Myths of Iraq and Afghanistan

There is a term for a war that is always "succeeding" but never concluding: a failure.

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the other day the U.S. war in Afghanistan is "succeeding" and "has turned an important corner," I could have sworn I had heard that before. Where could it have been?

Ah, now I remember. In 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted, "We clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability. ... The bulk of this country today is permissive, it's secure."

Four years later, he pronounced Afghanistan "a big success." In 2011, Defense Secretary Robert Gates assured us the U.S. effort was "succeeding."

There is a term for a war that is always "succeeding" but never concluding: a failure. But Barack Obama has followed the custom of George W. Bush in pretending otherwise.

Our strategy has been to train and equip Afghan government forces to carry on the fight and preserve stability after we leave. But it's hard to fulfill that plan when our allies are indistinguishable from our enemies. This year, more than 50 U.S. and NATO soldiers have been killed by members of the Afghan security forces.

Last month, the U.S. commander there suspended most training and joint operations. "We're to the point now where we can't trust these people," a senior military official told NBC News.

The New York Times reports that "the Afghan Army is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year."

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., was one of several members of Congress who last month urged a speedy end to the war after 11 long years of waiting for the Afghans to take over. "You can train a monkey to ride a bicycle in that length of time," he said, in a statement that was grossly unfair to monkeys.

Yet Obama claims that events vindicate his surge and subsequent drawdown. Mitt Romney faults the president for setting a date to leave, but he won't commit to staying longer.

Last year, Romney said, "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals that we can hand the country over ... in a way that they're able to defend themselves" -- which could mean he would withdraw more rapidly than Obama, less rapidly or at exactly the same pace.

Where the candidates concur is declining to admit that staying has served only to increase the butcher's bill in a war we can't win. Had we left years ago, the likely outcome would be no different -- but hundreds of Americans would still be alive.

The presidential candidates also join together in refusing to confront our other failure, in Iraq. When the last American troops left, Obama called our venture "an extraordinary achievement." Romney insists that "abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence" has put our victory "at risk."

What victory? The primary reason for our invasion, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be a myth. A war that was supposed to be a brief "cakewalk" turned into a long occupation that left more than 36,000 Americans dead or wounded.

Nor is everything copacetic today. Al-Qaida in Iraq has more than doubled in strength and carries out about 140 attacks a month, up from 75 a month earlier this year.

"The Iraqi state cannot provide basic services, including regular electricity in summer, clean water and decent health care," wrote Ned Parker, who spent years there as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, in Foreign Affairs magazine. "The country has become something close to a failed state."

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  • ||

    I think there are more apt similarities to a bicycle-riding monkey then the amount of time it takes. For one, they are equally necessary to national security.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    If we don't train monkeys to ride bicycles, the Russians surely will. Why I have it on good authority that their monkey training facilities are already several years more advanced than ours are.

  • Lord Humungus||

    We must not have a bicycle-riding monkey gap!

  • ||

    What is this, 1985?

    It's China we have to worry about. I heard they are forging monkey birth-certificates.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Don't the Chinese have a one-monkey per family limit?

  • sarcasmic||

    Michael Jackson was Chinese?

  • Slithery D||

    Well, he did get a fortune cookie that said "you will make many children happy."

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Michael Jackson was Chinese?

    After the third round of surgeries I lost track. So he demonstrated that a poor black boy can grow up to be a rich white woman, and then become a Chinese Communist? I'm so confused.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    But could he ride a tandem bicycle with a monkey?

  • Bardas Phocas||

    If we end our obviously failed monkey-bike fusion program, the Chinese will interpet that as a sign of weakness.

    Once they see that American is paper tiger, they will begin their march across the Pacific. I'm predicting they'll get to Seattle about 2035 unless the boats leak. God have mercy on us.

  • SugarFree||

    That's why we so desperately need MMRV technology.

  • db||

    You're thinking with logic of the past. We need independent monkey delivery pods so we can strike antwhere on the globe within 15 minutes notice with our power-armored monkey brigades.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Do monkeys get 36 virgins in paradise if they die in battle?

  • Killazontherun||

    Just doesn't seem all that thought through, does it? After the first week of hymen busting what are you suppose to do for virgins? I mean you're there for eternity right?

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    I'm predicting they'll get to Seattle about 2035 unless the boats leak. God have mercy on us.

    Oh gods! No Ishmael's Cafés? Who'll make me overpriced chocolate-coffee-slurpees with whipped cream?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Once they see that American is paper tiger, they will begin their march across the Pacific. I'm predicting they'll get to Seattle about 2035 unless the boats leak. God have mercy on us.

    Seattle? Then they'll have to contend with the army of Olympic powerlifting surf professionals with actress wives. And if that doesn't stop them, the pension obligations will.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    So I guess what you're saying is that we should invest in building time machines so we can go back and do things differently?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    That sounds about right for any Chapman analysis I have ever read - bitter recrimination, with a prescription for success of __________?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Phillipic has its uses, especially as there were commenters arguing for an even deeper involvement in AfPak, yesterday during the drone thread.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Deeper? I guess if you were forming everyone up into coulmn and would drive right through Pakistan to a harbor and got on ships to come home - maybe knocking off some of the Pak Army on the way.

