Home » Foreign Forces » Opinion: The End of America’s War in Afghanistan?

Opinion: The End of America’s War in Afghanistan?

General John Campbell, commander of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Dec. 28, 2014. via Reuters

General John Campbell, commander of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Dec. 28, 2014. via Reuters

All Americans remember where they were when they learned about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but few Americans noticed—and fewer seemed to care—when Gen. John Campbell rolled up the International Security Afghanistan Force (ISAF) battle flag on Dec. 28. That ceremonial act officially and symbolically ended the ISAF combat mission in Afghanistan.

The news of the end of that mission hit my ears as I was grading papers for the Naval War College’s “Strategy and War” course of study.

Most of my students are part of the generation of officers that fought, or continue to fight, the overseas contingency operations formerly known as the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

I highlighted the following phrase in the essay of one such GWOT veteran, helicopter pilot Chris Grocki.

He wrote that the Revolutionary War “. . . has served as a model for hundreds of years of future insurgencies and asymmetric conflicts. However, as in other asymmetric conflicts in which the weaker side was ultimately successful, it was the mistakes of the stronger side . . . that most influenced the final result.

“How fitting,” I thought, as we ponder the end (or given our predicament in Iraq—perhaps the first end?) to what many characterize as America’s longest war.

Using my student’s astute observation as portal to examine the asymmetric conflict in Afghanistan, it is first apparent that the weaker side in Afghanistan has not yet proved to be completely successful. With considerable sacrifice and expense over the past 13 years, the Taliban and al Qaeda forces have been suppressed, but as the all-too-persistent Taliban attacks and bombings in Afghanistan remind us, the fighting is far from over.

The War in Afghanistan began with a “shock and awe” campaign on Oct. 7, 2001.

When the missiles and bombs were finally unleashed, most Americans indeed felt some degree of joy that vengeance was being exacted on the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

Those, like myself, who were packing their bags and getting ready to deploy in support of the GWOT, were perhaps fearful that in the weeks preceding the shock and awe opening act, we had dialed-in our response to our al Qaeda enemies.

Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from the USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) against the Taliban in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. US Navy Photo

Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from the USS Philippine Sea (CG-58) against the Taliban in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. US Navy Photo

Perhaps what was most shocking about the opening salvo against our enemies in Afghanistan is that it took 26 days to muster a response. The opportunity for a rapid and truly shocking response was lost. For a nation with rapid global response capabilities, that plodding may have been the first mistake made by the “stronger side” in an asymmetric war that has dragged on for more than 13 years.

Ignoring the advice the pre-eminent British historian, John Keegan, offered the Bush administration to “. . . steer clear of general war and of policies designed to change society or the government . . . [and] get in fast, kill faster, and get out still faster,” was arguably the second mistake of the stronger power in the conflict.

After toppling the Taliban regime in a few short weeks and killing scores of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, we then decided to stay and engage in nation-building.

What grade would we objectively be given for the nation we have built in the past 13 years?

If an A grade equates to creating a bulwark for democracy in the heart of central Asia, then we are clearly falling short of that mark. Because so many Americans think (and many others fear) that we’ll have to stay a lot longer, all sides can agree that Afghanistan is still far from being categorized as strong and stable.

I would offer that the agreement to keep ground troops and airpower in Afghanistan is evidence that we currently rate an “incomplete.” The final grade is still pending.

Is this really the end of America’s war in Afghanistan? In a statement released on 30 December, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) lamented the end of ISAF’s combat mission, worrying that the Obama administration is poised to repeat the same mistake that Boehner and others believe it made in Iraq. That “mistake” was the complete withdrawal of forces from Iraq and the rise of ISIS.

A Marine with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, provides security during an operation in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2014. US Marine Corps Photo

A Marine with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, provides security during an operation in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2014. US Marine Corps Photo

The fact of the matter is, the United States is not drawing down to zero any time soon in Afghanistan; rather, the Pentagon reports that 11,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan to train and assist the Afghan armed forces. The United States has also recently agreed to an Afghan government request to provide airpower for critical situations on the ground. While the U.S. presence is significantly reduced, it will likely be far from zero for years to come. In contrast to Boehner’s statement, some sources, such as journalist George Zornick, suggest that the US is now setting the stage for expanding its mission in Afghanistan.

