Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

February 17, 2009

Col. Ralph Peters: Escape the Afghan Quagmire Before It's Too Late

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:41 pm

I’ve always felt Col. Ralph Peters was one of the better military analysts on Iraq. He saw the failure of pre surge policies, backed Petraeus and Odierno and the new counter insurgency methods which (along with more than a bit of bribery) brought at least the potential for stability to Iraq. He’s no shrinking violet when it comes to the intelligent use of force where it can serve our interests and attainable ends.

All the more reason for us to pay attention to his stunning–and to me persuasive–argument in todays New York Post–that we shouldn’t become “Pakistan’s U.S. POW’s” in Afghanistan. That it’s time to get out now.

It’s sad and tragic that it may be too late, Obama’s spokesman, later in the day, announced an additional 17,000 troops being sent to join the 30,000 already sending Americans home dead and wounded in an unwinnable tribal war undermined by our our “ally” Pakistan whose intelligence service, the sinister ISI created the Taliban, and who just freed the single most dangerous man on the planet (no, not Osama bin Laden, but nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan).

It’s sad and tragic that the dynamics of the Presidential campaign, with Obama feeling he had to prove he could be “tough” to counterbalance his waffling on the surge in Iraq, “adopted” Afghanistan as his war.

But Peters piles up enough reasons in his column for one to feel we have to stop this quagmire committment before it turns into Vietnam. It’s sad and tragic that some liberal bloggers like Matt Yglesias, deceived by the success of the counter intelligence strategeies of the surge (which they refused to believe in while it was working in Iraq) now think it’s going to be Obama’s magic weapon in Afghanistan. Surge tactics, Peters, convincingly argues, are not transferable.

He says get out, and get out now and if the Afghans misbehave outside their miserable borders, we have ways of punishing them. It’s a powerful argument. Read the whole column and if you have a better plan for staying in, tell us what it is. Tell the families of the G.I.’s who will be killed and torn to pieces in service of it.



  1. Believe me, I’m delighted Obama won over the ancient McCain. However, I think we’re seeing evidence that as president there’s nothing new or different about Obama. It’s more of the same. Add to that I concern I have regarding the Obama team’s ability to use power. The variety of cabinet and other senrior level appointment screw-ups was worrisome.

    Comment by Chris H. — February 18, 2009 @ 7:58 am | Reply

  2. well, Obama is bombing Pakistan every day and Senator Feinstein revealed the existence of our CIA base there. The President is giving Hillary Holbrooke carte blanche. One thing about Obama: he believes everything he promised and he promised to take out the terrorists in Pakistan

    Comment by charlie finch — February 18, 2009 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  3. “[W]affling on the surge” is an unfortunate turn of phrase, inasmuch as it suggests a somewhat revisionist view of the US adventure in Iraq. It is important to be clear-eyed about why we are in Iraq, and what has happened there, because at virtually every turn the narrative has shifted– and the media has been fully complicit in allowing it to shift. Iraq had nothing to do with any terrorist threat to the US. The trumped up premise of this obscene war– the WMDs supposedly harbored by Saddam Hussein were merely the first of an escalating series of mendacious rationalizations. The surge was a continuation of this process– the war was a catastrophe, and a change in tactics was employed to paper over just how atrociously things had gone, were going, and were going to go for the foreseeable future. Just as “the surge” is code for, “see, we were right all along”, “[W]affling on the surge” should be read as “refusing to be lied to”.

    Among the tragedies of Afghanistan is that the proper resources (and commitment) were diverted from that effort into the Iraq campaign– not the least of which resources were the international support and good will which might have brought some benefit to the people who live there.

    Comment by Bill Altreuter — February 18, 2009 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  4. The biggest misconception about Iraq is that it was bad news that there were no weapons of mass destruction. First time in the history of war that those on the winning side, of all political stripes from Soros to Bush, whined that the other side did not have maximum firepower. Can you imagine the real whining if such weapons had been used on our troops? The whole idiotic WMD debate is an example of how inverted political discourse is among US elites and only the deligitamizing of said elites, the Davoses, the Clintonistas, the Rummies and all the hacks (Holbrooke, Mitchell) given new life by Obama can ive our country a renewal.

    Comment by charlie finch — February 18, 2009 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  5. As a Yankee, I’ve found the ancient idea of being solicitous of guests to be something where I am looking through a glass darkly. I suppose part of it, my dim sightedness, has to do with a post Civil War cultural memory of ‘if we’re running the country, then we”ll damn sure do it our (I’ll make it ‘my’) way.’ I begin, I think, to get a little better vision when we really do go to a foreign land. For all the heat about Iraq, for me that is a lot easier; we are returning it to (more) people in Iraq, from an evil dictator who might develop a great ability to do ‘even us’ harm.