  • sarcasmic||

    "The Iraqi state cannot provide basic services, including regular electricity in summer, clean water and decent health care,"

    Obviously a failing of the free market. More central planning will fix it.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Liberia also lacks regular electricity in summer (as well as the rest of the year), clean water and decent health care.

    Obviously a result of the huge US invasion and occupation forces.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Liberia is proof-positive as to why America just can't do empire.

    Seriously, we need to leave the whole conquering and colonizing thing to the Brits or the Mongols.

  • DJF||

    “”””Maliki is at odds with Washington for letting one of our enemies, Iran, use his airspace to send arms to another of our enemies, Syria's Bashar al-Assad, so he can crush his opponents. “”’

    Neither Iran nor Syria is my enemy. I don’t particularly like their government but they don’t bother me so I don’t bother them. My enemies are a lot closer to my home.

  • sarcasmic||

    That sounds like political dissent to me.

    Report to reeducation immediately!

  • Drake||

    Rumsfeld's 2003 statement was fairly accurate. That is the moment we should have packed up and left - instead we brought in heavier units and built big bases. Why won't anyone in either party except the Pauls admit it was a giant mistake?

  • RBS||

    Hahaha, admit it was a mistake, good one!

  • RBS||

    Wait a minute, I thought we won over there when Obama personally executed OBL, single handedly defeating the Taliban and Al Queda. I know I was shocked to learn otherwise.

  • DJF||

    But we are not at war against Osama or the Taliban, we are at War against Terrorism and the war against nouns will never end. Just look at the War against Drugs.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why do you want the nouns to win?

  • SugarFree||

    Verb you, pacifist. Verb you sideways into a gerund noun.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Ceterum censeo Afghaninem delendam esse

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    "Osama" and "Taliban" are nouns too.

    Jus sayin'

  • LTC(ret) John||

    You forgot the War of Poverty - shirker of duty!

  • Ted S.||

    We have always been at war with East Asia.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Hey, remember when the "myths" of Iraq and Afghanistan were more about Nasreddin instead of Jalaluddin?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Yeah, I was told several good jokes when there.

    But nothing was better than in Iraq when I had an Iraqi captain tell me that Jalal Talibani (the president at the time) had the entire leadership of the Iraqi parliamnet over to his office for a working dinner. Talibani's wife calls and says "Jalal, you must come home, a thief has broken into the house!" Talibani roars back into the phone "Nonsense, woman, they are all here with me!"

    I still have hope for the Iraqis.

    Chapman wants to hold them up as a failure if they are not Canada with more sand and more palm trees - but now we ae gone, its none of our damned business if they want to be friendly with their neighbors. If they attack us, sure - but the two countries killed a million people in a long war - I'd rather they have a bit of peace for once.

  • Ted S.||

    Chapman wants to hold them up as a failure if they are not Canada with more sand and more palm trees

    I would have thought that becoming Canada would be the failure.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Hmmm...might be hard to get a decent syrup out of a palm tree, and I don't think there are any Iraqi hockey players either. Bacon is awfully hard to come by there too. Maybe Canada isn't the right goal?

  • Rich||

    "You can train a monkey to ride a bicycle in that length of time."

    Now, if *that's* not coded RACISM, I don't know what is.

  • ElCiD||

    $3.7 trillion (apx. cost of Afghan War) / 30 million (apx. Afghan population) = $123,333 per Afghani.

    If we had just gone in and wiped out the bad guys, left, and given every Afghan $123,333 would they have developed a prosperous, peaceful, America-loving boom economy or funneled money towards more terrorism or some other outcome?

    Not that it matters cuz MOAR WAR! Just curious of your opinions.

  • Rich||

    would they have developed a prosperous, peaceful, America-loving boom economy or funneled money towards more terrorism

    Screams for MOAR POLLZ!

  • Ted S.||

    They would have developed hyperinflation.

  • wareagle||

    The primary reason for our invasion, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be a myth.

    so this is apparently no longer just a Dem talking point. I guess those dead Kurds, and Iranians, were figments of imagination, that this lie about WMD is what propelled Clinton and his party acolytes say the same thing the evil Boosh was saying. Even the sainted UN fell for it, sending in inspections teams.

    If Qaddafi, who had ceased being a threat, voluntarily gave up a WMD program, chances are pretty good Saddam had one. I was not a proponent of the Iraq War, but come up with something better than stale partisan regurgitations, Stevie.

  • sarcasmic||

    The invasion was a forgone conclusion.

    There was nothing Saddam could have done to stop it.

    Sometimes even the stupid partisans are right.

  • Les||

    It isn't partisan to report that there was no evidence that Hussein had WMD's.

    It's reality.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I.....fer_Report

    These conclusions were made by a group formed and funded by the Bush administration.

  • independentk||

    I don't agree with you about the Iraq war, valid reasons for going, successful overthrow of a corrupt and evil regime, failed follow through

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