The Seventh Eulogy

By Clint Douglas

Yesterday, on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke before the House Armed Services Committee about the war in Afghanistan. He should be applauded for his honesty, but his words were not reassuring. He said things like, "I'm not sure that we're winning it in Afghanistan," and "Frankly, we're running out of time." He admitted that the new deployment of an Army brigade and a Marine battalion were inadequate to the task at hand in Afghanistan, but that it amounted to "a good start."

"A good start?" What does that mean, exactly?

Apparently, it means that after years of neglecting Afghanistan, it is now on par with Iraq as a priority. However, as we are not going to commit the ground troops that we so desperately need in Afghanistan, it can only mean that we will ratchet up the air campaign further. But bombing from the air will not (nor has it ever) defeated an insurgency, as Erin Simpson, my colleague here at Intel Dump, pointed out: "The population is the prize," she said. The only way to win over the population is to provide them with a certain measure of security, and they only way to do that is with men. On the ground. With guns. Development projects will fail and actionable intelligence will not flow until this most basic criteria has been met. I know that this must all sound reductive, but it is still something that we have failed to put into practice.

The situation with Pakistan is worse, where we have opted to expand our use of unmanned Predator drones in the hunt for bin Laden, which has thus far produced zero results. The officials involved in the hunt have attributed their failures to

"an overreliance on military force, disruptions posed by the war in Iraq, and a pattern of underestimating the enemy. Above all, they said, the search has been handicapped by an inability to develop informants in Pakistan's isolated tribal areas."

In other words, they have admitted their incompetence, and we will fall back on the only thing that we seem to have confidence in -- airpower. Predators have many uses, but they no panacea. They're excellent for finding men planting bombs and IEDs, for example. But a drone flying high over western Pakistan can only report such intelligence gems as, "I see a man with a beard....he's surrounded by other men with beards...wait, they're getting into a Toyota Hilux pickup. They're driving....down a road....with all the other pickups." They're utterly useless without other corroborating forms of intelligence, preferably of the human kind. This does not constitute the beginnings of a new aggressive campaign to catch bin Laden, rather it marks a failure of imagination and transparent desperation.

After all the blood spilled and all the treasure squandered, we are no closer now to crushing the Taliban and Al Qaeda than we were on September 12, 2001. This is a disgrace. Go home tonight and raise a glass to the fallen. Cry if you must, but your blood should be boiling. The memories of the dead deserve so much more.

By |  September 11, 2008; 4:17 PM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Obama would have stayed in Afganistan and not gotten distracted in Iraq. Whether he can do anything about the problem now is an open question, but it's certain that Mccain would get us further into this hole. And he certainly won't get any helpful advice from the hockey mom who's distracted by the kids in the office.

Posted by: rps | September 11, 2008 5:22 PM

Here in the great white north, we are also sending our young women and men against the flow of extremism in the Afgan/Pakistan outbacks. We can not win this things based on bombs versus beliefs. A new approach is what's urgently called for before the desert tempest sucks in all our national interests. Remember the lesson the British learned in the Sudan in the 1800s ie... the Gordon of Khartoum debacle. History is repeating itself as sand is sand and the more it blows the less you see of the tempest.

Posted by: Wenobe Ninne | September 12, 2008 8:16 AM

i am sooooo sick of reliving 911 as a patriotic gesture. It has been twisted to justify and immoral war and install a s+++head, a+++h++e in the white house ad nauseum (that means I am sick of it) to the ignorant rednecks out there supporting w, mcbush/palin.

Posted by: neil | September 13, 2008 7:59 PM

I am so sick of war also. I want to know of McCain when is he truly going to put Country First instead of putting a woman on the ticket just to get the womens vote. Am sick and tired of the issues not be addressed by McCain/Palin. Negative doesn't work for me. I still don't know what he stands for except drill baby drill. That is not a long term issue. Where does he stand on other issues. Obama has addressed these issues. Come on McCain not the lipstick crap and stick to the issues people want to know. You already lied about putting the country first. You have shown poor judgement in pick Palin.

Posted by: SouthernYankee | September 13, 2008 10:40 PM

I think one of the cultural problems of the US is to be seen here in this blog: 5 responses to a chilling intelligent report from Afghanistan, 197 for a swipe at Chuck Norris.

There are currently so many things wrong with the war in AFghanistan and has been for such a long time, the sand may well be running out of the timeglass. If you see it from AQ perspective, the Iraq war served their purposes well. AQ had three stated war-goals: Infidels out of Saudi Arabia, the creation of a Caliphate and a end to Israeli occupation of Palestine. The first they have mostly gotten, and the second may well emerge in Waziristan due to the 6 years they have had to reconsolidate and regroup. The US has spent half the cash the chinese spent for the olympics on the whole afghan problem, and is currently acting as a praetorian guard for a bunch of drug barons. Way to fcken go.

Posted by: fnord | September 15, 2008 3:04 PM

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