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The Forever Wars of Frederick & Kimberly Kagan

A recent op-ed [1] in the Washington Post by Kimberly and Fred Kagan argues “Why US troops must stay in Afghanistan.” The article demonstrates clearly that the number-crunching Kagans know exactly how many combat and support troops it takes to man an army base in Jalalabad and they pile Pelion on Ossa to demonstrate how a residual force of roughly 34,000 US soldiers can “continue to conduct counterterrorism operations in Southeast Asia” after 2014. They conclude “the United States can stabilize Afghanistan if it maintains around 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan into 2014, dropping to over 30,000 thereafter … the idea that the war is inevitably lost is a convenient mask behind which decision makers hide to deflect responsibility for pulling out troops who are making a real difference. We have argued that the current defeatism about Afghanistan is overdrawn and unfounded … .” We cannot “abandon the fight against al-Qaeda and its allies in South Asia.”

But the op-ed also demonstrates that the Kagans continue to be clueless over the question they raise in their title: “why” we Americans are in Afghanistan at all and they fail to demonstrate any understanding of how outside forces can impact on a limited military presence’s viability in a foreign land. They make the same mistakes in their predictions of the likely course of developments as they did regarding Iraq. Like the Iraqis, the Afghans will have a say in their future and might not like the idea of continuing to grant legal immunity to a foreign occupying force. Nor does it appear that the perpetually rebuilding Afghan army will ever be battle ready, meaning that the American soldiers will become trapped in their bases, hostages to Afghan internal politics. Like it or not local sentiment does matter, even to a superpower, and it can serve to derail the best laid plans of the Kagans and Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The stay-in-Afghanistan crowd generally argues that a continued presence is necessary to stop Afghanistan from becoming a failed state that would permit the return of terrorist groups. But Afghanistan is already a failed state if measured by massive corruption, its narco-economy, and the inability of the central government to control much of the country. Even if the Taliban returns it will undoubtedly have learned the lesson of 2001 and would not invite a return by U.S. forces by giving groups like al-Qaeda a safe haven, so the continued occupation serves no meaningful objective.

And what of the terrorist threat itself? By the government’s own reckoning in its annual report [2] on global terrorism, the al-Qaeda remnant in Afghanistan-Pakistan is a spent force that has been largely decapitated, suffers from poor morale and is only locally and intermittently funded. Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in places like Yemen and the Maghreb are far more formidable, but even including the threat they pose the Obama Administration is reported [3] to be considering an end to the military-based approach against them that has been in place since 2001, replacing it with conventional intelligence and law enforcement. So why maintain the equivalent of two U.S. Army divisions in an unstable country where the local populace is far from friendly just to “fight against” a threat that approaches insignificance. Obviously there is no reason to do so.

That the Kagans are beating the drum for war and still more war is not surprising as that is how they make a living, but it is more disturbing when newspapers and media outlets that pretend to be reputable persist in providing a forum for their cheerleading. The Kagans are likely familiar to many readers of TAC, having been leading neoconservative spokesmen since 9/11. Kimberly is currently president for the oddly named Institute for the Study of War while Fred, who claims to have been a co-creator of the surge policy that was applied in Iraq, is the director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. Fred’s brother Robert is at the Brookings Institution and has also been a foreign policy adviser to both John McCain and Mitt Romney.

The Kagans are classic neocon entrepreneurs who rely on nepotism and cronyism to work their way through the system. Kimberly studied ancient history at Yale under Donald Kagan and then married his son. She is now billed as a “military expert” by the neocon media in spite of her lack of any actual military experience. Kimberly and Fred have together attached themselves firmly to the COIN counterinsurgency strategy and to the surge tactics as well as to two of its leading proponents, General Stanley McChrystal and General David Petraeus. Kimberly has written a book [4] glorifying Petraeus entitled “The Surge: a Military History.” For the neocon Weekly Standard she wrote a hagiography [5] of the plodding General Raymond Odierno called “The Patton of Counterinsurgency” which might well be considered a comedy piece but for the fact that it was serious. Fred and Kimberly write mostly about the Middle East, but they do not appear to have working knowledge of either Farsi or Arabic, like many of the other neocon so-called experts, so their knowledge is derivative.

The Kagans became War on Terror frontline personalities when General McChrystal included them in a commission to conduct a sixty day review intended to devise a formula to repeat an Iraq style surge to win in Afghanistan. It is important to note that the advisory group was selected to reflect a certain diversity of opinion in tactical terms, but no one was selected to represent an alternative viewpoint, i.e. that the US should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. It was a group designed from the start to say “yes.”

After McChrystal committed himself to surging 40,000 more troops to win in Afghanistan, Kimberly and Fred embarked on a media campaign to sell the concept. Kimberly, described as a McChrystal adviser, appeared [6] on ABC news saying “Those forces would go in, they would protect the population they would interact with local elders, village elders, try to figure out who those bad guys are in those communities and figure out different ways of making those communities safe.” On CNN she explained [7] that “What 40,000 does is fill in the gaps around Kandahar, around Khost and Helmand Province. It does not, however, cover the entire country.” She supported full deployment of the precise number 40,000, just as she is now pushing for “over 30,000”, because “It’s not as though we can simply plug half as many holes with half as many troops and somehow seize the initiative from the enemy. On the contrary, half as many troops will probably leave us pinned down as we are.”

