I wish I could take full credit for that awesome featured image, but I found it here over at the Rebellion Blog.
It’s tough to find someone more out of touch than Alex Jones.
In what was obviously CNN’s attempt at a rational argument and in no way an attempt to grab ratings, Piers Morgan “interviewed” Mr. Jones. In case a) you haven’t had much access to the internet, or b) you’ve had better things to do, here’s the clip.
Arguably, this is not Alex Jones’ craziest moment on video. Thanks to the folks over at Mediaite, you can review their findings and judge for yourself whether the man could be any more coocoo for Cocoa Puffs.
Which was a cute, commercialized way of making fun of the mentally ill and fostering both our current problems with obesity and our dependence on pharmaceuticals to control our children. But let’s move on.
At the risk of casting aspersion on Alex Jones for advocating the overthrow of the current government, which probably dances dangerously close to something resembling treason, I do think that, without assessing his mental acuity, we can all agree that Alex Jones isn’t terribly grounded in reality. Or logic. Or…facts.
Just like the Kagans.
In their most recent piece on the war in Afghanistan, they stake out a position only slightly less believable than George Clooney as Batman.
There’s a great deal that’s wrong with the Kagan piece, from the assertions regarding a resurgent Al Qaeda to a basic misapprehension about the overall role of the United States in Afghanistan beginning in 2015. So in order to avoid turning this into a paper-length monstrosity instead of a mildly digestible blog post, I give you:
The Three Things the Kagans Get Wrong
1. Drones: they’re actually for counterterrorism.
See, Obama loves him some drones. The Kagans do not know this.
From the article:
At the force level the administration has suggested, the U.S. would be able to keep only two bases in Afghanistan, most likely for logistical reasons at Bagram and either Kabul or Kandahar. They are not close enough to support counterterrorism operations where most needed—in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, Khost and Paktika.
I worry about the internet and news freedoms in this country, since someone’s blocking the Kagans access to all kinds of media. The sort of media that regularly reports on things like drone strikes in places like Waziristan. And the rest of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Which is probably the most hilarious geographical misnomer ever…no one from any federal agency’s been administering that region for years.
See, we use drones to fight terror. It’s kind of a thing. I’m not sure why else we’d be using them to crater large portions of the AfPak border region.
While making the (almost) valid case that the main trouble spot in Afghanistan is on the eastern border it shares with Pakistan, the Kagans ignore the fact that the United States has been hammering that area via drones since before there was Twitter.
Since the map above may not make it perfectly clear how close those areas are to areas in Afghanistan, I submit the following for your consideration.
It’s true that the JSOC ninjas will always play a role in counter-terror operations, and it’s possible that Brennan (if he goes to CIA) scales back the Agency’s drone activities. But it’s also true that the Obama administration has displayed an (almost alarming) proclivity toward using drones as a means to counter terrorists. And it’s effective, if one is defining “effective” as “make terrorists dead,” rather than taking into consideration the loss of international goodwill.
Which, if you’re Alex Jones, you really don’t care about in the first place. But, the fact does remain, drones work in achieving a narrow goal. So to imply that the removal of US troops from Afghanistan is somehow going to impede our ability as a nation to kill terrorists in the FATA makes about as much sense as casting Seth Rogen as an action star.
2. This can’t last forever.
At some point the Kagans, like Adam, need to let go of how they think it could have been.
But since they can’t, they say things like this:
Neither would there be enough U.S. forces to assist the Afghan army. There would be no more American soldiers fighting alongside Afghans, as in the past, and not even embedded U.S. trainers in their units. The Afghans would not be able to call in U.S. air, artillery or medical support.
Afghanistan is not now, nor has it ever been, the place where the United States is going to establish the kind of advisory missions that we have in other places. Like the Philippines, where we’re currently involved in what used to be known as Operation Freedom Eagle, a name that would do Jack Donaghy proud. At some point in a distant future when all that uh-mazing Afghan ore has been extracted out of the ground using (currently) non-existent infrastructure that’s going to cost billions more before anyone makes any money at all, sure. Then we might have an established mission that looks more like models we’ve developed elsewhere. But it works in the Philippines, Colombia, and Honduras because we don’t see too many flag-draped caskets coming through Dover from those places.