Whether it is 11,000 troops, plus occasional airstrikes in 2015, something more, or something less, it does not appear that U.S. troops will really be out of Afghanistan for many years to come. While those in Washington are using this opportunity to poke each other in the eye for political points, important questions are left unaddressed. Chief among them: What strategic benefits did the cost and sacrifice of the past 13 years of war yield to the United States? By some estimates the post 9/11 wars have now cost close to $3 trillion. What is the strategic return on this investment of blood and treasure?

Whether or not our withdrawal from Iraq led to the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or ISIL) is a topic for another day, but as a quick point of comparison, suffice it to say that even when ISAF forces numbered 180,000, the Taliban still controlled 30-to-40 percent of the territory in Afghanistan. The deterrent power of U.S. combat forces, while unlimited in the imagination of some politicians and many American citizens, does seems to have real limits on the battlefields of the post 9/11 wars. Those that are so quick to commit U.S. ground forces in response to every threat that emerges (i.e., Syria, ISIS and Iran) should keep that fact in mind.

Undated photo of ISIS fighters.

Undated photo of ISIS fighters.

Whether or not our presence makes a difference in deterring evil forces such as ISIS and the Taliban—and there’s no doubt that it does—the more important question we should be asking today is this: Why do the armies we trained and equipped in Afghanistan, and previously in Iraq, fail to measure up in the fight against the insurgent forces they confront?

An open-minded view of post-World War II U.S. history shows a pattern of failure when it comes to nation-building. The obvious examples are South Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but there are many more, less obvious, cases. That skill set does not appear to be in our wheelhouse, so from this point forward we should probably avoid the temptation to try to mold ancient cultures into pro-Western democracies.

It seems that some in America already are weaving the myths to try to explain the “less than satisfying” results in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a young man I often heard these same strategically ill-informed opinions about Vietnam. They went something like . . . If only LBJ had allowed us to bomb every target . . . if only we had the green light to invade North Vietnam . . . if only the Marine Corps’ better understanding of pacification had been shared by the Army . . . we could have won the war! I have recently heard a number of so-called average Americans re-package the same “if only we had been tougher” alibis from Vietnam and pin them on the post 9/11 wars. These emerging sentiments are evidence that those Americans who have taken notice that those wars continue are looking for a reason why this conflict did not end conclusively. Perhaps a victory parade through New York City would serve to mark the occasion? We had one after Operation Desert Storm, and it sure was a nice way to mark the end of a war.

As a multi-tour veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, from my vantage point at least, it did not appear we were going soft on our enemies. Few targets, even those in Pakistan were “off limits.” We killed or captured every bad guy we could locate, we even occupied entire nations, helped write constitutions, operated freely in the air, and the land below, yet despite this, the nations we built remain unstable and dangerous places. The reason for our less than satisfying results are something deeper than “we should have been tougher on our enemies.”

Marines, sailors and coalition partners with Regional Command (Southwest) bow their heads during a moment of silence at the 9/11 memorial ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2014. US Marine Corps Photo

Marines, sailors and coalition partners with Regional Command (Southwest) bow their heads during a moment of silence at the 9/11 memorial ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Sept. 11, 2014. US Marine Corps Photo

As this phase in the Afghanistan War draws to a close, the best thing we can do to honor those who served in our longest war is to have an open-minded conversation about how we can do better in the future. My student’s essay, which started this musing, contains a timeless truth of strategy and war: “[In] asymmetric conflicts in which the weaker side was ultimately successful, it was the mistakes of the stronger side . . . that most influenced the final result.” The end of a war is a perfect opportunity for national self-reflection. Understanding our mistakes, appreciating the limits of the military instrument of power—even when it is “the finest in the world”—and avoiding unwinnable wars are just a few lessons with which to start.

The question to get you started: Where were you when you found out that America’s war in Afghanistan had ended?

  • Don Bacon

    It certainly wasn’t a “pattern of failure” for the people who profited from these military charades, these foolish “wars on terrorism” and the second war on Iraq. If there was any pattern of failure it was by the generals who should have known better, as their troops were sacrificed for nothing, except for those profits.

    Some day perhaps you’ll realize that you were taken advantage of, and that citizens of any country don’t appreciate the destruction of their villages and families, and a brutal military occupation. They naturally resist it, just as you and I would.

