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22 June 2011


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Brad Ruble

I hear often on this site we are not cynical enough to understand the rest of the world. I don't think this is true. The rest of the world is fairly easy, just keep your mouth shut and listen. I am afraid we are not yet cynical enough to understand America.

Patrick Lang

Brad Ruble

Cynicism has nothing to do with it. Realism is everything. pl



Your post brings up two questions I have regarding a potential withdrawal from Afghanistan. The questions are more general about the attitude and views of military personnel in general but apply to specific individuals such as John Nagl.

My first question is about the attitude of active duty military personnel especially senior officers who are in a position to influence our policy. I understand that “the mission” is the holy grail for an officer. In general the mission could always be defined as “defeat the enemy” but I understand it is usually a more specific task such as “take and secure hill XYZ”. Obviously a key question is what was/is the mission in Afghanistan. If the mission was to punish those who perpetrated 9/11, then “mission accomplished”. If the mission is to prevent such an attack from ever happening again and/or to stabilize Afghanistan with a friendly government (i.e. nation building) then those missions are unobtainable. My question is how to we deal with the military attitude of “mission creep” and/or having to admit a mission is unobtainable?

I have the highest regard for our military, their focus on “mission” and their “can do” attitude. But in some instances, like Afghanistan, when the mission is fuzzy, gets continually redefined or is simply not realistic, these strengths can be a problem. How should a civilian leaders deal with that?

Second, I understand that a "retreat" is one of the most difficult and potentially costly military maneuvers. While some suggest we should just declare victory and withdraw, we in fact will be withdrawing in the face of a hostile opponent who has made clear recently they will continue to be aggressive, even more so, as we withdraw. (Why can’t the Taliban understand if they just lay low, “give up” for a year or two at most, we’ll be out of there and it’s all theirs?). My question is how should we execute the withdrawal to minimize casualties and what level of casualties should we expect in the process? My concern is that we will experience increased casualties as we withdraw and that will increase and motivate the opposition to withdrawal.

Thank You


What an informative post!

This sentence, for me (among many others, because the whole post is must read), stands out:

"Traditional colonial methods of "divide and conquer" (the "awakening" and the Sons of Iraq) did that."

Iraq and Afghanistan would look decidedly ordinary to history's great colonial powers. They would be amazed to hear that these adventures are not colonialism of the most vanilla sort.

We want to continue to have troops in Iraq? Please, please, please. This isn't colonialism?

And colonialism has a very sordid and failed history. Countries that were former colonies tend to have done very poorly for a long period of time. Algeria, etc. Perhaps, Pakistan is the best current example.

And then you have the almost worshipful article in the NY Times about the increasing use of drones in warfare, whose subtext is, "Afghanistan may look like a disaster, but check out all the cool weaponry we're developing there."

Sure. Of course, the Chinese couldn't do the same thing. It's very reminiscent of the "Missile Gap". Wait until there is a "Drones Race". Is that a dragonfly in my backyard or a Chinese Dragon?

Patrick Lang


Four star generals are not just "take the hill" people. As their role has evolved in our system, they have become dominant participants in the making of national policy. This is completely at odds with american tradition. Obama does not seem to have the spine to order them to do his will. he has all the authority to do that and can fire or retire any or all of them at will. He either lacks the guts to impose his will on them or is the head NEOCOIN himself. Unless we make a deal with the Taliban we will be withdrawing under pressure no matter what the "schedule." We are not going to defeat the Taliban. what we call the Taliban are really a myriad of Pushtun groups. pl



Complex Human Systems are like Gyroscopes. They keep spinning and going in the direction they were pushed until they run out of energy and topple.

The Afghan War has been spinning for a decade fueled by free money borrowed from China. Never enough troops to get to the COIN goal of one Soldier per 40 Natives but billions for Contractors.

The EU and Obama/GOP Austerity Programs combined with all the fictional money bet on derivatives in the Wall Street Casino plus the trillions lost in housing equity mean that the day the facade crumbles is near. With the elite politicians disdain for their citizenry, the troops will be drawn back to the Homeland as soon as possible to get the one cop/soldier per 40 citizen goal to keep a lid on the unrest.

Today the Post Office stopped paying into the Federal Pension Fund; although, the Postal Employees pay will still be deducted. The cracks are showing. The Wars are over. The only question is the Date.


Is it not possible that Nagl has simply reached the understanding with himself that the end of our involvement in Afghanistan might mean the end of av lucrative career and, at least, the illusion of some sort of grandeur?

With regard to whistle pigs, I have reached the third stage.



Imagine the uproar if Obama ordered all current 4 Stars of all branches to the 'retirement line', and prohibited from 'any' interaction with national policy after their retirement. Imagine their outrage at a President telling them what to do. I could just see the expressions on those 3 Stars and below, some smiles and some throat gulping. Ridding the branches of their top heaviness would cause some consternation, but maybe that is what is needed, a really awakening shake-up.

robt willmann

Was your debate with Nagl about Afghanistan policy recorded or transcribed? If so, can it be located and obtained or downloaded?


A couple of days ago while mowing the lawn I saw a ribbon snake speeding away from the mower. I stopped till it got clear then continued on. I don't have much of a feeling of warmth for snakes, but they are living creatures and quite marvelous when you think about it a bit. I wont needlessly kill a miracle so I waited until it was safe. I'm not a stereotype animal rights person and I do carry a rifle with me as I walk the woods at times when bears are active. I would protect myself if necessary. It was not necessary to kill the little snake.

It seems that every few days I hear or read a report of a suicide bomber killing some number of people and I try to hesitate and devote a few moments of reflection on those people who have died in that mindless hostile act. I try to imagine the person, remember that they all had aspirations, hopes, saw a future for themselves. I try to imagine their family and experience the hole left when a person is killed. I know that my little ritual matters not a whit to anyone in Washington, but I think that they should do the same. I mean really to try being that person or their family and feel the grief, snuffing out of a young life, the brutal finality of it. If they'd do that rather than just spout some lip-spoken words perhaps they would actuate themselves to end these wars.


The response to Colin is must read also. Not that anyone would not read it.

Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth. And in this case, it isn't even improbable.

Obama is the head NEOCON. Theoretically, he may not know it. In which case, he isn't mentally fit to be President, which I suspect is very close to the truth.



My batting average is pretty good. Nearly 1.000... wrong.

So Obama is in the Times as having gone against Petraeus to draw down 30,000 troops in one year from Afghanistan.

Patrick Lang


That is why I am waiting to see what he really says tonight. pl

Patrick Lang


I fear that is true. Congratulations about the WPs. Your status as a human is evolving. pl

Patrick Lang

robert willmann

"IQ2 Debate New York City 6 October 2009"

It is in their archive under foreign policy debates. pl


J - that's just the Awakening America needs.

Arbogast, I'll be celebrating our independence for our former colonial masters on the 4th.


Wow! Your comment about Nagl vis-à-vis John Paul Vann struck a chord.
Thank you always for your ever-erudite insights.



I take it that you are an American Indian. Britain is no more our former colonial master than the tooth fairy.

The American Revolution was about which group of Brits got to colonize North America.

Just like the so-called French Revolution was about which group of bourgeoisie got to rape France.



Not much American Indian in me. The Brits had colonized America long before 1775. The Dutch got to NYC first and there were plenty of Germans (from the various prinicpalities since 'Germany' didn't exist yet) in the colonies of Pennsylvania and New York.

I simply wanted to point out that the US had it's own war for independence. Globalization and central government support for monopolies(The East India Company)was a factor then just as it was in the 1950s and 1960s and still is today.

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