How We (US) Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan

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  • #26
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Ugh. Rumsfeld...:mad:. How people can think we're worse off now than when he and his buddies were in office, I'll never understand.
That's why we "lost?"
 
  • #27
mheslep
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Those who contend Iraq was lost need to contend first with the comments of the current administration.

Biden. 2010, "I'm very optimistic about Iraq. I think its going to be one of the great achievements of this administration"
Gibbs, the next day, on how the administration takes credit for Iraq: "[by] putting what was broken back together and getting our troops home"
 
  • #28
lisab
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That's why we "lost?"
It's why we started a war that is not winnable.
 
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It's why we (added emphasis) started a war that is not winnable.
"We" would be who? Recall that this particular war has been sputtering along for 13-14 centuries.
 
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lisab
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"We" would be who? Recall that this particular war has been sputtering along for 13-14 centuries.
Ok then, in your narrative: "we" joined a war -- an old, old war, with a story line we were not aware of. And why? Why did we do that? Who thought that would be a great idea? Rummy and his ilk, that's who.

So much blood on their hands, IMO. I don't know how they sleep.
 
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Ok then, in your narrative: "we" joined a war -- an old, old war, with a story line we were not aware of. And why? Why did we do that?
So, it had absolutely nothing to do with a smoking pile of rubble in NYC?
 
  • #32
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Yes, inadequate weapons systems and hardware get people killed. One may recall H.M.S. Hood, the M4 Sherman, the M-16, the surplus Brown Bess muskets picked up from Great Britain for the Union Army in the American Civil War, black powder weapons vs. smokeless in the Boer War, and a rather long list of other ordnance disasters, some of which can be identified as a proximal cause for losing this, that, or the other war. However, most wars are lost at the top either by inadequate leadership to begin with, or changes in leadership resulting in loss of direction or purpose.
Looks like your version is that it was all just history repeating itself. That isn't why we lost in Iraq but the loss is why history is repeating itself in the area.
 
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So, it had absolutely nothing to do with a smoking pile of rubble in NYC?
The invasion of Iraq was being discussed before 911. This isn't news and we are getting off topic.
 
  • #34
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The invasion of Iraq was being discussed before 911.
Is this item from Wiki, "The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 is a United States Congressional statement of policy calling for regime change in Iraq.[1][2] It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and states that it is the policy of the United States to support democratic movements within Iraq," what you're referencing?

Off topic? Thread participants have brought up the decision to invade Iraq as the proximal cause for "losing" in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's definitely on topic to develop the idea.
 
  • #35
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Is this item from Wiki, "The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 is a United States Congressional statement of policy calling for regime change in Iraq.[1][2] It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and states that it is the policy of the United States to support democratic movements within Iraq," what you're referencing?

Off topic? Thread participants have brought up the decision to invade Iraq as the proximal cause for "losing" in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's definitely on topic to develop the idea.
You are referencing parts of the Wiki link that Bush interpreted as meaning a possible invasion of Iraq. The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 itself, does not include the term invasion.

In fact the full title of the Act is. " An act to establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq."

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-105publ338/content-detail.html

Again we are spinning history and not addressing the intention of the OP which referenced the book, Why We Lost.

http://www.npr.org/2014/11/09/361746282/a-3-star-general-explains-why-we-lost-in-iraq-afghanistan