The two Kagans, enthusiastic cheerleaders for overthrowing Saddam Hussein back in 2003, seem to have short memories and they have been dead wrong about Iraq. In an op-ed [8] in the Washington Post on the impending US departure from Iraq in December 2011 they described five “American core interests” in the region. They were: that Iraq should continue to be one unified state; that there should be no al-Qaeda on its soil; that Baghdad abides by its international responsibilities; that Iraq should contain Iran; and that the al-Maliki government should accept US “commitment” to the region.

But looking back a bit, in 2003 Iraq was more unified and stable than it is today; there was no al-Qaeda presence; Saddam abided by a sanctions regime imposed by the UN; and Iraq was the principal Arab state restraining Iran. Then, as now, the US was clearly “committed” to the region through the presence of its armed forces and one should add parenthetically that Iraq in no way threatened the United States, or anyone else. It was precisely the US invasion that dismantled the Iraqi nation-state, introduced al-Qaeda to the country, wrecked the nation’s economy, and brought into power a group of Shi’a leaders who are now much closer to Tehran than they are to Washington. So none of the five “core interests” have actually been achieved, or, rather, they have actually been reversed due to the invasion and occupation by the United States endorsed by the Kagans.

The Kagans also used their media access to promote the trajectory of General David Petraeus and reportedly also became his advisers when he moved to CIA, so it is apparent that being wrong repeatedly has no effect on one’s employability. Seeing Iraq as a stepping stone to war with Iran Kimberly once wrote a bizarre opinion piece [9] in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Second Iran-Iraq War” which repeated the Petraeus claim that Iran was responsible for most of the violence in Iraq and then went on to assert that the “US must recognize that Iran is engaged in a full-up proxy war against it in Iraq.” In her piece on the “Patton of Counterinsurgency” Kimberly shamelessly flattered Petraeus and his colleague Ray Odierno, “Great commanders often come in pairs: Eisenhower and Patton, Grant and Sherman, Napoleon and Davout, Marlborough and Eugene, Caesar and Labienus. Generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno can now be added to the list.” The deceased generals whom Kagan cites won their laurels by fighting against enemies who were as well armed, well equipped, and numerous as their own forces. They didn’t earn their stars and garters by bombing Fedayeen irregulars or arming and then bribing the insurgents to cease and desist as was done during the surge in Iraq. Far from being a respected battlefield tested soldier, Petraeus has only one decoration for valor, a somewhat dubious Bronze Star awarded [10] when he was already a general. He has never seen combat at a close and personal level. Nor has Odierno.

And so relying on such expert advice we might well soldier on in a war that the United States will inevitably lose. Only “over 30,000” more troops in Afghanistan in perpetuity and we will be just fine. The Kagans guarantee it.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

50 Comments (Open | Close)

50 Comments To "The Forever Wars of Frederick & Kimberly Kagan"

#1 Comment By Austin American On December 6, 2012 @ 6:54 am

More than most propagandists they rely on the amnesiac tendency of the public mind. And as several of the quotes above suggest, their stuff seems stale and over-the-top within months of being written. That gushing bilge on Petraeus and Odierno is priceless.

One looks forward to the day that people like this are registered as foreign agents.

#2 Comment By Run Run Shah On December 6, 2012 @ 7:14 am

The Kagans’ motto seems to be “a sucker is born every minute”. Prime candidates for Rod Dreher’s Bush List of a few weeks ago.

#3 Comment By Uncle Vanya On December 6, 2012 @ 7:34 am

One hopes the GOP, at least, will wake up.

A lot of their base refused to vote for Romney because of his association with the Kagan-cabal and will, in future, do the same for any other GOP candidate who walks hand-in-hand with these “people” giddy for war, war and more war.

#4 Comment By Clint On December 6, 2012 @ 7:54 am

Kagan along with his brother Robert Kagan, who is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, and their father Donald, are all signatories to the Project for the New American Century manifesto titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses.

None of these Kagans ever served in the military, let alone ever saw combat up close and personal.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 6, 2012 @ 10:21 am

I am just going get it off my chest as ofetn as possible: “Told them so.” We wanted about twenty players an we sent 80,000.

I don’t believe the war has to be lost. But I don’t we don’t have, nor did we have the will to do what would have been needed to acheive our grand strategic or political goals —

Unless we are willing to do what it takes, the best choice may be to partition a safe haven state as with the Kurds (I doubt that will pan out as we’d like.) in the hops that they will in time become an effectual society. And it may not even be our place to do that.

I have no doubt that somewhaere in the background (shadows) there are serious business interests that have visions of mineral and oil pipeline developments.

#6 Comment By tbraton On December 6, 2012 @ 11:40 am

A few months back, retired Gen. Jack Keane, another coauthor of the Iraq surge, was on the NPR program Talk of the Nation along with Andrew Bacevitch. At one point, Keane mentioned the need to maintain a “residual force” in Afghanistan even after “we pull out all our troops” by the end of 2014. When asked about the size of the “residual force,” Keane said “15,000 to 30,000.” I believe Keane and the Kagans talk frequently. That occurred a few weeks after the NY Times had a piece mentioning that the size of the residual force, first mentioned by Obama in the spring of 2012, was being discussed in the range of 10,000 to 15,000.

