Yesterday I wrote about troubling aspects of the recent massacre of 16 Afghan citizens by a US Army soldier. In a comment to that article, an anonymous reader provided a link to a blog post by Dr. Jerry Pournelle, which references several other sources to draw similar conclusions. Here's a sample.
The American Way of War has been to maintain a small professional army, a very professional and mostly long term service Navy, and otherwise play things by ear; when there is a war we call up citizen soldiers and put out a maximum effort, win the war, and go back to the business of the United States, which is mostly business and in any event was dictated by liberty not by government directive.
Just as this policy failed in Greece and Rome when the citizens were continually called up to defend the country and eventually became professional soldiers because they never had a chance to become citizens, it was thought to be failing after Viet Nam when the war seemed to drag on and on, and the conscript army used its political influence.
. . .
We went to an army of citizen soldiers, but when you have been deployed four times in eleven years you have had precious little time to be a citizen, and the deployment is to a place more like hell than of any Republic you want to be part of. And the budgets were cut, the services were cut, veteran benefits were cut, and it seems that we thought we could treat the citizen professionals as if they were Foreign Legion. “You have entered the Legion in order to die, and the Legion will send you where you can die.” But the Foreign Legion was never intended to be a citizen army, and its members were not considered to be citizens.
The United States has to make up its mind. If we want a citizen army we have to start treating the Army like citizens. They have to be given time to be citizens. You cannot keep them continually on deployment while their children grow up without them, and they become soldiers as the concept of normal life and citizenship fades.
There's more at the link, including links to other very useful and thought-provoking articles. All highly recommended reading.
Having read Dr. Pournelle's words of wisdom, I did an Internet search for any more material that might reinforce (or contradict) our perspectives on the recent tragedy. I found this very cogent analysis by the always thought-provoking Michael Yon.
The mass murder in Afghanistan was predictable. Twice in the past three weeks, I published that it was coming. Why was I able to write this with sad confidence? I’ve spent more time with combat troops in these wars than any other writer: about four years in total in country, and three with combat troops.
About 200 coalition members have been killed or wounded from insider attacks. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is tantamount to being Taliban and has not bothered to apologize. Instead, Karzai whips up anti-U.S. fervor at every opportunity. Twice, Karzai has threatened to leave politics and join the Taliban.
Even our most disciplined troops — not the few problem troops — have lost all idealism. They have not lost heart for the fight. Mostly, they just don’t care. They fight because they are ordered to fight, but they have eyes wide open. The halfhearted surge and sudden drawdown leave little room for success.
We face a discipline collapse. The bulk of our force is solid — then there’s a small fraction, probably a sliver of a percent, who might be crushed by the pressure.
On Feb. 24, I published:
“As the prevalence of insider attacks rises, and we lose more troops to Afghan troops going berserk and murdering our people, it’s likely just a matter of time before a U.S. troop or troops turn the table and intentionally slaughter Afghan forces.
“That could lead to a meltdown. We are at risk of losing control of more than some people might imagine. There is only so much that U.S. forces will put up with before fringe U.S. combat troops start taking matters into their own hands. Believe me.”
The next day, I published, “If things keep going this way, my expectation is that it’s a matter of time before discipline breaks and the gun turns.”
Again, more at the link, and well worth reading.
I've written many articles about Afghanistan and what we're facing there. I'll repeat here what I've said many times before: there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict - at least, not one that we can implement in good conscience. We could wage a 'scorched-earth' war, in which we shoot every Afghan we encounter, destroy every structure we come across, burn all the crops and salt all the fields. That would 'pacify' Afghanistan, all right . . . but we're civilized men and women, and (thanks be to God!) we don't wage war that way. On the other hand, that's precisely how the Taliban have waged war in the past, and will continue to wage war in the future. They do kill their enemies and their families, destroy their every possession, and leave their land uninhabitable. That's why they're winning the war in Afghanistan; and because we can't and won't fight that war on their terms, using their tactics, we're doing no better than holding our own. As soon as US or Coalition forces leave an area, it goes right back to its old way of doing things. We've had no lasting impact at all.
It's no wonder some of our soldiers have snapped under the strain. More will do so in future, if they're forced to live and fight in that environment. It's long past time we left Afghanistan.