EDITED
 
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  • #36
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Czcibor's made the only comment regarding Afghanistan so far, and no one's taken issue with it --- "Stet?" No specific position on "wins or losses?"
(snip re. Iraq) With Afghanistan? USA credibility was at the stake and there was no good move. There were not many targets there that could have been destroyed in a retaliatory air campaign. The only idea that I've heard of that would not involve puting there troops and would have adequate chilling effect for other terrorist harborring regimes, presumably involved using... WMDs. (which would be politically too expensive)
Invasion of Afghanistan either in a punitive raid, or in an effort at "nation building" was an almost inevitable consequence of "9-11."
Every President since at least George H.W. Bush has said we shouldn't get involved in nation building, and every President since at least George H.W. Bush has ended up nation building. The US tries to use the military for this, because they aren't allowed to say "no", (emphasis added: hadn't thought of it this way) but fundamentally, this is not their job: their job is to break things.(snip)
No specific position on "wins or losses."
"Nation building" was applied successfully as an endgame in Cuba following the Spanish-American War, W. Germany, Japan, and the Philippines following WWII, arguably in some of the "mandated territories" at the end of WWI. It has been tactically attractive for military purposes at various times in various places, with varying degrees of success, Republic of Texas a success, RVN not, ROK unknown as yet, upshot being that military minds don't always want to say "no."

Getting into Afghanistan involves passing through or jumping off from one or more of the neighboring nations, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan. Iran is "out" diplomatically, and the rest excepting Pakistan are out geographically. An ideal scenario, with the cooperation of the Pakistani government would have been to go in, round up the Taliban, and leave the keys under the doormat at the Khyber Pass within six months to a year. The Soviet Union's experience suggests that wouldn't be too likely. Long term cooperation by the Pakistani government was also a very uncertain premise at the time. This brings us to the question, "How does one extract, or at least protect coalition forces from Iranian interference in the event of a fundamentalist takeover in Pakistan?" The Khyber and overland logistics are blocked, and a trapped army might have been more temptation than A-jad and Khameini could resist. "Invade Iraq?" Keeps Teheran looking over both shoulders. Takes Sadam, Uday, and Qusay off the table. Makes a statement. Balances the demographic disparity between Arab Islamic and central Asian Islamic extremist POWs. Opens a second killing ground (my apologies to the pacifists, but "Whack a mole" has already been discussed in another thread by at least one among us). The PR campaign in the UN gave nothing away to Iran IF this was the case. WMDs? Sadam's complicity in bankrolling 9-11? Harboring terrorists? More "red herring?" We won't know for fifty to a hundred years. DoD does pay attention to such details. It's a high stakes game, and you don't play your cards from face up on the table in front of news cameras. Come to think of it, the Pakistanis did close Khyber a couple times over some sort of squabbles, plus a couple fuel and supply convoys being burned. Might not be so far-fetched a concern.

Couple of us definitely feel that Iraq and/or inadequate equipment are proximal causes for "losses."
IMHO, We lost Afghanistan when we invaded Iraq. Then the Defense Department assumed that armored Humvees wouldn't be needed once the invasion of Iraq was over.
Essentially we lost Afghanistan as soon as we invaded Iraq. Read this blather by Rumsfeld concerning the failure to provide the troops with up armored Humvees and you will now why we lost Iraq.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military-july-dec04-armor_12-9/
Ugh. Rumsfeld...:mad:. How people can think we're worse off now than when he and his buddies were in office, I'll never understand.
It's why we started a war that is not winnable.
Ok then, in your narrative: "we" joined a war -- an old, old war, with a story line we were not aware of. And why? Why did we do that? Who thought that would be a great idea? Rummy and his ilk, that's who.
So much blood on their hands, IMO. I don't know how they sleep.
The invasion of Iraq was being discussed before 911.(snip).
If not the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, are you referring to the post-1991 Gulf War (or, for anyone who buys into my "1500 Year War," the 1991 Battle of Kuwait) "Monday morning quarterbacks" vs. the "power-vacuum consequences" debate?

And, there are a couple of us who aren't buying the "loss" premise.
Those who contend Iraq was lost need to contend first with the comments of the current administration.(snip)
And the post mortem cliche ---
A 3-Star General Explains 'Why We Lost' In Iraq, Afghanistan
(snip) Trained for regular conflicts, the military seems ill-prepared for counterinsurgency. Seems like the same situation in WWI when the old 19th century way of combat did not work when confronted with mechanized/industrialized combat with machine guns, mortars, armored cavalry (tanks), air craft, landmines, poisonous gas, . . .
"They weren't prepared." has been said of almost every army in almost every war in history.