What I find astounding is that Obama has been given credit (by Gen.Colin Powell, among others) for speeding our withdrawal from Afghanistan more than two years before it actually happened and this was only after he greatly expanded the troop presence in Afghanistan and extended the war by at least six years. (More than 70% of American deaths in Afghanistan have occurred under Obama’s presidency.) I toss his speeding our withdrawal from Afghanistan in the same category as his saving the U.S. from a “second Great Depression” and his great contribution to world peace that was commemorated by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.

#7 Comment By AfghanWarVet On December 6, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

We need to get the hell out of that place. Afghanistan and it’s people offer the United States nothing! Washington is simply emptying the coffers of the American taxpayer by continuing this idiotic war. It is smoke and mirrors. There is no objective to achieve. Cronies like Petraeus say that “we have to win their hearts and minds” to win the war. That is totally insane. How can you base a military strategy on something so subjective and vague! It’s impossible to “win hearts and minds”. The Afghan people have to win their own hearts and minds, not our brave men and women in uniform. COIN strategy is an absolute failure. There is no ands, ifs, or buts about it. It promotes funneling American taxpayer dollars to the “Afghan economy” in order to foster relationship building. I can tell you from first-hand experience that our dollars go directly to Taliban and terrorist-linked organizations. Washington is directly funding the war against us! How many more American military members must die from “Green on Blue” violence or whatever it is they call it. The Afghans don’t want us there! They want to kill us! They have no allegiances and they share no values that our countrymen cherish. It is a losing proposition and has been from the very beginning. We need to get the hell out of there!

#8 Comment By T Paine On December 6, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

The afghan army is not as incompetent as is widely believed, and can probably hold out with some support. The reason that Af-Pak al qaeda/pakistani mujahedeen are so beaten up is the ongoing campaign that the american military/cia has been waging against them. End that campaign, and the ISI’s terrorist network will simply spin back into action and begin projecting power back into afghanistan. Without the bulwark of the drones on their eastern border, the afghan army has little chance.

We are still at something of a tipping point where afghanistan could go either way. It is no longer necessary to conduct massive operations there, but full withdrawal at this point looks foolish and irresponsible. Just because we are all tired of having soldiers overseas does not mean that the job is done. That the Kagans are loathesome creatures doesn’t change the facts on the ground. There is still much that could go wrong if we are too hasty about leaving the afghans to their own devices.

#9 Comment By Andrew On December 6, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

There is so much wrong and on so many levels with these two characters (The Kagans) that it is difficult to even pinpoint the actual starting point for discussion of their article’s (I did go and read that opus on WP site) cascading platitudes and cliches, as well as barely hidden resentment towards readers .

Amateurs can discuss imaginary, over-the-horizon “light footprint” strategies. Professionals must consider logistics. Physics and military reality dictate the minimum number of troops needed to have any U.S. presence in Afghanistan without inviting calamities worse than the events in Benghazi, Libya.

Since Kagans imply here that they are “professionals” and, consequently, the readers should be the amateurs, by using beaten to death cliche about tactics (in some versions–strategy, in others, like Rommel’s–quartermasters) and logistics, it would be a good idea for Kagans to take some serious classes in Calculus (especially Differential Equations and good ole Lanchester) and to get acquainted at least with the basics of the Theory Of Operational Research, the way it is taught in serious military academic establishments. Then, maybe, they will learn (don’t hold my breath, though) that serious operations’ planning (that is the one not on the platoon or battalion level) and the required force is calculated, how to put it politely, with more than just consideration of “military reality” (c), since assessment of this same “military reality” is the thing, which also dictates contingencies. So before military reality begins to “dictate” anything, serious militaries study reality itself. And there is a lot that goes into that study. Mentioning of physics is, certainly, cute but how about geography, hydro-meteorology and some other “disciplines”??

My problem here is not with the strategic decision, which Kagans push for–to stay in Afghanistan–however reprehensible it may be for some, if not many. I will abstain from discussing this. My problem here is with trivialization of the decision making process and floating of some off the wall number of troops (68, 000) which, I assume, Kagans calculated based on the platitudes and cliches they provided–all good for some pop-sci show on Military Channel designed for the consumption of the armed forces horny teenagers. Force size and operations they conduct are not simple numbers, let alone in the war without clearly defined objective (“military reality”) and a very complex cultural background . As for the (empirical) number (ratio) of the occupying troops to enemy, oh goody how many of those ratios are floating around nowadays : 6 to 1, 4 to 1, 3 to 1 and on, and on, and on. Yet, real military professionals (unlike Kagans) such as Lt.Colonel Davies in his article Truth, Lies And Afghanistan (in Armed Forces Journal) state this:

“when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start. “(c)

I am pretty sure that Lt.Colonel Davis has a much better grasp of war calculus (in literal sense also) than Kagans. But it also cannot hide the fact that if there are any amateurs here–those are The Kagans.

#10 Comment By James Canning On December 6, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

The Kagans do not want to accept the simple fact that the very presence of US troops in Afghanistan is part of the problem.

How many trillions of dollars has the US squandered due to bad advice from the Kagans?

#11 Comment By James Canning On December 6, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

Given the catastrophes suffered by American taxpayers due to pathetically bad advice from the Kagans, it is interesting how they continue to have considerable influence. How and why

Let’s remember that the Sunnis and Shias in Iraq were getting along much better, overall, in the years prior to the idiotic US invasion in 2003. Considerable intermarriage.

