When President Truman flew to Wake Island in 1951 for a showdown Korean War policies with General MacArthur, the general had his pilot fly in circles until Truman's plane landed. His intent was to keep the President of the United States cooling his heels on the tarmac until MacArthur was ready to grace him with his presence.
By that time Truman had had about all he was going to take from his most famous warrior:
"Truman was incensed at MacArthur's rogue attempt to define and influence US policy; he decided MacArthur had to be fired. Truman did not act immediately, however, and as he waited, in early April of 1951, Congress approved NATO, a sign that Truman's Europe-first policy had been accepted. By this time the incident of the ultimatum had become worn-out, and Truman needed another reason to fire MacArthur...Within a few months, MacArthur leaked news to a congressman that he planned to use Chinese Nationalist forces from Formosa in the Korean War. Such an act, of course, would only serve to further inflame the People's Republic of China, and it again went against Truman's diplomatic policies." (More)
A couple of weeks ago either General Stanley McChrystal -- or someone working with/for him -- decided the best way to get what he wants in Afghanistan was to cut this Presidents' legs out from under him by leaking dire warnings that the US will "lose the war in Afghanistan" unless another 40,000 US kids are sent over there PDQ.
Last week President Obama had his own showdown with his own general on war policy... the war in Afghanistan. That meeting was also held on a tarmac, this time in Copenhagen.
We know how that meeting between MacArthur and Truman went, but we still don't know exactly how the President Obama/Gen. McChrystal went. But we can imagine:
Pres: Sit down General. Do you remember Harry Truman?
Gen. Yes sir.
Pres: You remember General MacArthur?
Gen. Yes sir.
Pres. Remember how that all turned out?
Gen. Yes sir.
Pres. Good. Well, our time's up. Gotta fly.
Gen. Yes sir. By your leave sir. (Salutes and departs.)
That's how I hope that conversation went, anyway. Or at least something approximating it.
First of all let's get the terminology right for change. In a counter-insurgency/nation building mission, terms like "winning"and "losing" are meaningless. Such absolute terms are only meaningful during absolute wars .... as in REAL wars.
The Afghanistan operation and our so-called "war on terrorism" are NOT real wars. Not even close.
Real war is when a nation is reacting to a genuine strategic threat to its very existence. Al Qaida and the Taliban do not now, and never will, pose such an existential threat to America or Europe or any other part of the developed world.
True, they can be deadly and annoying and expensive. But what they can never be are victors over us. Never, under any imaginable scenario, can they defeat, occupy or have any significant, longterm impact on America or Americans at large. Even relatively spectacular attacks such as 9/1l, while emotionally jarring, achieve only limited and fleeting impact.
So we are not about to "lose" a war in Afghanistan. And we are not about to "win" it either.
If the generals want to call it a war then McChrystal should be suggesting something a lot beefier than 40,000 more troops. He should be asking for the resources to create total mayhem. For example during a real war concern over civilian casualties hardly registers on the "to do" list. In a real all-out war worries about who dies or how or at whose hands are tactical -- not moral -- decisions. Because, ya know, war.. real war.. IS hell.
In a real war areas believed to harbor enemy forces or resources are carpet bombed until "the rubble bounces." Real wars are wars of attrition. Each side rains death and destruction rains down on other side until one side yells "uncle." Until then, you destroy anything standing and kill anything that moves.
Thats a real war. And let it be said we've not seen real war since 1945. That's a good thing. Maybe we've evolved beyond such barbarianism. But having said that we need to understand that when politicians and generals start throwing around terms like "win" and "lose" they're blowing smoke up our butts.
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