Bolger? The Wall Street Journal's review http://online.wsj.com/articles/book-review-why-we-lost-by-daniel-p-bolger-1415922914
 
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  • #37
lisab
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OK, so I ended up buying and reading the book. It took a while since I don't have a lot of free reading time. And it's quite long.

Frankly with a title like "Why We Lost", I expected the book to be an analysis of the Middle East from a distance...the view from 30,000 feet, so to speak. Instead, Bolger spends much time down in the dirt - well, sand - at the boots-on-the-ground level, describing battles shot-by-shot. I believe he did this as praise for the troops. Understandable, the troops are amazingly praiseworthy. I think he wanted to be clear that the failures were not due to the troops.

His synopsis: the Generals did not give good advice to the "suits" (the Bush and Obama administrations). At several junctions, we had three options: increase troop levels, keep doing what we were doing, or pull out. No one ever gave enough thought to the "pull out" option, and that was a failure on the Generals' part. He also says (albeit briefly) that Saddam was basically contained and probably could have stayed that way indefinitely, but in the heat of the post-9/11 fever that option was not considered. He faults Obama for setting a timeline for withdrawal, but ultimately agrees pulling out was the right thing to do, and that it probably should have been done earlier.

Some of his final analysis:

The 2007 surge did not save the Iraq campaign. It was too late for that. But it gave America space to withdraw on its own terms and provided Iraq, however ungrateful, a chance to chart a course as a responsible nation-state.

The 2010 surge in Afghanistan achieved less. In a lot of ways, it reflected the near bankruptcy of military planning by that point. As the old joke goes, when all you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
From a historical perspective, Bolger's book might have importance, as is seems to be an interpretation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the short period between when Bolger retired (2013, according to Wiki) and before ISIS came into the picture.
 
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  • #38
mheslep
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He also says (albeit briefly) that Saddam was basically contained and probably could have stayed that way indefinitely,
I think that policy would have meant, at least, maintaining the air patrols for the Iraq no-fly zone indefinitely. The patrols went 10-11 years as it was.

His synopsis: the Generals did not give good advice to the "suits"...
At least one general was fired by the suits.
 
  • #39
lisab
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I think that policy would have meant, at least, maintaining the air patrols for the Iraq no-fly zone indefinitely. The patrols went 10-11 years as it was.
Exactly. Now compare that to the path we chose. Had we chosen to stand pat, it would have been so much cheaper, and all those American soldiers would still be alive.

And who knows, ISIS might not be in Iraq right now.

At least one general was fired by the suits.
Bolger covered that thoroughly.
 
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Had we chosen to stand pat, it would have been so much cheaper, and all those American soldiers would still be alive.

And who knows, ISIS might not be in Iraq right now.
This is one alternative history? Are there other possibilities?
 
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  • #41
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Exactly. Now compare that...
That being, the continuation of a Iraq no-fly zone with 50 US aircraft at a time, ongoing even now in 2015? I don't mention the Iraq no-fly as the one and only task to trade off, but only one aspect of the consequences of leaving Saddam in power. I also don't argue here that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, but I do seriously doubt that doing nothing but some air patrols would have stabilized the problem, or have been otherwise cost free to the US in lives or treasure.

Bolger covered that thoroughly.
I mention the firing to make the point that the suits as Bolger calls them were not always listening to their best generals, to advice good, bad or indifferent. As Gates said in his book:

“All too early in the [Obama] administration,” he writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.”
 
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  • #42
lisab
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That being, the continuation of a Iraq no-fly zone with 50 US aircraft at a time, ongoing even now in 2015? I don't mention the Iraq no-fly as the one and only task to trade off, but only one aspect of the consequences of leaving Saddam in power. I also don't argue here that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, but I do seriously doubt that doing nothing but some air patrols would have stabilized the problem, or have been otherwise cost free to the US in lives or treasure.
We'll never know what might have happened had we chosen that option, but it seems Bolger disagrees with you.

