Thursday, October 28, 2010

Same Old 'Song and Dance' Leads to Trouble

In Iraq you learn not to use the same route too often because the enemy will use it as an ambush point. A man sitting in a cave in the remotest corner of the world could very easily predict the general ‘route’ of the GOP response to a terror attack on America. Once you know the general thrust it becomes easy to develop a plan to respond to the response. Muhammad Ali called it the “Rope-a-dope”. When they think they have you where they want you, you actually have them exactly where you want them: ten years in Afghanistan, seven years in Iraq, five thousand American soldiers dead, and billions of dollars spent. The most important goal: bring terrorism into the lives of average Americans in order to affect the political process by creating internal turmoil. Mission accomplished.

Since 9/11, Republicans have tried hard to build the myth they are strong on terrorism and national security issues. The positions that conservatives take regarding our national security are out-dated and predictable, especially in a world where the enemy doesn’t play by old rules. These ideas will get you ambushed. What America needs is fresh thinking on national security, not the same old Republican song and dance.

Republicans say “I’d rather fight them over there than over here.” They would rather have it that way too; it’s much easier to fight us on their home turf than for them to continually plan terror attacks that take years to put in place and are often discovered at their genesis.

I can’t claim to speak for all veterans, but I know enough who agree our response to 9/11 with a GOP administration at the helm was not well planned or executed. It was based upon assumptions made from experience that didn’t apply to the Middle East and the military maxim that every Army Private knows “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” wasn’t followed. The grounds for the Iraq war were non-existent and the opportunity for success in Afghanistan was missed when focus was diverted from it.

This is not a strong showing from a Republican party that claims to be strong against terrorism and national security. Now that the war in Iraq is winding down and General Petraeus has the pieces in place to be successful in Afghanistan, America needs to give its commanders and troops the chance to succeed.

If we have learned anything over the last decade it is that it takes more than “Manoeuvre warfare” to win. It takes building trust and relationships and understanding that you cannot guarantee security for citizens from inside fortress walls. It means using restraint of force and building local security capacity. In Afghanistan, you control only the ground you’re standing on and you can’t do that from Kabul. We have also come to understand that we cannot see Afghanistan and Pakistan as two separate problems, but we do have two different relationships with their governments.

Besides projecting our strength overseas, a progressive view addresses our weaknesses. In the past weeks there have been multiple attacks in Pakistan against NATO fuel convoys. The Taliban have latched on to the strategy of the Iraq insurgency: catch the tiger by his tail. One in twenty-four military convoys end with the death of one of our troops. Up to 80% of the load of those convoys is fuel. America’s dependence on oil is a strategic liability, but one being addressed by a forward-thinking military that’s slashing dependence on oil.

That liability for our troops is also a strategic liability for America at home. We send billions of U.S. dollars to the Middle East for oil and some of it invariably ends up in the hands of those that support terrorism. The average American inadvertently contributes every time they buy gas. There is agreement in all camps that the issue must be addressed along with responding to conflicts accelerated by climate change, such as the Pakistan floods where the Taliban and Al Qaeda are offering aid to victims America isn’t reaching and ‘winning hearts and minds’ away from us.

America has learned much in the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan and it will take continued fresh, forward thinking to secure victory there, not the same old song and dance and Cold War thinking offered by Republicans. America wins when it changes its strategy to address a changing world. Going back to the recycled ideas of the GOP and predictable conservative policies would be a strategic mistake.