#12 Comment By James Canning On December 6, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

I too find it astounding that Obama gets credit for pulling US troops out of Afghanistan, when he blundered badly by trebling the US military presence in that country – – thanks to bad advice from General Petraeus, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates.

#13 Comment By Warren Bajan On December 6, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

Pairs of Generals:
Would you believe Petraeus and “Desert Ox” (Thankyou Jeff Huber) are Varro and Paullus, Burgoyne and Howe, Brunswick and Hohenlohe or Haig and Nivelle?

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 6, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

war is very serious business. And either we do a war required to pacify a nation or we pair down our objetives. But attempting to piece meal a natios as would kniw a quilt under the current circumstances seems fool hardy.

#15 Comment By Red Phillips On December 6, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

“Grant and Sherman?!”

Yeah, there’s a pair you want to emulate.

#16 Comment By tbraton On December 6, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

“It is no longer necessary to conduct massive operations there, but full withdrawal at this point looks foolish and irresponsible. Just because we are all tired of having soldiers overseas does not mean that the job is done. ”

What “vital national interests” does the U.S. have in that backward, landlocked Muslim country half a world away that would justify the loss of one American soldier? Why should Americans care about what goes on in Afghanistan? Shouldn’t those questions be answered before you do the complicated mathematical analyses to determine whether you can succeed in “winning” that war, which lost its point nine, if not ten, years ago?

#17 Comment By Josh Levy On December 6, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

Again TAC makes personal and unjustified attacks on political opponents merely because they are opponents. Here’s an example:

“The Kagans are classic neocon entrepreneurs who rely on nepotism and cronyism to work their way through the system. Kimberly studied ancient history at Yale under Donald Kagan and then married his son. She is now billed as a ‘military expert’ by the neocon media in spite of her lack of any actual military experience.”

No actual evidence of nepotism and cronyism is offered, only insinuation. And the little reasoning that exists is obviously flawed. You don’t need military experience to be a military expert. Otherwise a distinguished military historian such as John Keegan could not be considered an expert. Kimberly Kagan, although only 40, has written two books on military history as well as numerous essays, and founded a think tank for researching military affairs (the Institute for the Study of War), which she has headed since 2007. I’d say that qualifies her as an expert.

This article by Giraldi is not much more than puerile screaming and thrashing.

#18 Comment By Josh Levy On December 6, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

Clint,

Are only those who see combat “up close and personal” are qualified to decide whether the U.S. should go to war?

That would mean that no more than 8% of our population, if that (not all veterans have seen combat), would be allowed to vote on the matter.

#19 Comment By John Doe On December 6, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

Everyone knows the real reason that Americans oppose the war is because they do not want to spread gay rights and feminism to Iran.

#20 Comment By AnotherBeliever On December 6, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

I think Fred Kagan was one of the minds behind the Surge in Iraq. And the necessary extension of all troops there from 12 to 15 month tours. I remember that 15 month tour quite distinctly, and how we would sit and trade murderous thoughts about the author of that idea, that idea and the idea of “stop-loss.” AKA, stay in the military until we’re done with you, never mind what your enlistment contract says. So a bunch of had our deployment and enlistment lengthened within a very short time frame.

I completely agree that someone somewhere needs to sit and think through what our vital national interests actually are.

#21 Comment By Nick K. On December 6, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

Wouldn’t it be cool if the Kagans went on patrol in A-stan in order to boost their “street cred” with the other neocon fantasists? Wouldn’t it be even cooler if they took Max Boot with them?

#22 Comment By T Paine On December 7, 2012 @ 12:33 am

@tbraton

1) Our reputation. Immediate withdrawal would throw afghanistan into violent chaos, and we would be blamed for it. Even if one ignores the humanitarian consequences of such foolishness for the Afghans, themselves (who no one here seems to care about), it would make us look like callous cowards.

2) The terrorist training camps that flourished in the Af-Pak region before 9/11 haven’t been permanently defeated. If the US military disappears completely, they will come back. Pakistan will see to that.

3) Our relationship with India. Afghanistan without US troops would likely become the site of an expanded proxy war between India and Pakistan. Our continued presence there relieves pressure on the Indian government, and they are aware of this fact.

#23 Comment By Uncle Vanya On December 7, 2012 @ 9:03 am

Are only those who see combat “up close and personal” are qualified to decide whether the U.S. should go to war?…

This would go far toward improving our country’s leadership. To hell with all the chicken hawks calling the shots on the sidelines. If they had some real skin in the game, the thought of more wars wouldn’t always leave them panting with excitement.

#24 Comment By tbraton On December 7, 2012 @ 10:01 am

Afghanistan was engaged in a civil war for more than 20 years before we invaded after 9/11; it has continued to be involved in a civil war after we invaded; and it will continue to be involved in a civil war after we withdraw our troops. It is not a matter that concerns Americans which Afghan faction rules in Afghanistan.

Do you really think the Taliban is so stupid that it will allow new Al Qaeda training camps to be established in Afghanistan should it regain power in Afghanistan? If they do allow such camps, we merely bomb Afghanistan back to the pebble age.

