Wednesday, January 08, 2014

It's not a win unless it is an endless quagmire

I think this says more about Robert Gates than it does the president:

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” 

Shouldn't every war be "all about getting out"? I mean, isn't the point of a war achieving some goal and then being over? Isn't that what "winning" a war means? You can't win unless the conflict ends and military forces leave. Endless war is not an endless win, it's being stuck in a quagmire, which is a kind of losing.

Years ago, when the pundit class was still worshipping at the alter of Colin Powell, we heard a lot about "the Powell Doctrine." The Powell Doctrine was supposed to finally break the country out of "the Vietnam Syndrome." a term for the perceived wussification of America. The concern being that after getting caught in the morass of Vietnam which has gone down in history as a "loss," the American public was no longer as excited as it should be by the prospects of sending its military out to kill foreigners. Luckily St. Powell's Gulf War victoryTM gave us the antidote to the Vietnam Syndrome, his series of questions that must be asked before the U.S. commits military forces abroad. If you can come up with an answer to all of those questions, go right ahead and kill foreigners! That way the U.S. would avoid embarrassments like Vietnam that might cut into the popularity of slaughter with the American public. Among the Powell Doctrine's questions were: "Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?"

I've been mocking the Powell Doctrine, but the questions it asks are good ones, especially the one about an exit strategy. No one talks about the Vietnam Syndrome anymore and so people don't bring up the Powell Doctrine either. Still I don't understand why having an exit strategy has fallen so far out of favor with people like Gates and the rest of the military establishment. Don't they want to win wars? Staying forever is not winning, it's losing. If they have forgotten that, then maybe we need to bring back the Vietnam Syndrome so that military leaders will make some effort to sound reasonable to the American public again.