  • Ctrot

    The most serious and sickening pattern that has emerged is one of democrat party politicization of national security. It’s been going on since, at least, Vietnam. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were, like Vietnam, begun with support of both political parties. But the democrat party has taken up the strategy of then opposing wars it once supported in order to gain political power.

    Many mistakes were made in the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but given the blood and treasure that was expended in both countries it is beyond comprehension how the democrat party, led by Barrack Obama, can so casually throw away those sacrifices just so it he can claim “I ended the war”. Apparently “win” isn’t in the democrat vocabulary unless it is used in reference to expanding and strengthening their grasp on political power.

    • PolicyWonk

      You really need to review the recent history of the United States of America, because its clear you haven’t been paying attention.

      The previous administration flagrantly played this nation for fools when it came to US national security, by playing the paranoia card to the extreme in order to justify its actions. The deliberately cherry-picked the information used to convince people that the invasion of Iraq was necessary, and summarily ended the careers of anyone in the military, or department of state, etc., that didn’t toe the party line.

      The war in Afghanistan wasn’t even completed when they pulled the SoF’s out of country to prepare for the totally unnecessary invasion of Iraq, which has been deemed a massive national security disaster by all 16 US intelligence agencies (let alone the corresponding foreign policy disaster – arguably on of the worst in US history), which help the USA give Al Qaida a massive victory in the GWOT (also according to all 16 US Intelligence Agencies).

      Both wars were started sans any: strategy to win; sufficient resources to get the job done; plans for the endgame; clear political objectives; or plans to bring the troops home. Both wars were incompetently managed.

      The democrats, and our allies (and foes), and all of our US intelligence agencies, and our military leadership all know this. The only ones who are too cowardly to understand/comprehend the facts are those incompetents who caused the worst string of national security and foreign policy disasters in history: many of whom now also have arrest warrants issued in their names for war crimes by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

      Strategically: Both wars were a serious loss to the USA – this is clear to everyone with the exception of the GOP “leadership” that was also largely to blame for the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (according to the Congressional Budget Office report on the causes of the Great Recession).

      When the GOP had near total political power: they demonstrated a level of incompetence that destroyed this nations international standing; left behind a military at its lowest state of readiness since Viet Nam (JCS report to the POTUS on Force Readiness, Spring 2009); failed to manage the US economy, real estate, and financial system despite years of warnings (starting in late 2001); and went on a drunken spending spree that indebted this nation to a communist dictatorship – not counting the problems above.

      All this – after inheriting a nation at peace, an $800B annual surplus, and the smallest/most efficient government since the Kennedy Administration.

      While Obama isn’t without faults: all of the errors he’s made when totaled up don’t even make up a decent fraction of that monumental disaster known at the invasion of Iraq.

      The evidence/facts is/are against you. Try again.

      • Ctrot

        “Both wars .. largely to blame for the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (according to the Congressional Budget Office report on the causes of the Great Recession).”


        The opening of the summary of the CBO report reads:

        “The U.S. economy has grown slowly since the deep recession in 2008 and 2009, which was triggered by a sharp drop in house prices and a subsequent financial crisis.”

        No where are the wars mentioned in the CBO summary.

        The reason for the recession was the housing market collapse and the house market collapse was caused by leftist mortgage policies.

        The evidence/facts is/are against YOU.

        • PolicyWonk

          The warnings w/r/t to problems in the housing and financial crisis both starting coming to the attention (i.e. they were reported) to the Bush Administration starting in 2001.

          NO ACTION was taken on either of them, until the roof caved in – throughout the entire time the GOP held both houses of congress AND the presidency. The lions share of the damage got done (according to the CBO report) during the first 6 years of that administration via:
          1. A massive tax break for the super wealthy that didn’t need it – throwing the entire US economy off balance;
          2. Two unfunded wars;
          3. That massive corporate (also unfunded) welfare program known as “Medicare Part D”.

          You need to re-read your history as well.

          • Ctrot

            Here is some history for you:

            April: The Administration’s FY02 budget declares that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is “a potential problem,” because “financial trouble of a large GSE could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting Federally insured entities and economic activity.” (2002 Budget Analytic Perspectives, pg. 142)

            May: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calls for the disclosure and corporate governance principles contained in the President’s 10-point plan for corporate responsibility to apply to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (OMB Prompt Letter to OFHEO, 5/29/02)

            February: The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) releases a report explaining that unexpected problems at a GSE could immediately spread into financial sectors beyond the housing market.

