In refining and repacking (for size) some of the "How Important Is Marjeh?" material for this week's column, I came to a new definition of "counterinsurgency" (below). It's worth emphasizing how very important our understanding of "counterinsurgency" is. Why, just today, Charles Krauthammer points out that "the 2009 U.S. military [is] the finest counterinsurgency force in history."
What does that mean? I'm sorry. After watching the Pentagon at work for the last eight-plus years, I have observed that "COIN" doesn't mean winning wars, it means "armed social work" for "hearts and minds," or "trust" of "the people." It doesn't lead to a VI Day or VA Day, it leads to endless, pointless, wasteful "nation-building." It is a big scam and Uncle Sam is the easy mark.
So much simpler (to say the least) to face the ideological facts, the legal facts, the historical facts and the religious facts that what we call "the West" and the Islamic world exist in dangerous opposition to one another -- just as the West and Nazism and the West and Communism exist(ed) in dangerous opposition to one another. This simple realization would change our strategy, our strategic alliances, our immigration polices, our energy policy, and Western civlization would actually survive this, yes, culture clash, relatively intact.
But we won't, not yet, and maybe not ever.
Barack Obama is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, to come home again starting in 2011.
Worse is the conservative reaction. The futility of "nation-building" in the Islamic world lost on the poor infidels, they deem the president's plan correct even if undermined by the exit date.
This means the leftist White House and the conservative opposition have signed the same suicide pact to sink this country ever deeper into the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
For no achievable thing.
Not that our military, unleashed, couldn't achieve whatever it wanted. Four years to roll back Nazi-occupied Europe, but eight years and counting to roll back Taliban-occupied bedrock? Today's military, of course, is and will continue to be tightly leashed, bound by criminally restrictive rules of engagement and strategies to serve an unproven theory of "counterinsurgency," a demeaning campaign to make 20-plus million Afghans like us more than jihad-happy Taliban drug-thugs, no matter what it takes in terms of billions of dollars and the blood of our bravest.
But this isn't a conventional war, critics say. There's no comparison between World War II and today.
You can say that again.
But why isn't there? Why couldn't there be? Or, to turn the question around, what if World War II had been fought as a counterinsurgency?
What if, instead of waging total war on the Axis powers -- firebombing and nuking German and Japanese cities and, in the process, killing tens of thousands of Germans and Japanese -- the Allies had tried something a little more postmodern? What if they had tried instead to win "Kraut" hearts and "Jap" minds?
What if Gen. Eisenhower, like Gen. McChrystal today in Afghanistan, had wandered through German towns, asking das volk, "What do you need?"
What if Gen. MacArthur, like Gen. McChrystal today, had emphasized Japanese population protection over U.S. force protection, ordering troops to guard "the people" from everything that could hurt them? What if U.S. forces had bought and paid for a Sunni-style "Nazi awakening"? What if Gens. Patton and MacArthur had rewritten constitutions to enshrine Nazism in Germany and Shintoism in Japan? What if the United States remained to protect the new governments from "extremists" who, as President Obama said this week, "distorted and defiled," respectively, their ideology and religion?
The East Coast would be speaking German, and the West Coast would be speaking Japanese.
Luckily, we didn't have proponents of "armed social work" pulling the levers back then, commanders who today see in every Taliban redoubt lollipop-ready customers for micro-loans -- if, that is, the troops can only survive the booby-trapped house-to-house searches to complete the necessary paperwork.
Take Marjeh, for instance. An enemy stronghold in Helmand province that doubles as a hub of the opium trade and a manufacturing center for IEDs (which cause more than 80 percent of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan), Marjeh is a much-discussed potential target for incoming reinforcements.
This promises to be a moral if not a strategic blunder. If Marjeh is so vital to the American war effort it should be bombed into surrender or smithereens, whichever comes first -- not seized in a casualty-costly ground assault.
And even then, as the Washington Post notes, any Helmand Province "gains will be transitory if U.S. forces do not build effective local police forces and foster a government that is relatively free of corruption and able to provide for the Afghan people, U.S. officials said."
Is that all? Anything else U.S. forces should do while they're at it? "Build" Hamid Karzai into Abe Lincoln? "Foster" the Taliban into the Viennese boys choir?
"This will be a credibility test for the (Afghan) government to see if it can deliver," said a spokesman for McChrystal.
A credibility test. To see if the government can deliver. Using flesh-and-blood Americans as game pieces. This is sickening and sick.
Meanwhile, the U.S. claims it will enlarge the Afghan Army, now overestimated at 90,000 strong, to 134,000 troops, not by 2014 as projected, but by next fall. To that end, Afghan forces received a 40 percent pay raise, bringing pay "literally ... to parity with what the Taliban are offering," said one official.
Wait. Soon we'll be throwing in a signing bonus of 72 virgins.
Only don't forget what the Sergeant Major says: "You can rent an Afghan, but you can't buy him."