Do you really think the U.S. should be losing American lives and spending billions of U.S. dollars in Afghanistan in order to prevent a future war between India and Pakistan? According to Wikipedia, “Since the partition of British India in 1947 and creation of India and Pakistan, the two South Asian countries have been involved in four wars, including one undeclared war, as well as many border skirmishes and military stand-offs. Additionally, India has accused Pakistan of engaging in proxy wars by providing military and financial assistance to violent non-state actors.” That line of thinking would permit the stationing of U.S. troops in numerous places around the world and our involvement in endless wars.

#25 Comment By tbraton On December 7, 2012 @ 11:18 am

A correction to my earlier post re Gen. Jack Keane. The Talk of the Nation program occurred on November 1, 2012, a little more than one month ago, and Keane suggested a residual force of “25 to 30,000 troops.”
[11]:

“BTW I was just listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR, and the topic is Afghanistan. I just heard Gen. Jack Keane (U.S. Army retired), one of the major proponents of the Iraq surge and the one in Afghanistan, state (at approximately the 2:35 mark) that, by the end of 2014, all of our forces will be “out of Afghanistan,” except for a residual force which will remain. He defined that residual force as “25 to 30,000 troops.” In other words, we will have, according to Gen. Keane, a force in Afghanistan after 2014 almost as large as the force that was there when Obama became President. Am I the only one who thinks that crediting Obama for “winding down the war in Afghanistan” is utterly insane? “

#26 Comment By Andrew On December 7, 2012 @ 11:30 am

Kimberly Kagan, although only 40, has written two books on military history as well as numerous essays, and founded a think tank for researching military affairs (the Institute for the Study of War), which she has headed since 2007. I’d say that qualifies her as an expert.

Expert in what? Military history, with which I, personally have no quarrels in this case, or, and here it comes, Operational Planning and Research. While the former is, definitely, a great thing to have in one’s background it does not in any way determines the expertise in the latter. In fact, those two fields are two different animals. To understand the significance of this difference one has to know what lays in the foundation of such things as combat tactical and operational manuals and what goes into them, and how they are incorporated into the planning (and execution) process of the superior staffs and what calculations go into this in justification of the decision on operation, let alone war (campaign). This is an incredibly complex and multifaceted process in which Ph.D in Military History could be plain simple irrelevant. One does not have to go too far to understand what it means–enough to take a look at the list of the academic courses in any respectable military academy of any first rate military power to see what goes into those courses. While having a study of military history, those courses are heavily loaded with the higher mathematics ranging from calculus to heavy study of statistics and probability, not to mention, especially in the case of navy and air force, huge emphasis on technological (with, applied, engineering accent) disciplines. This is not done for the reason that someone simply wanted to make the life of officers miserable, it was done to form the appropriate state of mind and to develop a necessary set of skills for modern warfare, which is an extremely complex matter. Understanding of it is paramount, especially on the level of military planners.

So, now some neo-cons, who already lost any credibility they may have had on Iraq, try to come up with some off the wall number for Afghanistan and tell that they know how to calculate it?? Sure (sarcasm), especially when the “specialist” in “Russian and Soviet military history” such as Frederick Kagan takes part. Clausewitz has a wonderful dictum (I am pretty sure Kagans know that): “It is legitimate to judge an event by its outcome, for this is the soundest criterion.”(c) The outcomes are really visible today for any unbiased observer. The role of those “ideologues” like Kagans in those outcomes is, also, very clear. So, do we have to trust their judgement in the matters of policy, strategy, operations and numbers?? The answer is obvious.

#27 Comment By James Canning On December 7, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

Perhaps one should note at this point that Russia and China, and Iran, have a larger stake in stability in Afghanistan, than does the US. Yet the Kagans want to continue to hose the American taxpayers.

#28 Comment By Common Sense On December 7, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

T Paine says – “1) Our reputation. Immediate withdrawal would throw afghanistan into violent chaos, and we would be blamed for it. Even if one ignores the humanitarian consequences of such foolishness for the Afghans, themselves (who no one here seems to care about), it would make us look like callous cowards.”

That’s OK. Our reputation is already in the toilet thanks to the way we’ve gone about this. And it makes us look even more callous to be killing innocent civilians, attracting fanatical foreign fighters, and paying off so many corrupt and rapacious Afghan officials and warlords.

2) The terrorist training camps that flourished in the Af-Pak region before 9/11 haven’t been permanently defeated. If the US military disappears completely, they will come back. Pakistan will see to that.

They’ll either flourish in Af-Pak or someplace else. After 11 years of failure it’s high time that we stopped bankrupting and making fools of ourselves and let India, China, Pakistan and Iran work out at a regional solution.

3) Our relationship with India. Afghanistan without US troops would likely become the site of an expanded proxy war between India and Pakistan. Our continued presence there relieves pressure on the Indian government, and they are aware of this fact.”

The most important factor contributing to conflict in this region is our destabilizing presence. Every regional actor knows this, India included. India doesn’t want us there, Pakistan doesn’t want us there. Afghanistan doesn’t want us there.

In brief, there is no downside to pulling out of Afghanistan immediately, unless you’re a defense contractor, a bribed Afghan official, or a neocon who wants to create lots of Moslem enemies for the United States so that we are forced into the same foxhole as the Israelis for another generation.