And again, it's a good bet ISIS wouldn't be holding ground in Iraq right now if Saddam were still in charge.

I mention the firing to make the point that the suits as Bolger calls them were not always listening to their best generals, to advice good, bad or indifferent.
McChrystal wasn't fired for what he said to his bosses, he was fired for speaking too openly to the media. Had he directed his doubts/criticisms/opinions more appropriately, he'd likely still have his job.
 
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  • #43
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Every President since at least George H.W. Bush has said we shouldn't get involved in nation building, and every President since at least George H.W. Bush has ended up nation building. The US tries to use the military for this, because they aren't allowed to say "no", but fundamentally, this is not their job: their job is to break things. The US would be well served by creating another service, perhaps run out of State and not Defense, whose job is to build nations.

How many times does one's house have to catch fire before one buys some fire insurance?

I couldn't agree more. Imagine being part of the group that marched into Baghdad, surrounded by cheering citizens, days later unrest, days later still being fired upon by people in "civillian clothes". "Hey Sam who is the enemy now that there is no formal Iraqi military?" - "Uhhh, we're not sure at this point. Are you able to kidnap some "bad guys" and try and find out who we should "remove"?"

Perhaps a distinguishing feature between a war of nations and an invasion of one.
 
  • #44
We'll never know what might have happened had we chosen that option, but it seems Bolger disagrees with you.

And again, it's a good bet ISIS wouldn't be holding ground in Iraq right now if Saddam were still in charge.
Saddam was far worse than ISIS. In Iran/Iraq war which he started, estimated one million people died.

People who entertain a thought "that dictator wasn't so bad after all" are overwhelmingly people who have no idea what it's like to live under a dictatorial government. The feeling of having no hope to change anything about your country. Not even being allowed to voice a dissenting point of view.
 
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  • #48
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"— in part because of our moral commitment to the Iraqi people — .... ...sorting out who is or is not a terrorist in civilian areas ...."
These generals must know their history well. How could they not have respected this difficulty given our performance in Vietnam.

His synopsis: the Generals did not give good advice to the "suits" (the Bush and Obama administrations). At several junctions, we had three options: increase troop levels, keep doing what we were doing, or pull out.
General's jobs are to win wars. It's not hard to imagine some Generals being stubborn.
 
  • #49
mheslep
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Hyperbole.
Saddam once gassed 5000 Kurds in one day, with 10000 more surviving victims.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halabja_chemical_attack
And started a war with Iran that killed ~250K and wounded ~800K. I also don't see IS developing SCUD missile capability with which to target Tel-Aviv or building nuclear reactors for plutonium production.
 
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Saddam was far worse than ISIS. In Iran/Iraq war which he started, estimated one million people died.

People who entertain a thought "that dictator wasn't so bad after all" are overwhelmingly people who have no idea what it's like to live under a dictatorial government. The feeling of having no hope to change anything about your country. Not even being allowed to voice a dissenting point of view.
OK, you can use the argument that was worse because of Iran-Iraq war, but Americans on this forum would be uneasy about it, after all they were selling weapons to Saddam and sharing with him satelite photos.

As stock market analyst are expected to say: “Past performance does not guarantee future returns.” The first problem here is that Saddam wasn't seriously looking as if preparing for a new war, so if haven't been invaded would just moderately oppress his citizen. (of course upraise could happen, like in case of Assad, and in such case support for insurgents may be advised)

The other problem here is that as a general rule in stable dictatorship your chance of being murdered (by thugs hired by gov or freelance thugs) is actually dramatically lower than in unstable democracy (by freelance thugs), not mentioning countries that effectively turned in to a permanent war zones. (yes, you may use different metric, but I'm just pointing out that one metric here favours dictatorship) Additionally the less educated society the harder would be to achieve working democracy.
 

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