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Some Foreign Policy Problems Are Hard To Bomb Your Way Out Of

The recent collateral damage and refugee problems from the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are more proof that some foreign policy situations are very difficult to simply bomb your way out of. One commenter yesterday even suggested that the American news media was somehow responsible for the American loss in the Vietnam Civil war. However, the fact is that the U.S. was battling an intense will of nationalism on the part of the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. Further, despite military action since the early 60's in Vietnam all the way until 1973, the U.S, made little headway against North Vietnam and Viet Cong forces operating in the South no matter how much bombs were dropped. The Public simply lost their support for a war that could not be won how it was being fought.afghanistan bombing.jpg

The cold hard fact is that the U.S. dropped 7.8 million tons of bombs during the Indochina War, which was far more than the 2.7 million tons of bombs dropped by the combined Allied forces during the entirety of World War II, and yet this 7.8 million tons went nowhere towards resolving the war in Indochina. The fact of the matter was that the U.S. was killing thousands in Indochina each and every month, and 1.9 million total persons during the war, yet those death figures were nowhere near enough to win that war.

In the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is somehow hoped that dropping a bunch of bombs on religious radicals who believe they are called by God to establish his rule over the nations and challenge nations nations like the U.S. because they believe differently, will somehow win out. But dropping a lot of bombs didn't work in Vietnam.

Certainly the Taliban and Al Qaeda cannot be allowed to win out, or to threaten the U.S. or other nations with their exported brand of terrorism. However, history is not on the side of the U.S. winning wars against motivated low tech opponents. Some foreign policy problems are just too difficult to bomb your way out of.

The strength of the Taliban may now be at their peak in both Afghanistan and Pakistan despite military efforts to stomp them out. So far the current military strategy hasn't really worked to stop the Taliban. And Pakistan has the seventh largest military in the world combating these Taliban forces.

Winning wars against such low tech motivated foes are very difficult for the U.S. despite new advances in technology or new generals with new war strategy plans. Will the Taliban and Al Qaeda ever be defeated. They need to be. But can they be defeated?

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Comments (9)

Mac Lorry:
Winning wars against such low tech motivated foes are very difficult for the U.S. despite new advances in technology or new generals with new war strategy plans. Will the Taliban and Al Qaeda ever be defeated. They need to be. But can they be defeated?

The main disagreement I have with your analysis is the idea that "low tech" is some defense against high tech; it's not. People still need to eat and they need supplies to fight and one of the classic military tactics is to cut off the enemy's supply lines, which is not hard to do for a high tech force such as the U.S. military. The problems we faced in South Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now in Pakistan is that the combatants hide among the civilian population. Even when we have good intelligence and drop a precision bomb on a single building, the insurgents or their agents greatly exaggerate the loss of innocent lives knowing the U.S. media is full of useful fools and that the political left is anti-war if not outright sympathetic to the insurgents. In time that erodes political support for the "war" back in the U.S.

In an insurgent war you cannot just bomb the place flat like we did in Germany in WW2, which means you need highly trained troops on the ground to "police" the area under attack. Being the insurgents have money to spread around, local police and troops are easily corrupted. That means U.S. troops on the ground and that means some U.S. troops coming home in coffins, which the useful fools in the media take pictures of and plaster on the front page. The actual number of U.S. dead is not all that important as a single coffin can fill the entire frame of a photo and crying family members of even one dead soldier are enough for the network news sound bite.

Obama will find that winning in Afghanistan and Pakistan takes one thing the U.S. no longer has enough of, guts. That means he'll have to make a deal with the Taliban that the U.S. will let them rule Afghanistan and Pakistan if they give up all nuclear weapons and prevent terrorism from being exported. We must make it clear that if they fail to do these two things than the U.S. will be back, but not as liberators or occupiers, nor even as conquerors, but as destroyers. Of course, given our history, they likely think that's a bluff.

Paul Hooson:

Hello Mac, my best guess is that the battle in neither Afghanistan or Pakistan will be won in an eight year Obama presidency, or in another eight year presidency. These type of guerrilla wars, especially where both religion and nationalism are involved are very difficult to win, and leave lots of collateral damage in the process, tearing down any support among the larger populace. Of all the Obama goals, this will be the most difficult to achieve. Even repairing the economy will be far easier by comparison. Maybe that's why it's fun to write about 730 horsepower Isettas sometimes.


Please clarify something for me. The war on terror is over. I know because I read about it's end on this very blog back in Feb.
Why are we still in Afghanistan at all? There are no more terrorists, so what is our concern with the Taliban, AQ or anyone else in the midlle or near east?

Lee Ward:

Yep - the phony lie aka "The War on Terror" is over:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the Obama administration had dropped "war on terror" from its lexicon, rhetoric former President George W. Bush used to justify many of his actions.

"The (Obama) administration has stopped using the phrase and I think that speaks for itself. Obviously," Clinton told reporters traveling with her to The Hague for a conference on Afghanistan, which Bush called part of his "global war on terror."

The term "war on terror" was coined after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, which were planned in Afghanistan by the militant group al Qaeda.

The phrase was strongly criticized by human rights groups who said it was used to justify many actions, such as the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison for detainees held without trial at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba.

Internationally, the phrase was seen by critics as a "with-us-or-against-us" philosophy, overly dependent on military force and what many Muslims decried as an attack on Islam.

Since taking office on January 20, Obama has moved swiftly to reverse some of Bush's practices, ordering the closure of Guantanamo within a year and an end to harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.

