Friday, June 17, 2011

Facts on the ground

It seems like almost every time our political leaders discuss pulling out of Afghanistan, someone says they have to consult with the generals to assess the situation on the ground, the idea being that the situation on the ground will determine when and how we can withdraw.  To which I say, what a load of crap.

Specific logistical choices must be made by the military, true.  You know, you don't send out the shooter first and leave the support folks unprotected, that kind of thing.  But the decision to withdraw is a political one.  In fact, the military is an instrument to achieve political objectives.  That's all it is.  It's not a force unto itself, with it's own national strategies.

Leaving the decision to withdraw to the generals is just code for saying, "I want to stay but don't want the heat for it."  The generals will NEVER want to leave.  Not unless they are getting badly beaten, and that simply won't happen.  They will never want to leave for several reasons.

1.  A wartime command is much more valuable to a career that a peacetime command.  It looks better on a resume (or 201 file).  Plus, certain medals (bronze star, for one) are only given in combat zones. 

2.  For generals, war is fun.  They're not the ones humping a 40 lb rucksack up a hill, under enemy fire.  (How many generals do you know of that have been shot in combat?  I know of exactly zero.  There may be some, but dang few.)   War is what generals train for their entire careers.  Think you'd like to be a basketball player for a living but only practice and never play an actual game?  Generals also have many more opportunities to get in and out of the combat zone temporarily; they aren't just stuck there.

3. Promotions come faster in combat zones.

4.  As long as the war is on, money will flow.  Stop the war and painful budget retrenchment will follow.

5.  Soldiers in combat zones get hazardous duty pay, and don't have to pay income taxes on money earned while stationed in a war zone.  War is good for a soldier's finances.

Generals have too many incentives to stay in a combat zone.  Plus, as can-do guys, as long as they can look around and see something that needs to be done - and in a God-forsaken place like Afghanistan, there will always be plenty to be done - generals will want to stay and "get 'er done."

When generals are in charge of ensuring that water treatment facilities are built, you know that they have strayed vast distances from their core competencies.  Jeezus, Idaho Guardsmen in Baghdad are running hotels and acting like mayors, for crying out loud. 

It's time to get out of Afghanistan.  Start an orderly withdrawal now, and finish up by Christmas eve.  Leave Afghanistan to the Afghans.

1 comment:

la pianista said...

Nice overview for those of us who suspect, but don't really know those things; well said.