Can the U.S. Military Achieve Victory in Afghanistan?
(Photo by Robin Holland)
In this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers sat down with historian, retired Colonel, and military expert Andrew Bacevich to discuss America's "long war" in Afghanistan, which is now in its ninth year.
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, President Obama said in a speech to U.S. troops that the war is a "vital mission" and that he is determined to achieve victory:
"Your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America's safety and security... If this region slides backwards, if the Taliban retakes this country and al Qaeda can operate with impunity, then more American lives will be at stake... You will be backed up by a clear mission and the right strategy to finish the job, to get the job done. And I am confident all of you are going to get the job done right here in Afghanistan... That's why I ordered more troops and civilians here into Afghanistan shortly after taking office. That's why we took a hard look and forged a new strategy and committed more resources in December... Our broad mission is clear: We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies... There's going to be setbacks. We face a determined enemy. But we also know this: The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something. You don't quit, the American armed services does not quit, we keep at it, we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail."
Bacevich suggested U.S. military leadership has largely given up on the hope of a traditional military victory and that armed nation-building in Afghanistan is not an appropriate task for our troops:
"One of the most interesting and perplexing things that's happened in the past three, four years is that in many respects, the officer corps itself has given up on the idea of military victory... they say that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, that we will not win a military victory, that the only solution to be gained - if there is one - is through bringing to success this project of armed nation-building. What makes that interesting to a military historian of my Vietnam generation is that the collective purpose of the officer corps after Vietnam, this humiliation that we had experienced, was to demonstrate that war works, that war could be purposeful, that out of collision on the battlefield would come decision [and] victory... The officer corps has, I think, unwittingly forfeited its claim to providing a unique and important service to American society. Why, if indeed the purpose of the exercise in Afghanistan is - to put it crudely - drag this country into the modern world, why put a four-star general in charge of that? Why not put a successful mayor of a big city? Why not put a legion of social reformers? Because the war in Afghanistan is not a war as the American military traditionally conceives of war."
What do you think?