            September: Then-Treasury Secretary John Snow testifies before the House Financial Services Committee to recommend that Congress enact “legislation to create a new Federal agency to regulate and supervise the financial activities of our housing-related government sponsored enterprises” and set prudent and appropriate minimum capital adequacy requirements.

            September: Then-House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-MA) strongly disagrees with the Administration’s assessment, saying “these two entities – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – are not facing any kind of financial crisis … The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” (Stephen Labaton, “New Agency Proposed To Oversee Freddie Mac And Fannie Mae,” The New York Times, 9/11/03)

            October: Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) refuses to acknowledge any necessity for GSE reforms, saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” (Sen. Carper, Hearing of Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, 10/16/03)

            November: Then-Council of the Economic Advisers (CEA) Chairman Greg Mankiw explains that any “legislation to reform GSE regulation should empower the new regulator with sufficient strength and credibility to reduce systemic risk.” To reduce the potential for systemic instability, the regulator would have “broad authority to set both risk-based and minimum capital standards” and “receivership powers necessary to wind down the affairs of a troubled GSE.” (N. Gregory Mankiw, Remarks At The Conference Of State Bank Supervisors State Banking Summit And Leadership, 11/6/03)

            February: The President’s FY05 Budget again highlights the risk posed by the explosive growth of the GSEs and their low levels of required capital and calls for creation of a new, world-class regulator: “The Administration has determined that the safety and soundness regulators of the housing GSEs lack sufficient power and stature to meet their responsibilities, and therefore … should be replaced with a new strengthened regulator.” (2005 Budget Analytic Perspectives, pg. 83)

            February: Then-CEA Chairman Mankiw cautions Congress to “not take [the financial market’s] strength for granted.” Again, the call from the Administration was to reduce this risk by “ensuring that the housing GSEs are overseen by an effective regulator.” (N. Gregory Mankiw, Op-Ed, “Keeping Fannie And Freddie’s House In Order,” Financial Times, 2/24/04)

            April: Rep. Frank ignores the warnings, accusing the Administration of creating an “artificial issue.” At a speech to the Mortgage Bankers Association conference, Rep. Frank said “people tend to pay their mortgages. I don’t think we are in any remote danger here. This focus on receivership, I think, is intended to create fears that aren’t there.” (“Frank: GSE Failure A Phony Issue,” American Banker, 4/21/04)

            June: Then-Treasury Deputy Secretary Samuel Bodman spotlights the risk posed by the GSEs and calls for reform, saying “We do not have a world-class system of supervision of the housing government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), even though the importance of the housing financial system that the GSEs serve demands the best in supervision to ensure the long-term vitality of that system. Therefore, the Administration has called for a new, first class, regulatory supervisor for the three housing GSEs: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banking System.” (Samuel Bodman, House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Testimony, 6/16/04)

            April: Then-Secretary Snow repeats his call for GSE reform, saying “Events that have transpired since I testified before this Committee in 2003 reinforce concerns over the systemic risks posed by the GSEs and further highlight the need for real GSE reform to ensure that our housing finance system remains a strong and vibrant source of funding for expanding homeownership opportunities in America … Half-measures will only exacerbate the risks to our financial system.” (Secretary John W. Snow, “Testimony Before The U.S. House Financial Services Committee,” 4/13/05)

            July: Then-Minority Leader Harry Reid rejects legislation reforming GSEs, “while I favor improving oversight by our federal housing regulators to ensure safety and soundness, we cannot pass legislation that could limit Americans from owning homes and potentially harm our economy in the process.” (“Dems Rip New Fannie Mae Regulatory Measure,” United Press International, 7/28/05)

            August: President Bush emphatically calls on Congress to pass a reform package for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying “first things first when it comes to those two institutions. Congress needs to get them reformed, get them streamlined, get them focused, and then I will consider other options.” (President George W. Bush, Press Conference, the White House, 8/9/07)

            August: Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Christopher Dodd ignores the President’s warnings and calls on him to “immediately reconsider his ill-advised” position. (Eric Dash, “Fannie Mae’s Offer To Help Ease Credit Squeeze Is Rejected, As Critics Complain Of Opportunism,” The New York Times, 8/11/07)

