Mr. President, Sir, as a loyal, but aged, retired Marine officer, it is past time to make bold, perhaps even audacious, political and military decisions to strengthen our great republic. It is past time to remove all our troops and all of our bases from the Middle East. The concept is based on military and economic pragmatism while ensuring our nation's security.
Aware of the enormous strategic importance of the Mideast, some readers may be bewildered by the brazen proposal and might inquire why. How did I arrive at such a remarkable conclusion? The answer is rather simple ... history, not ancient history, but recent history. Indeed, my proposal is based on history so recent that we are living it as I speak. As a student of history, and the author of two books with history as a basis for each, there is a quote I swear by. Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it ... George Santayana.
I am not suggesting that this be done expeditiously. I am suggesting that it be done carefully and responsibly with the safety of our brave troops as the primary consideration. Some may call this withdrawal. Others, who trend toward fiery rhetoric and asinine overreach of our military prowess, will call it defeat. Many, including this writer, would call it a redeployment with the safety of our nation as the ultimate goal.
The so-called War on Terrorism is a myth. Terrorism is a tactic. The WOT is akin to declaring war on airplanes because airplanes were involved in 9/11. Both conceptions are absurd, but it gets worse. The WOT is a war on Islamic terrorism, primarily, and modern Islamic terrorism has been around for a half century. Consequently, the WOT is a neoconservative myth created to allow the widespread use of our military to create and enhance American hegemony on the globe. For over seven years this strategy has been an unmitigated disaster from which we must learn so that we do not relive it. America has lost the respect of other nations throughout the world, including our traditional allies. Our army and National Guard are stretched to the breaking point with some of our troops having been sent to war zones three, four, even five times. Many of our troops are facing the dreadful prospect of being relieved in Iraq only to go to war-torn Afghanistan.
Iraq ... where to begin, especially within the confines of a single article. I will assume much is known by the reader already. Some may think that making Saddam Hussein disappear and creating a nascent democracy that can collapse at any moment with the rivalry between Shiites, Sunni, and Kurds just as vibrant as ever was worth the cost. Many do not. In brief, the cost includes over 4,200 American troops dead, over 30,000 wounded, approximately one million dead Iraqi civilians, millions more became refugees within and without Iraq, a shattered infrastructure, a broken economy with 35% unemployment, hatred toward Americans throughout the Islamic world which stretches from the Mideast to Indonesia, and, by the way, a conservative estimate of one trillion dollars from our national treasury. The war has lasted nearly six years and is far from over. Talk about conflict of national interests, what was bin Laden's reaction to our decision to invade Iraq? He was absolutely jubilant, dancing in his cave even. At some remote point in history, some may regard Iraq as a victory for the U.S., depending on unforeseen circumstances. Even if so, any so-called victory in Iraq will always be regarded as Pyrrhic.
Afghanistan ... where to begin. For the purposes of brevity, same assumption as the above; the reader is informed. Unlike Iraq, there is virtually no opportunity for victory in this forlorn landlocked landscape, and why anyone would want it is a total mystery. It is one of the poorest countries on Earth and is bereft of any mineral resources, even good soil. Afghanistan has proven to be deadly ground for the troops of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union. The people of Afghanistan never have been ruled by a central government, democratic, despotic, or otherwise, preferring the rule of their tribal leaders. There is no nationalism in Afghanistan, and there really is no such thing as Afghanis. They are Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hezaras, Uzbeks, Aimaks, and Turkmen, each of whom have little in common with the others. They live by the rule of the gun, where young boys at the age of five become crack shots. Their guns are rarely used for hunting unless, of course, one counts human invaders of their land. In Nov. and Dec. 2001, any remote concept of victory in Afghanistan was lost at a place called Tora Bora. The Taliban and al-Qa'ida, its leaders and its soldiers, escaped to the lawless hinterland of western Pakistan, wherein they still reside. They both are stronger now more than ever in terms of troops, material, financing, and smarts thanks largely to our strategy as a Western Christian nation to occupy Islamic land. Support is pouring in from nearly every Islamic nation on the globe in terms of financing and reinforcements. The concept of throwing another 20,000 to 30,000 American troops into this beleaguered and bewildering land is beyond credulity. As the reader may note, the very opposite is recommended here. Redeploy the troops we have there and leave the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hezaras, Uzbeks, Aimaks, and Turkmen to their fate. Why? Pretty simple, that is what they want, and we have no right to tell them differently. Also, clearly, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan has resulted in negative results on every front, militarily, politically, economically, and humanitarian.