#29 Comment By Publius On December 8, 2012 @ 12:07 am

J. Levy wrote: ” You don’t need military experience to be a military expert.”

Actually, you do. In some cases it makes the difference between professionals who know what they’re talking about and liberal arts majors who leapfrogged the tough stuff into policymaking positions. You can be a military historian without military experience – and there are fine ones, the dire case of the Kagans notwithstanding – but military expertise requires experience. (Socrates, himself a veteran in case you didn’t know it, makes this point many times).

“This article by Giraldi is not much more than puerile screaming and thrashing.”

… and yet Giraldi has been right about almost everything the Kagans have gotten completely, dismally wrong. And there’s no reason to think that record will not be burnished in the years to come. Maybe that’s because Phil, unlike the Kagans, has real expertise? For a good example of “puerile screaming and thrashing” see “the real Iraq Study Group” nonsense that the Kagans circulated out a few years ago. Compare to reality, then come to Jesus and feel free to snigger like the rest of us.

#30 Comment By KenFriendly On December 8, 2012 @ 12:18 am

The Kagan’s don’t care about the disastrous results of their incompetent advice (see Iraq surge and aftermath), so long as American troops are standing between Israel and its enemies. That is the ultimate purpose of all of this. It has virtually nothing to do with US security, not in the region, and certainly not elsewhere in the world.

#31 Comment By tbraton On December 8, 2012 @ 8:52 am

“so that we are forced into the same foxhole as the Israelis for another generation.”

I can’t seem to recall any foxhole the Israelis have shared with American soldiers in Israel’s 64 year old history.

#32 Comment By JoaoAlfaiate On December 8, 2012 @ 10:32 am

tbraton: Unless it’s being hated by a billion Muslims…

#33 Comment By David Smith On December 8, 2012 @ 10:37 am

And, they could ask the British, who had plenty of experience in Afghanistan during the 19th and 20 centuries. That worked out well, didn’t it.

#34 Comment By McRoss On December 8, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

“I can’t seem to recall any foxhole the Israelis have shared with American soldiers in Israel’s 64 year old history.”

Too right. Fascinating, isn’t it? Our “most valuable ally in the region” never actually gets around to fighting shoulder to shoulder with us, does it?

No matter, our emerging alliance with Israel, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Canada and the Czech Republic will more than make up for the loss of dead weight old-school allies like Germany, Britain, France, Australia and Japan. We’re all going to forge each other’s passports and assassinate our enemies with drones.

#35 Comment By Joe Harris On December 8, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

South Asia, not Southeast Asia. I hope the editor’s mistake isn’t repeated in the print edition. If you’re to be taken seriously those things must not slip by. Easy to imagine someone stuck in the 1960s. Take it up a notch.

I prefer “southwest Asia” myself. Includes Pakistan & Afghanistan doesn’t leave out the source of so many problems.

#36 Comment By Leah On December 8, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

“2) The terrorist training camps that flourished in the Af-Pak region before 9/11 haven’t been permanently defeated. If the US military disappears completely, they will come back. Pakistan will see to that.

They’ll either flourish in Af-Pak or someplace else. ”

The reason they will flourish is not because of Pakistan, (although Pakistan’s ISI does have a close relationship with jihadist groups); but because of Saudi Arabian, Qatari, and other Gulf state funding. Saudi and Gulf donors are the biggest source of funding for al-Qaeda, according to American officials. There is also funding for madrassas, the factories for future terrorists, jihadists, Taliban, which comes from Saudi and Gulf sources.

Yet, America has a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. We give them military aid. It seems that America is indirectly funding the Islamist terrorists it pretends to fight. Is this a good thing for American interests or bad thing?

(This is the part where you blame Iran for everything)

#37 Comment By T Paine On December 9, 2012 @ 3:32 am

@Common Sense

That’s OK. Our reputation is already in the toilet thanks to the way we’ve gone about this.

No, our reputation was hurt by the Iraq war. Most of the world sees Afghanistan as a difficult but necessary conflict. Less so today than in 2002, but Afghanistan is not viewed as some great American failing, in large part because it is backed by the UN.

They’ll either flourish in Af-Pak or someplace else.

Except that they are not flourishing anywhere at the moment, in large part because the CIA pursues them wherever they go: Af-Pak, Somalia, Yemen, etc. You talk about “bankrupting ourselves”, but the specific benefit of using drones is that they are cheap. “Small footprint” solutions which leave a modest number of American troops guarding a drone base and occasionally conducting special ops missions are economically sustainable, and don’t put many American lives at risk. $70,000 for a hellfire missile that kills a few terrorists in training is pennies on the dollar compared to other methods of hunting them.

As much as I dislike the “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” argument as it was used to justify the Iraq war (relevance, zero), it has a good deal of pull in the theatres where we are trying to stamp out actual terrorist activity.

The most important factor contributing to conflict in this region is our destabilizing presence.

Lol. Open a history book. The Indians and Pakistanis (or more broadly and more accurately, Hindus and Muslims) have a thousand year history of hatred and bloodshed. They will go on murdering one another and using their neighbors as cat’s paws long after we are gone.