            December: President Bush again warns Congress of the need to pass legislation reforming GSEs, saying “These institutions provide liquidity in the mortgage market that benefits millions of homeowners, and it is vital they operate safely and operate soundly. So I’ve called on Congress to pass legislation that strengthens independent regulation of the GSEs – and ensures they focus on their important housing mission. The GSE reform bill passed by the House earlier this year is a good start. But the Senate has not acted. And the United States Senate needs to pass this legislation soon.” (President George W. Bush, Discusses Housing, the White House, 12/6/07)

            February: Assistant Treasury Secretary David Nason reiterates the urgency of reforms, saying “A new regulatory structure for the housing GSEs is essential if these entities are to continue to perform their public mission successfully.” (David Nason, Testimony On Reforming GSE Regulation, Senate Committee On Banking, Housing And Urban Affairs, 2/7/08)

            March: President Bush calls on Congress to take action and “move forward with reforms on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They need to continue to modernize the FHA, as well as allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to homeowners to refinance their mortgages.” (President George W. Bush, Remarks To The Economic Club Of New York, New York, NY, 3/14/08)

            April: President Bush urges Congress to pass the much needed legislation and “modernize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [There are] constructive things Congress can do that will encourage the housing market to correct quickly by … helping people stay in their homes.” (President George W. Bush, Meeting With Cabinet, the White House, 4/14/08)

            May: President Bush issues several pleas to Congress to pass legislation reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the situation deteriorates further.

            “Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes. Yet Congress has failed to pass legislation I have repeatedly requested to modernize the Federal Housing Administration that will help more families stay in their homes, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance sub-prime loans.” (President George W. Bush, Radio Address, 5/3/08)

            “[T]he government ought to be helping creditworthy people stay in their homes. And one way we can do that – and Congress is making progress on this – is the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That reform will come with a strong, independent regulator.” (President George W. Bush, Meeting With The Secretary Of The Treasury, the White House, 5/19/08)

            “Congress needs to pass legislation to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance subprime loans.” (President George W. Bush, Radio Address, 5/31/08)

            June: As foreclosure rates continued to rise in the first quarter, the President once again asks Congress to take the necessary measures to address this challenge, saying “we need to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” (President George W. Bush, Remarks At Swearing In Ceremony For Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development, Washington, D.C., 6/6/08)

            July: Congress heeds the President’s call for action and passes reform legislation for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as it becomes clear that the institutions are failing.

            September: Democrats in Congress forget their previous objections to GSE reforms, as Senator Dodd questions “why weren’t we doing more, why did we wait almost a year before there were any significant steps taken to try to deal with this problem? … I have a lot of questions about where was the administration over the last eight years.” (Dawn Kopecki, “Fannie Mae, Freddie ‘House Of Cards’ Prompts Takeover,” Bloomberg, 9/9/08)

      • Capt Woody Sanford

        GOOD GRACIOUS! Why didn’t I read this before I submitted my limited little comment to ” Guns” below? I agree with and support everything you wrote. Thanks, Woody

    • Capt Woody Sanford

      The war in Iraq should never have happened. The Bushies were spoiling for a fight anywhere! They could not accept that Saddam had no nuclear weapons. Gas Probably. After Baghdad fell, The army and marines were confused and didn’t know what to do. Whatever the strategy or reason, there was no justfication for staying there ? 11 years. Afghanistan was a different story. I can see that as a proper response to 9/11. The CIA, Seals and other special Forces won that, then Bush pulled most of them and sent them to Iraq. Petraeus was the only Commander who understood that place. Woody

      • Master Guns – Retired.

        Marines deserve and have earned the respect of an upper case M. Seals swim in the waters of San Diego. SEALs conduct rigorous training in the same waters.

      • Capt Woody Sanford

        Master Guns: Sir, I believe my comment and your response are not related. I never mentioned the qualifications or fighting abilities of Seals or Marines. They are great warriors. The civilians made the mistakes in sending them there and in inadequate numbers.

        • Master Guns

          It wasn’t my intent to question your point of view or your comments. I was surprised that a US Navy Captain would refer to SEALs using lower case as do so many civilian publications. In 1970, I received some training from SEAL Team 1 at Coronado. They weren’t too happy when they saw lower case being used in some newspapers.
          I believe it was Admiral Boorda when he was CNO, who came out with a directive that in the future, when referring to Sailor/s in print, an upper case S be used. The Marine Corps quickly fell into step.
          It wasn’t until the 90s that the Gray Lady, the NY Times, finally agreed to use an upper case M for Marines.
          Call me a purist, just very picky or a bit too proud.
          Semper Fi.