Wait a minute, some might say, what about bin Laden, al-Qa'ida, 9/11, and our righteous revenge for the cowardly attack upon our homeland. What irony, that is exactly what I was thinking after I read accounts of the Battle of Tora Bora followed by other reports that told of our nation's leadership decisions to move our troops, intelligent units, aircraft, material, and other assets from Afghanistan to Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states in preparation for the invasion of Iraq. Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, posed no national security risk to the U.S., and, indeed, posed no security risks for its neighbors because it's vaunted military was but a memory thanks to the Gulf War, 1991, and U.N. weapons inspectors throughout the remainder of that decade. Unless we want to turn the northwest provinces of Pakistan, supposedly an ally, into a wasteland, it is too late. Bin Laden and his associates are home free thanks to decisions made by our leaders in late 2001 and throughout 2002.
The egregious nature of the decisions made by our nation's leaders in the aftermath of 9/11 is a thing of the past. We cannot change that. But we can have an impact on the future, and "staying the course" won't do. We must "change" the course to rehabilitate the concept of a benevolent super power. The fact remains today we are an occupying power in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our troops and our bases in the Mideast is like throwing gasoline on the fire of Islamic radicalism. Moreover, our troop presence in Islamic lands has not diminished terrorism, but has, in fact, encouraged it. By removing the thorn the wound might heal, meaning by removing our troops the cause of increased terrorism is thereby removed. This we can do something about by minimizing our military footprint in the Mideast.
Notice I said "minimizing." I am not some devoted dreamer who fails to realize the strategic and economic importance of the Mideast. Nor am I anti-war. I am anti dumb war. I am fully aware that the world's economy is still oil-driven for the short term, and most of that oil comes from the Mideast. Also, the Mideast is a chokepoint for the world's commerce. To completely abandon the Mideast would not at all serve our national interests or the world as a whole. We will still have our fleets and their massive air and surface capabilities to police the area on a strategic basis. The tactical basis, meaning house to house urban fighting is not necessary and never was, still another concept missed by our leaders in the early part of this century. The Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain, controls the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea. The Fifth can be supported if need be by the Seventh Fleet whose responsibilities include the Indian Ocean. The Sixth Fleet, headquartered at Naples, Italy, controls the Med, including anything passing through the Suez Canal and the coasts of Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. The planes flying off the decks of the aircraft carriers of these fleets have a range of over 1200 miles. Refueling assets easily extend that range. This is what is meant by strategic control over an operational area. We do not need to control the streets of Baghdad and Kabul. In point of fact, such low level tactics limits our strategic control, not enhancing it. Equally important, we should not act as the world's police or micro-manage any nation's future. We should work within the framework of the community of nations with emphasis on diplomacy and goodwill with the "stick" close by.
"On War," by Sandy Shanks, not to be confused with the works of the famed war philosopher, Carl Von Clausewitz, a major world military power state should never lower itself to urban warfare in a terrorist environment because the results are contradictory to the goals of that state. Explanation: If the small weapons-based terrorist force is confined to the dwellings of an urban area in a distant land, such a force is incapable of mounting a threat to the national interests of the aforementioned state. Moreover, the collateral losses of such warfare are not only unacceptable to that state, but the world as a whole. Urban warfare in a terrorist environment results in the perfect storm of unintended consequences.
Of course, if President Obama responsibly redeploys our troops from the Mideast and dismantles our bases there, Islamic extremists will proclaim victory. Does that matter? Will Americans accept as truth the epithets of Osama bin Laden and his ilk? I doubt it. Will the words of the world's leaders, breathing a sigh of relief, matter more. I think so. Most, even the terrorist enemy, knows that the United States has within its military capability the means to eliminate terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the western regions of Pakistan, and we chose not to do so due to human costs. That, my friends, is called a moral and humanitarian victory over a despised enemy that views life cheap and, through its actions, kills more of its kin than "Western imperialists."
If these steps are taken, what might be more of a problem is that if a certain segment of the American population becomes defeatist, and labels such a policy as a defeat of American armed forces, ignoring the rather obvious fact that such is not the case. Americans who feel this way, and there will be some, are denying the American goal of working within the community of nations not ignoring them in the quest for American hegemony.
President Obama stated, "We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." Prove it, Mr. President. Do so wisely and judiciously.