And the plan (although it seemed like it at times) was not for American troops to fight alongside (or for) the Afghans indefinitely. At some point one has to end a war, whether one is comfortable with the ending or not. This is one such case. And that goes for US air, artillery, and medical support: if we stay here, it’s not to keep fighting this war for the Afghans.
3. If you helped write the plan, you should know the plan.
While it breaks my heart to use this clip, since I couldn’t find one of the original and best…
…Mr. Neeson has a point. It’s a beautiful thing when a plan comes together. What’s even more beautiful is when folks like the Kagans, who were instrumental in advising on those same plans, have any idea what the plan was in the first place.
The strategy was not to build an ANSF that could function without any international assistance. Creating a fully independent ANSF, if possible at all, would take decades. Even our European allies—France and Britain included—require significant American logistical and air support to conduct major operations. No one has ever imagined that the Afghan army would do better than the French.
Sidebar: Dear Mr. and Mrs. Kagan: Comparing a nascent security force like the ANSF to the forces of the UK or France isn’t just comparing apples to oranges, since those are both fruit. This is more like comparing gorillas to Tinkertoys: it doesn’t make any sense. Yes, it’s true that American air and logistical assets provide much of the support for this conflict. It’s also true that the French and British militaries did a fine job on all their own, sometimes managing to support themselves bunches and bunches without the help of big ol’ Uncle Sam.
Nationalistic paternalism aside, what’s glaring here is the first sentence, because it absolutely was the goal of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), stood up under Bluffing Bill Caldwell, to ensure that the Afghan National Security Forces would be ready to take over by the time we left town. But things didn’t go as planned, per the US Department of Defense and their own bi-annual report to Congress in October of 2011:
Prior to the spring campaign, IJC [ISAF Joint Command] reviewed the definition of an Independent unit and concluded that the definition was too restrictive and would be difficult for any ANSF element to attain. As a result, IJC rewrote the definition of an Independent unit to reflect the reality that most ANSF force enablers will likely require long-term coalition assistance… In addition, the Independent rating was renamed ‘Independent with Advisors’ in order to emphasize that an assistance relationship must be maintained by coalition forces. The ratings in the next CUAT cycle will incorporate the new names for the RDLs.
It’s not like ISAF and the DoD discovered in 2011 that they didn’t understand the meaning of the word “independent.” It’s that they realized that the ANSF would never be truly “independent,” so the best we can hope for is “independent with advisors.” At some point I’ll tear into the latest report, which was released in December, but as you can see, I’ve been busy finding pictures of Batman’s nipples.
So that absolutely was the strategy. We hoped that we could, in a frighteningly short period of time, bring the ANSF back from the brink of virtual extinction and turn it into a force capable of repelling a determined and entrenched insurgency. When it became obvious that that strategy was failing, it was too late to do what really needed to be done, and that’s ask for more time. So what ISAF did instead was wave some kind of definition magic wand and tell us, “See? That’s what we really meant to do all along. And pay no attention to the failure behind the curtain.”
Why all of this is scary
For years the Kagans were part of King David’s court, and not, despite all evidence to the contrary, as jesters. These were people who were given unprecedented levels of access to Petraeus and the overall military operation here in Afghanistan. The intent of that access was to allow them to advise the commander of the war in Afghanistan as to how he should proceed.
While there are those who would argue that the final analysis of Petraeus’ efforts has yet to be written, what is clear at this point is that his counterinsurgency pet rock was an abysmal failure. COIN, as implemented by Petraeus and his commanders, is an abysmal catastrophe. Any success in Afghanistan has been peripheral to our COIN efforts, and in many cases the long-term successful projects here have little or nothing to do with American military efforts. Here’s my prediction for say…2025, when enough time has passed to let the dust settle and we can see how this all is really going to play out: that any sustainable military successes here were due to conventional or counter-terror operations, not the counterinsurgency strategies outlined in the Petraeus Bible, also known as FM 3-24.
The blame for some of this has to be laid at the feet of people like the Kagans. Their advice had to shape the decisions made by Petraeus and his commanders. If it didn’t, then why have advisers in the first place? Unless one’s doing a Costanza.
Which, in the Kagans’ case, might have made more sense. People like Boot, Kagans, and O’Hanlon have had the ear of decision makers for far too long. If this is an example of the kind of advice they’ve been giving those in power, it’s no wonder we find ourselves in the current situation in Afghanistan: frustrated, floundering, and just trying to find a way out.
Until next time, you stay on the sunny side!