    Our control of Afghanistan makes Afghans ‘guests.’ They want to make a living; the poppy sells best. So we are fighting against a great economic self interest that is not just that of one family or those that ally with him. Obama’s envoy there sees, cf., this as ‘the most foolish foreign policy,’ and I think there will be a turn from it.

    Comment by Michael — February 18, 2009 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

  6. It’s sad and tragic that the dynamics of the Presidential campaign, with Obama feeling he had to prove he could be “tough” to counterbalance his waffling on the surge in Iraq, “adopted” Afghanistan as his war.

    That’s one way of saying that Obama had so little integrity that he took positions he hadn’t thought through or didn’t believe in order to win the election regardless of impact on the country and the world.

    Comment by huxley — February 18, 2009 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  7. AQKahn is not the “most” dangerous future threat. The Chinese who agrred to the original transfer of technology, the Paks who agreed to build it without a threat to Pakistan and the Gulf States who financed it with our money and with no threat to themselves are the threat to all humanity. This is not Obi’s War any more than it was Bush’s War; it is the Brotherhoods War against us. We must stop finding excuses like the townsfolk in the movie High Noon. We cannot give them a victory in Pakistan or Afganistan any more than Marshall Will Kane could give them the corrupt and useless town. The town was not where he chose, it was where evil chose. Peters should know better.

    Comment by EdGi — February 18, 2009 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  8. Peters makes a good point. I personally believe that we have a better alternative, which is to kiss and make up with Russia after all the Neocon Bear-baiting of the Dubya era…so we have a secure logistics path through them rather than the Paki one which should effectively be written off. That we stay, but with small bases we set up on the fly to vex the Taliban which will be back in power or power-sharing soon – if they bring back terrorist sanctuary of foreign fighters.

    With a couple of big, easy to defend bases the temp bases would be set up off, with easy logistics through Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian nations, again with Russia’s blessing.

    It’s a powerful argument. Read the whole column and if you have a better plan for staying in, tell us what it is. Tell the families of the G.I.’s who will be killed and torn to pieces in service of it.

    I disagree with your last, not because of your argument but because you evoke the “Victim’s Family!!” argument as the be all and end all moral authority over any US policy. All too much of that crap about noble victim’s families from 9/11, Katrina, Vietnam Era, Cindy Shaheen’s group saying they dictate US Policy.

    F*ck Victims Families.

    They merit our sympathy, they do not merit demanding our deference to whatever they want. Lets also say that individual demand of Victimhood priviledgem, as in vote for me, I’m entitled to office because I suffered – John McCain, Mad Max Cleland, Cindy Shaheen, a professional 9/11 Widow, Tammy Duckworth, a “Katrina Survivor”.

    I reject all foreign policy and military action is automatically veto’d if somehow we Americans or politicians would be nervous about having angry family members of some volunteer soldier confront them. Who quite frequently come with the personal perspective that NOTHING was worth their beloved getting wounded, killed, or simply tremendously inconvenienced by long arduous deplyment and stress.

    Yeah, sorry for your loss, and its a shame that the risk didn’t balance out against the pay, benefits, and status your soldier got before things went bad..That’s tough..But trying to meet “Victim Family demands” is not how this country rolls. Your trooper might die, might die in a stupid action in an otherwise worthy war, or perhaps might not have if we spent 20 billion for a widget that might save 10 people in a war vs. spending that 20 billion on rural medical care for 11 million people…Sorry. But we wil go with what democratically elected leaders decide is the best foreign policy and what is in our nation’s vital interests, and your beloved will do their duty. They or you don’t like it, then get out or never join in the 1st place.

    “And if, as a Noble Victim Family member, you have a problem with how America rolls, then f*ck you..”

    Comment by cedarford — February 18, 2009 @ 10:46 pm | Reply

  9. As the father of two US paratroopers, who have served multiple deployments in Iraq, I read the article with great interest.

    Ralph Peters laid out the case very well. Without reliable supply lines there isn’t much we can expect to accomplish. With Pakistan against us and Russia making mischief, I’d say it’s definitely time to declare victory and get the hell out.

    Democrats aren’t good a fighting wars. If we stay, it will become another Vietnam. More and more troops sent in every year with heavy restrictions from Washington about what operations they can engage in. Without a major land invasion of Pakistan, the Taliban will always have a safe haven.

