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Not to complain about the ever-expanding war on terror, but...
March 3, 2002 11:18 PM   Subscribe

Not to complain about the ever-expanding war on terror, but... Afganistan just might become a little stickier than our leaders had hoped. A recent raid on regrouping troops went not too well, with a combined force of Afgan and U.S. troops beating a quick retreat. Is the U.S. miring itself in not one but several Vietnam's?
posted by Gilbert (12 comments total)

 
Oh god, not another "quagmire" allegation.

No. Your answer is no. A lack of absolute 100% perfection in a wartime situation - a standard never achieved by any army or nation, anytime, anyplace - does not equal "miring" in any way at all, much less in several Vietnams, a piece of hyperbole so ludicrous as to beggar belief that anyone could actually think it.
posted by aaron at 11:25 PM on March 3, 2002


I think our chances of getting mired in something are rather high with our current leadership. However, I don't believe we're quite at that point, yet.
posted by Kikkoman at 12:48 AM on March 4, 2002


Open discussion in this other, pretty badly-worded FPP.

I am shocked, shocked that in an extended military campaign there has been a gasp setback. This is awfully unusual for war, I know, but someone was actually shot in the process.

One can only imagine what life might have been like for Patton if every mile of French hedgerow were reported on the internet -- or every inch of Omaha. Troops landing at Normandy became separated from their units. Tanks and overpacked soldiers were unloaded too early and sank into the water. Wave after wave of troops was killed before they could reach a defensive position on the beach. Have the Allies bit off more than they can chew? There was a line by Churchill or someone to the effect that D-Day was a devastating failure in every way but one: that it was a complete success. In detail, so many parts of D-Day went wrong. The intelligence. The weather. The overequipped soldiers. The floating tanks that didn't. The shore bombings that killed our own. The utter chaos at the beachheads. The airborne troops and gliders that crashed or got lost. But by the afternoon we were in France to stay, and that was all that mattered.

And Vietnam was not a bunch of scraggly terrorists with Kalashnikovs and holy courage. It was a war against an enemy who was financed and equipped by two other superpowers along a supply trail where, for political reasons, we could not perform interdictions. (And when we finally did... well, we're still paying the price.) These guys are already surrounded. This is by all rights their Dien Bien Phu.

Clearly the descriptions in this article show that the intent of American commanders was to fight a highly mobile battle, whereas the Afghan commanders expected a static, WWI-style form of trench warfare. The details in the article do not show an assault that failed, but a forward position that was ambushed -- suspiciously due to poor operational security among the Afghans. Clearly there was a mistake in presenting such a rich target while underestimating the strike capability (or will) of the enemy, and they'd better not make that mistake twice. But it also has all the earmarks of some kind of trap. You don't get a dozen mortars trained on the same position and immediately get these kinds of casualties unless you've done the sightings in advance ... when it's light. So my money is somebody blabbed.
posted by dhartung at 12:58 AM on March 4, 2002


Lordy, please tell me you did not say "Vietnam". The fact that we lost lives in combat is an obvious indicator that the mighty cave-livin' military might of Al Qaeda is unstoppable! Let's follow the lead of the French and just surrender now. Maybe they won't hurt us too bad.

You said Vietnam.

*rolls eyes, sighs*
posted by owillis at 3:42 AM on March 4, 2002


I'm sorry but... I have this nagging feeling that everyone - well, a lot of people - is waiting for the USA military to fall falt on it's face Afghanistan. Since the news from Afghanistan has been almost singularly positive for the military, every single negative piece of news is something to latch onto and cry "haha, they failed!".

I guess we're all waiting for the big guy to fall flat on his face.
posted by jedrek at 4:56 AM on March 4, 2002


Well, why shouldn't we? As has been repeatedly pointed out, at least two other major powers have failed to accomplish _anything_ there. The attitude that _we_ might fail there is not only justified, it is probably healthy.
posted by Kikkoman at 5:47 AM on March 4, 2002


Yes, I said the 'V' word, great and let's all jump on me for it. But why is it that more U.S. soldiers' lives have been lost since our supposedly lopsided victory? I can imagine that we're already committed to stick around Afganistan for at least a few more years, and eventually, the same should hold for the Phillipines, and maybe even Georgia, Iraq, Somalia, and who knows where else Al Qeida might have a summer camp. How many years down the road are our guys going to be losing lives to sniper fire and suicide bombers? We don't do well in geurilla wars, you know.
posted by Gilbert at 7:20 AM on March 4, 2002


Afghanistan: in 2 months of proxy and air-supported combat, 95% of the country's territory and 100% of its economically and strategically significan territoy, under occupation by our proxy forces. Clean-up operations for the remaining 5% of territory in process for last two months.

In Vietnam: 4 years of proxy combat followed by 4 years of committed in-person combt, followed by 2 years of steadily reduced combat commitments, followed by 2 more years of proxy combat ... wherein for political reasons not one square inch of the enemy's territory proper was ever taken, and significant amounts of our allied territory and nominally neutral third-party territory was consistently under enemy occupation or use.
posted by MattD at 7:22 AM on March 4, 2002


'course those proxy forces ain't exactly homogenous. seems like now we're back cozying up to bacha khan. but didn't kharzai boot him out of the government a month ago because he had supposedly led the US to bomb that convoy in December by telling them they were Taliban?
posted by zoopraxiscope at 7:47 AM on March 4, 2002


As has been repeatedly pointed out, at least two other major powers have failed to accomplish _anything_ there.

We've already accomplished quite a bit. If we stopped now, we'd already be doing better the two other major powers you mention.

But why is it that more U.S. soldiers' lives have been lost since our supposedly lopsided victory?

Because the closer we get to key targets, the more difficult the battles. We eliminated the "low hanging fruit" already. That was easy. Now it gets harder. This is to be expected.

How many years down the road are our guys going to be losing lives to sniper fire and suicide bombers? We don't do well in geurilla wars, you know.


As long as Al-Qaeda remains a serious and immediate threat. There's simply no way to go after these guys that doesn't involve the possibility of danger and potential loss of life. At some point, it won't be a "war" anymore, but we'll definitely have some personnel on the ground for quite some time, and those people are going to be at risk no matter what. Re; guerilla wars. The only precedent anyone can invoke to support the claim that we don't do well in guerilla wars is Vietnam, where, as dhartung pointed out, there were several other factors at work. I've certainly seen the 'we don't do guerilla warfare' claim made before but i've never seen any evidence to back iit up - only the tenuous "we didn't do well in Vietnam; Vietnam was a guerilla war; therefore we don't do well in guerilla wars" argument, which is full of holes.
posted by lizs at 8:30 AM on March 4, 2002


Battlefield ups and down aside, there is a very big difference between Russia-in-Afghanistan or U.S.-in-Vietnam and the current situation. In the first two cases, there was a nuclear superpower supporting the guerillas with billions of dollars in military aid, sent in from invulnerable adjacent sanctuaries. That is not true in Afghanistan today.
posted by myl at 7:03 PM on March 4, 2002


But why is it that more U.S. soldiers' lives have been lost since our supposedly lopsided victory?

What victory? The only thing we, the US, have claimed to have accomplished thus far was to largely destroy the ability of Al-Qaida to function as a terrorist organization in Afghanistan (you'll note the few Al-Qaida people left there are now instead spending all of their time on the front lines in direct combat) and to overthrow the illegitimate Taliban regime. Everyone in the Bush Administration and the US military has made it abundantly clear from the very first day that this is going to be a war that continues for years. I haven't seen anyone "declare victory" except for those that have announced it in a straw-man fashion in order to tear it down.
posted by aaron at 10:54 PM on March 4, 2002


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