          • Capt Woody Sanford

            My respect for SEALS and MARINES is unconditional. It is the same for enlisted members in all servces. I certainly wish to correct any and all upper/lower case violations.During my intern year at San Diego (Balboa) Naval Hospital, I had the opportunity to observe SEAL training at Coronado. I honor anyone who could survive that…. You mentioned Adm Moorda. He was former enlisted, thus would be expected to be their advocate. Unfortunately, he felt it necessary to commit suicide while in office over a pins and ribbons dispute. Very sad episode. Fair Winds,, Woody

  • James Bowen

    The basic answer to the question of why Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq have not been successful campaigns is that military force, no matter how powerful, cannot change who and what people are. In these wars we attempted to use military force to impose American style democracy and capitalism on cultures that are a poor fit for such a system. In Afghanistan, for example, much of the population is illiterate. It should be plainly obvious that a political system which involves people voting on ballots is not going to work very well in a place where most people can’t read. That is but one small example of the multitude of problems with the approach we took in these wars.

    Contrast these wars with Korea and Desert Storm, the two postwar U.S. conflicts that were the most successful. In each of those conflicts we had a clearly defined strategic objective that was achievable with armed force, and the fighting was ended after having accomplished the objective.

    • Ctrot

      And in both Korea and Desert Storm the end of the war did not resolve the issue for good, just postponed/prolonged it.

      • James Bowen

        The objective of the Korean War was to prevent conquest of South Korea. The Objective of Desert Storm was to restore Kuwaiti independence. Both of those were specific objectives that were achievable by military means and were accomplished decisively. Those were the issues at hand there. Afterward, North Korea was in no position to reconquer South Korea and Iraq was in no position to reconquer Kuwait. I would say those issues were resolved for the forseeable future.

  • Waldez

    We needed the Mexican-American War as a training mission for for most knew was an inevitable Civil War and we thought we needed the Afghan War as a training mission for what was to be an inevitable Iraq/Iran/Syrian War. What a sick joke to declare the war officially over and how pathetic that the current military leadership went along with the charade. I don’t see how anyone could lay blame for the outcome at the feet of the Democrats when the Republicans are lead by Lindsay Graham and John McCain, both parties are as equally to blame for the conduct of the Afghan War as they are the F-35. The JCS seems to be more interested in their retirement packages than the troops serving under them.

    • bob

      First, as a career member of FDNY-EMS, I want to thank all those who served. Unfortunately, I was informed that I was too old to reenlist following the World Trade Center Recovery. It was, and continues to be tough watching the young men and women who deploy as Reservists. As their Lieutenant, I understand it, but it’s still tough.

      The author hits the nail on the head when he writes about “Nation-building not being in our wheelhouse”. With the notable exceptions of post-war Germany, which had a passing understanding of democracy, and Japan, which had it imposed by fiat, the United States has never successfully implemented democracy. Prior to the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Somalia is probably the best example.

      Unless we are prepared to repeat history, and install a government by main force, as was done in Haiti, 1915-1934, where the U.S. Marine Corps was the de jure government of Haiti, nation building should be undertaken only as an absolute last resort. Otherwise, we have our military in place long after anyone remembers why they are there.

      Further, another danger of nation-building is the original military mission morphing into something wholly unintended. Case and point: Iraq. After the initial invasion and removal from power of Saddam Hussein, we went into nation-building mode. We then pulled resources from Afghanistan, after having pulled a great deal of special warfare personnel from the vital mission of the destruction of Al Qaeda, we then pulled conventional forces and then made Afghanistan a NATO mission. In Iraq, it appears that aside from attempting to keep the cities safe, there was no clear mission.

      As a result, I believe we will be back in Iraq in force, before ten years have passed. We can only hope that John Keegan is heard this time: “Get in fast, kill the enemy and get out still faster”

  • Don Bacon

    My comment was not published, proof that these military exercises have nothing to do with freedom.

    • Ctrot

      That was probably because of me. As an experiment I clicked “flag as inappropriate” on your comment, so yes it was published because I saw it. And just like has happened to several of my own posts recently your post was removed. Just so all the leftists who flagged my comments know that that tactic works both ways.