#38 Comment By Khan On December 9, 2012 @ 10:51 am

What motivates the Kagans and the other neoconservatives in promoting these debilitating neo-imperial wars in the Muslim world is simply their fierce allegiance to the ideology of Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky and the Zionist ultra-nationalist project of a Greater Israel. Central to this is promoting enmity and military invasions of the 1. 5 billion Muslim world which inevitably leads to radicalization and retaliation in kind as we witnessed on 9/11 (and which was most certainly not due to our freedom), thus further revitalizing the vicious cycle. It is the fault of the vast majority of Americans, (both Republicans and Democrats) who dont share these ethno-sectarian identities and allegiances (and those of the crazed Armageddon Evangelical churches) for allowing American foreign policy to be hijacked and American blood and treasure squandered while we compromise our liberties at home and our great power status abroad on behalf of 4 million Israelis and their racist blood and soil settlement project.

#39 Comment By Blue Hills LEO On December 9, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

T Paine wrote : ” “Small footprint” solutions which leave a modest number of American troops guarding a drone base and occasionally conducting special ops missions are economically sustainable, and don’t put many American lives at risk. $70,000 for a hellfire missile that kills a few terrorists in training is pennies on the dollar compared to other methods of hunting them.”

The smallest footprint of all is to get out, and the cheapest solution is to change our Middle East policy. There is no reason not to do both, and we’ve got pressing problems here at home that demand all our attention.

Open a history book. The Indians and Pakistanis (or more broadly and more accurately, Hindus and Muslims) have a thousand year history of hatred and bloodshed. They will go on murdering one another and using their neighbors as cat’s paws long after we are gone.

As will Jews and Arabs. Get out and leave them to it. We have nothing to add except more fuel for the flames. The fact that we are involved in any way in this mess is almost beyond belief.

#40 Comment By Philly Friend On December 9, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

Most of the world sees Afghanistan as a difficult but necessary conflict.

Whaa?!?!?

The majority in every country contributing to the international force in Afghanistan want to withdraw immediately. Big, 60+ percent majorities in most of them, and over 55 percent in the US. The number who see going into Afghanistan as having been a mistake in the first place is growing.

It’s not as though this is any great secret:

[12]

One poll in the link above reports that of 47 countries surveyed, only 2 wanted the US and the international force to remain: Israel and Kenya.

Here’s the picture as of 2011:

“Germany: 68% think the German military should never have been allowed to deploy, while 23% think the military deployment is still appropriate. 70% no longer believe in the success of the military mission. 50% think they should leave when they have ‘suitably concluded’ their mission, and 44% want an immediate withdrawal of German troops. 78% feel they have been misinformed by their government, and 12% thought that the government had provided them a clear picture of the situation.
United Kingdom: 57% want all of their soldiers brought home immediately. 71% think the war is unwinnable, an increase of 11% from June, and 60% said the war was not worth the deaths of British soldiers. 62% disagree that having British military forces makes Britain a safer place and 58% say their country’s military intervention actually increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack at home.
United States: 57% think their military should not be there while one in three believe fighting there is the right thing for the U.S. to do. 69% say that the war has lasted longer than expected, and 62% want the number of their troops to be decreased immediately. 24% want the number to remain unchanged, and 7% want to send more troops. 50% say the war has not been a success, while 39% think it has. 47% think the decade-long war has made the U.S. safer from terrorism. Half do not think the war has made their country any safer: 40% think it has had no effect, while 10% think it has in fact made the U.S. less safe. 52% do not think there will be any more violence after U.S. troops leave than there is now, while 28% think there will be. The CBS News poll was conducted September 28 to October 2, 2011.”

#41 Comment By tbraton On December 10, 2012 @ 3:15 am

“Lol. Open a history book. The Indians and Pakistanis (or more broadly and more accurately, Hindus and Muslims) have a thousand year history of hatred and bloodshed. They will go on murdering one another and using their neighbors as cat’s paws long after we are gone.”

TPaine, in your earlier post you cited as a reason for continuing our presence in Afghanistan “3) Our relationship with India. Afghanistan without US troops would likely become the site of an expanded proxy war between India and Pakistan. Our continued presence there relieves pressure on the Indian government, and they are aware of this fact.” If the Indians and Pakistanis (or more accurately the Hindus and Muslims) have been waging war for 1000 years, why should the U.S. be fighting in Afghanistan to forestall conflict that has been going on for such a long time? It appears that our fighting in Afghanistan has had little bearing on the Indian-Pakistani conflicts. You even acknowledge that “They will go on murdering one another and using their neighbors as cat’s paws long after we are gone.”

#42 Comment By Andrew On December 10, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

Actually, you do. In some cases it makes the difference between professionals who know what they’re talking about and liberal arts majors who leapfrogged the tough stuff into policymaking positions.

It depends, there are people (but they are few, it has to be pointed out) with the history and some national security studies background who, while never serving in military, DO have a gravitas, especially in strategic and policy issues. Also, in some tactical and operational issues. Those, purely civilian, people do exist and they are highly respected. One of those people is Norman Polmar, whose understanding of the naval tactical, operational, strategic and technological issues rivals that of the foremost naval thinkers. Having said all that, when talking about tactical and operational issues, that is the issues related to, especially so, Command and Control and leadership, which involves a first hand experience with leading a personnel, as well as being in charge of interaction of this personnel and assigned weapon systems, and the way they are used, from the platoon level up–this is an indispensable experience and knowledge, which comes only through actual military academia and service. This all in no way relates to The Kagans whose “military” activity is based around parroting whatever is told to them by the ideologically close military officers–people from the same party (bottom) line as Kagans are. Or, trying to make those military people ideologically close to Kagan’s neo-con positions. Some of the Kagans writings are, actually, difficult to read without cringing.