"I have not heard it used. I have not gotten any directive about using it or not using it. It is just not being used," said Clinton when asked whether the term had been officially dropped by the Obama administration.

Now, under Democrats, were just taking care of business. General Petreus announced today that Al Qaeda has been vanquished from Afghanistan.

The head of U.S. Central Command said Sunday that Al Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan, with its senior leadership having moved to the western region of Pakistan.

Gen. David Petraeus said affiliated groups have "enclaves and sanctuaries" in Afghanistan and that "tentacles of Al Qaeda" have touched countries throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. But he said the terrorist group has suffered" very significant losses" in recent months, and agreed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent assessment that there is no Al Qaeda based in his country.

Another "Mission Accomplished" but this time it isn't just Republican bullshit.

Bush failed for 7 years, and Obama cleaned up this part of the Republican mess in about 110 days.

Typical... but examplar of the way the phony "War on Terror" wasn't a war on terror at all - just another Republican LIE. They failed for 7 years to accomplish what Obama accomplished in about 16 weeks....

...while he rebuilt the crumbling economy left behind by Bush and the rest of the Republican clowns we chased out of Washington last November.

Mac Lorry:
Another "Mission Accomplished" but this time it isn't just Republican bullshit.

Having stopped using the term "war on terror" will be Obama's "Mission Accomplished" gaff if there's another attack on U.S. soil. It will look like Obama dropped the ball and cost xxx number of Americans their lives.

Bush failed for 7 years, and Obama cleaned up this part of the Republican mess in about 110 days.

That's one way of looking at it Lee, but it's just a valid to say Al Qaeda is on the move with, or in control, of the Taliban. In just 110 days Obama has lost much of Pakistan to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, something Bush was able to prevent for 7 years.

...while he rebuilt the crumbling economy left behind by Bush and the rest of the Republican clowns we chased out of Washington last November.

What do you mean rebuilt? Sounds like another "Mission Accomplished" gaff. Even Obama is indicating we're still feeling for the bottom. And if you think Republicans alone caused the economic crises you're more deluded than Nancy Pelosi.


Another "Mission Accomplished" but this time it isn't just Republican bullshit

So Lee, Please tell me why the troops are not on their way home? Why aren't the troops in Iraq on their way home?


Funny how the war's miraculously over now that Obama is following Bush's policies regarding the war. Most of the "civilian" casualties are either killed by the taliban/al quaeda and blamed on american troops, or are themselves "civilians" counted as innocents (none of them have uniforms on). I remember reading a couple of years ago about us dropping a bomb on 33 innocent civilians at a funeral. Turns out that all of them were key taliban leadership. Press bought it hook, line, sinker. Not one retraction printed, caught a blurb in a military publication 4 months later that a different country's intelligence service had intel identifying them all as talabanis. But we're the bad guys. The talibanis and AQ use willie pete, but everybody out there in the press is talking about how american soldiers are burning people alive. Oh, and by the way, statistically speaking, Tet was a complete military disaster. Huge casualties for the NVA and Viet Cong. PR wise, huge victory because a sympathetic press convinced america the war was lost. War is always horrible, but is it the most horrible thing? Isn't little girls having acid thrown in their faces just for going to school worse?

Paul Hooson:

Chad, wgo claimed that this War On Terrorism is over? I haven't heard such a claim by anyone. Further, the Tet Offensive involved 800 coordinated attacks on cities, towns and villages that the U.S. forces were totally unprepared for. Although the U.S. repelled these attacks, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were still able to sustain big battlefield losses and continue their fight. That was clearly a moral victory for them. There was no way that the U.S. press could ignore the scope of so many coordinated attacks like that. It was a huge military achievement despite as many as 670,000 American troops in Vietnam or on Navy ships in the region. Like Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was unprepared for this giant attack and took heavy losses. Our intellegence was unable to break the codes that the Vietnamese fighters used to make their battle plans. You simply cannot lay blame on the American press for all this failure, can you?


I'm not saying that the Tet offensive wasn't a surprise. I'm just saying that it wasn't a military victory for the NVA and Viet Cong. Out of 800 attacks which were supposed to completely over-run all of the american bases and destroy the south vietnamese government, how many succeeded? If I'm making the count out of military history documents correctly, about 6. The US Embassy was hit badly, but was retaken shortly. Most of the targets were successfully defended. Yes, it was costly, but far more so to the NVA and Viet Cong. And with very little to show for a huge loss in trained and experienced fighters. The NVA and Viet Cong were incapable of co-ordinated offensive action for most of the next year. That is a huge loss in efficiency and material. The Vietnam war was not lost on the ground, skies, or sea of Vietnam. It was lost here, in the hearts and minds of the american public. The images that were sent home during the tet offensive were aimed at getting our people to withdraw our troops. I wasn't around at the time, but I study military history voraciously, and it's obvious that taking those kind of casualties with those few missions accomplished was as clear cut of a defeat as you can find. Had it not been for a sympathetic press, we could have seen that this was a serious defeat for the enemy, instead it was portrayed as a loss because of "heavy casualties". That's what happens when the enemy attacks, casualties go up. Compared to the casualties inflicted on the enemy, well, they got their asses handed to them. Oh, and don't you read Lee's posts. Back in February-March timeframe, he notified us that the war on terror was over. The President's office has said that there is no more "war on terror". There are only overseas contingency operations.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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