    Obama will have to prove his machismo, so I fear we’ll get a lot of our brave soldiers and Marines killed (for nothing) so the Messiah can demonstrate how tough he is.

    Comment by Pops in Vienna — February 19, 2009 @ 6:16 am | Reply

  10. I’ve been reading Peter’s essays faithfully, ever since I stumbled across his interview “The Shah always falls” years ago. Few things I’ve ever read have affected my thinking as deeply.

    I can’t say I’ve always agreed with Peters, but he is wise, and anything he has to say should be very carefully considered.

    Comment by class clown — February 19, 2009 @ 6:24 am | Reply

  11. Woodrow Wilson, 1916 campaign: “I will not send your sons to fight on foreign soil.” FDR, 1940 campaign: “I hate war” Obama, 2008 campaign: “Iraq is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Barack Obama spent six months, while he was student at Occidental College travelling around Pakistan with his three closet friends who were all Pakistanis. He will be the most hawkish President in memory.

    Comment by charlie finch — February 19, 2009 @ 9:25 am | Reply

  12. cc — Good pick! I found the Peters’ essay at cached link.

    I am certain that Obama’s hubris, naivete, and beholdenness to his anti-war base are going to get the US into big foreign policy trouble soon.

    I don’t think he will become extremely hawkish but he will act in impulsive, ad hoc ways that will weaken the US while confusing and destabilizing the rest of the world.

    Comment by huxley — February 19, 2009 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  13. Peters is opposed to counter-insurgency doctrine. He is of the “more rubble, less trouble” school. His praise for the surge related to killing more terrorists, as opposed to flipping the Anbar sheiks. I’m not an expert on this matter, but this forum link has some details on his differences of opinion with the surge.

    A better plan? Well, if we have to leave, we leave nothing behind. Oh, and we give Pakistan the shaft, cutting off our contacts and selling India the JSF. THe moment we leave Pakistan, they are nothing to us.

    Comment by OmegaPaladin — February 19, 2009 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  14. Pepperoni, 100s, extra cheese, 20s, no 50s! Tell the guy to yell up, the buzzer’s broken.

    Comment by Ace — February 20, 2009 @ 8:49 am | Reply

  15. Read the whole column and if you have a better plan for staying in, tell us what it is. Tell the families of the G.I.’s who will be killed and torn to pieces in service of it.

    Ron Rosenbaum — It’s Obama who is sending more men into Afghanistan, not your readers.

    You led cheers for Obama and presumably voted for him. What’s your plan? What do you intend to tell those families?

    How do you square this with all your claims for Obama’s intelligence and competence?

    Comment by huxley — February 20, 2009 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  16. What we are already seeing with Obama is Kissinger style realpoliticking: Hillary’s overture to China, Holbrooke’ macho posturing in Afghanistan, the idea that Mitchell’s IRA/Brit success can translate to the Palestinean problem, Steinberg’s emergence at State, the free hand to Gates to basically run the Pakistan war as he please, Blair and Jim Jones as mysterious, anonymous backstops and a beancounter, Panetta, at CIA to keep their leak happy bureaucracy content. It’s swarm of experience strategy with the policy insects picking off every possible scrap off the picnic table to make a foreign policy feast. No one sphere of influence (cf. Iran) demands concentration and our foreign policy becomes like a game of Diplomacy (the board game), shuffle troops, add money, subtract influence. The way things are going Obama is emerging as a foreign policy wizard and a domestic policy wanker. One cannot help but think that I knows that only an FDR style war economy wull draw us out of a Depression.

    Comment by charlie finch — February 20, 2009 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

  17. Foreign powers have failed in Afghanistan throughout history,most recently the British and the Soviets. Is there any reason to expect that NATO will fare any better? The reason for the original invasion was to remove a terrorist supporting regime and hunt down alQueda types. To these has been added “creating conditions for democracy”. It would take generations to establish such conditions. This isn’t really a country but a number of tribal groups with moral codes and traditions that are ancient and rigid.

    Comment by Wiseacre — February 22, 2009 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  18. Dear Col. Peters: I just watched you on Neil Cavuto. You were stating that terrorists should never have made it to Gitmo, that they should have been killed way before, are beyond humanity and are monsters; therefore, kill the monsters. I absolutely agree with you. They do not have a place in our society and I’m shocked that there are those who want to give them every constitutional right we Americans have including the right to house, feed and cloth them, a fair trial and their own attorneys at our expense. What is happening to this world?
    I say either keep them at Gitmo or move them into Barrack Obama’s backyard.

    Comment by Karen — May 26, 2009 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

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