As for teaching of the military history, say, in West Point as one of the Kagans did–this, in no way, makes him an expert on war. It merely makes him an expert on narrative. Especially, against the background of the more or less firm global consensus in the issues of the military history from ancient times all the way to the end of the Cold War. After that, if memory serves me right, Plutarch’s dictum comes in play in which it is stated that it takes about 50 years after war’s end for historian to judge it objectively. In the case of Kagans it may take centuries, if ever. Plus, there is a huge difference between narrating a campaign (and interpreting it) and, for example, explaining what mathematical (and statistical) modelling and application of the network-centric planning for, say, developing the decision on battle for armored brigade are.

#43 Comment By Andrew On December 10, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

Central to this is promoting enmity and military invasions of the 1. 5 billion Muslim world which inevitably leads to radicalization and retaliation in kind as we witnessed on 9/11

Really?? So, invasion of Indonesia is also in plans?? Wow, live and learn. As for marked in bold, Sir, are you sure that this is a Hamas or Hezbollah forum?? Your post reeks of the islamists’ propaganda and this is my impression, and I cannot stand neocons.

#44 Comment By Leah On December 11, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

“Sir, are you sure that this is a Hamas or Hezbollah forum?? Your post reeks of the islamists’ propaganda and this is my impression, and I cannot stand neocons.”

What’s wrong with supporting Islamists in Syria and Libya? I thought that was the point. There’s no reason to be concerned if they killed our ambassador because they aren’t attacking any US civilians in my suburban neighborhood.

We have to overthrow Bashar with the help of al-Qaeda affiliated mercenaries supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Bashar is guilty of giving a safe haven to Iraqi Christians who ought to have been slaughtered by Saudi supported insurgents. For Bashar’s crime of helping Christians, the Islamists have gone crazy in Syria. We should be supporting them, because these Wahabi Islamists hate the Shia, which are represented by Hezbollah in Lebanon. So if you hate Hezbollah, and support our troops, you must support Sunni Islamists in their slaughter of Christians and all Shia men, women and children, because every Shia is a supporter of Hezbollah.

#45 Comment By Adam Nedsoulis On December 12, 2012 @ 3:16 am

Loyalty tests.

#46 Comment By Kratoklastes On December 19, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

I have always repudiated the ghoulish calculus employed by welfare queens like the Kagans (whose money all comes from the pseudo-private Thanatocracy – the Merchants of Death who suckle at the public teat and are therefore net tax recipients), but what the hey, let’s do so for a second.

The BEST thing – for humanity – that could happen to the US military would be a redux of the massacre of Elphinstone’s column at Gandamak Pass in 1842 as they sought to retreat from Kabul: that was, IIRC, the largest tactical defeat inflicted on the vaunted British military in its history to that point.

Because let’s make this clear: unless and until the US military experiences its own Stalingrad, it will continue to extend its malificent tentacles across the world. It is a machinery of death and mayhem, despite all its self-hagiography (augmented by the tax-whores like Kagan, Kristol et seq.).

#47 Comment By westie On December 21, 2012 @ 6:24 am

I find that Petraeus w/ his Bronze Star and the Kagans w/ their Soviet Star have been able to direct US military efforts when they have never put their lives on the line by serving in combat.

#48 Comment By Akech On December 24, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

The insistence of this couple (the Kagans) on American continuous presence in Afghanistan centers around their desire to use the remnants of US forces in Afghanistan to attack Iran from Afghanistan front!

Please, do not underestimate the two couple and those who support them! They will not blink to sacrifice any Iranian willing to fight or Iraqis and youth from other nations who ca be talked into joining American youths to bleed on their behalf. Africans youths are now being used to fight in Somalia. They will buy any leader of any nation in the world who is willing to sacrifice that nation’s youth, just like the Bulgarians and Polish youth did in Iraq!
The tanking of the world economy has made it very difficult for young people to earn decent wages. All of us remember that the world’s economy was turned upside down while everyone’s attention was focus on the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! There is massive unemployment worldwide and many youths are willing to do anything to earn a living. So, do not underestimate the Kagans and their supporters!

#49 Comment By Mark T. On December 26, 2012 @ 7:47 am

What is an “Army”? Should it not be the organization that defends a country from invaders? By that definition the “Afghan Army” is functioning quite well. They seem to be able to hold off a military that consumes half the planet’s military spending with minimal weaponry.

As for the argument that to be a “military expert” one must take calculus, physics and other math and science courses I think it’s obvious that those classes may be nice but, are merely window dressing. How many of the tribesmen in Helmand have take calculus? Physics?

The reality is that people will fight and die to protect their homes and families from foreign invasion. Americans should have learned that from The Revolutionary War. Apparently many did not and they seem to be the ones populating self-created “Think Tanks” and filling the offices of the 5-sided Looney Bin(h/t Fred Reed)

#50 Comment By WorkingClass On January 15, 2013 @ 11:00 am

War is the ultimate crime. War mongers and the war profiteers they work for are the ultimate criminals. It’s a mistake to argue details with a talk show Napoleon.

The Iraq “war” was mass murder and nothing more. The AfPac war serves nobody except the rich men who are made richer. Talk of winning or losing is for rubes.