time before we’re gone, and they can return to their thousand-year-old savage ways. 

The next two presidential debates will include discussions of foreign policy, and Mitt Romney’s already made his stance on the Pentagon’s budget quite clear. But it’s not enough to just shovel money at the defense industry; what’s far more important for Mitt to do is retire the current military leadership — starting with General Dempsey — and start promoting the next generation of leaders. The good news is, the current crop of colonels and one- and two-star generals has cut its teeth during the prolonged combat of the past eleven years; these guys not only know how to fight, they might even understand why we fight, and have a clear understanding of the distinction between tactics and strategy. More important, they have the will to win.

One of America’s greatest generals, George S. Patton Jr., got repeated exposure to combat as a young officer, serving with General Pershing in Mexico during the futile hunt for Pancho Villa and later with Black Jack in the trenches of World War I. Patton knew from experience the frustration of an inconclusive war, observed the senseless slaughter along the stalemated Western Front in France and never made that mistake in his own commands. Patton knew that the fighting wasn’t over until the defeated opponent understood and acknowledged that it was over; otherwise, he’ll just wait till you turn away and then shoot you in the back — like the Afghans.

“Humiliation and disgrace” were never words associated with the American military until the Left sabotaged the Vietnam War effort on the home front and then mounted its hostile takeover of the Democratic party. The next administration needs to expunge the phrase from the Pentagon’s lexicon, cashier the desk jockeys and the REMFs, and remind the defense establishment what its mission really is. And then demand results.

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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