I wasn’t any kind of hero when I was in the Army, and I am not a scholar of military history, but having spent some time in uniform, I just can’t understand this nonsense of putting deadlines on a war.

The United States has a timetable which calls for the withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq by September, 2010. Now President Obama has called for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, with the deployment of 30,000 more troops. The administration says they are confident that this increase in troop strength, at a cost of $30 billion, falls in line with Obama’s July, 2011 deadline to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan.

That’s what happens when politicians thousands of miles away determine military policy, instead of letting the generals who are on the ground run a war. You cannot take a trip unless you have a clear destination in mind. Nobody gets in their car and says “I’ll drive for two hours, or two days, or two weeks, and then my journey will be over.”      

The way I grew up understanding warfare, from the perspective of my father and uncles’ World War II service,  you advanced upon the enemy, fought them until they were defeated, and kept on rolling forward until all that was left behind you was the smoking wreckage of the enemy’s army, and you had whipped whatever was left into submission. How do you put a schedule on that kind of action?

What happens if your enemy doesn’t have the same schedule as you do, as we saw in Vietnam, and are facing now in Iraq and Afghanistan? What happens when your enemy is committed to the fight for the long haul and is willing to outfight, out kill, and outlast you?

Do we reach that arbitrary date on the calendar and just say “we’re done” and walk away, like we did in Vietnam, wasting 58,226 American lives, killed and missing in action, for nothing?  If it’s just going to be a date on a calendar, why not tomorrow, or the next day, or next week?

Obviously we are not in this fight to win it, if we are going to adhere to a schedule instead of destroying the enemy. Will we accomplish any more by waiting months, or years, to reach that predetermined conclusion to the war, other than wasting more lives and money?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Comments on How Do You Put A Deadline On A War?

  1. Tom Doyle says:

    As we marched we also saw the smoking wreckage of every country we went through. Maybe, just maybe our president is in communication with his Generals and making his decisions on their advice. Ya THINK?

  2. Ron Olsen says:

    Nick I will agree. Having spent my time in Viet Nam also and seen the disaster that was suppose to be a war. The Army did not or wasn’t allowed to plan on winning the war. The goal that we were told was to win the hearts and minds of the people. This can not be done by killing them only by teaching them how to have a better life. I as a veterinarian felt that I could have made progress towards that goal by working with the people and helping them better heal their animals. The problem was that everything that I tried to do someone with more rank vetoed it for reasons like “You can’t meet with the head of the Vietnamese Veterinary service to set up a program to train the Veterinary Cadre because he is a bird colonel and you are only a captain.” The military personnel in Irag and Afganistan probably do so many things to help but the politicians and generals don’t recognize it and reward it. Setting deadlines is giving the enemy every quarter and taking everyone away from the military. I am sure that the generals never asked the president to give the Taliban a timetable. That is only to save his political career. Ron

  3. David Bain says:

    Couldn’t agree more Nick. It seems that our president wants to have a budget and a schedule for a war, but sees no need for either with our bail out programs.

  4. MichaelG says:

    This isn’t a war against a defined enemy that loses if you hit them hard enough and then gives up.

    It’s a “nation-building” exercise, trying to give the people there a country that provides them with some kind of prosperity and order, to lessen the appeal of radical Islam. And to give them a reason to like the U.S.. And to keep them from destabilizing Pakistan, and giving a home to Al Queda.

    If we just bomb the crap out of them and kill all their opium crops, they are going to wait us out. We’ll eventually leave and they’ll be back to business as usual.

    I think the thing is hopeless, but if we are going to stay, we have to realize it’s just not a conventional war. “Hearts and minds”, you know…

    But don’t worry — the deadline is BS anyway, like most of what comes out of politicians mouths. We haven’t even pulled out of Iraq yet, and we supposedly “won” there.

  5. Redbear says:

    On October 12, 2001, when Bush Jr. announced we were going into Afghanistan, and tole the American people that the presence would be “long,” I remember thinking that we had been in Korea for 50 years with no end in sight. I wondered if the Commander-In-Chief was thinking that far ahead, or was being short-sighted.

    It has been said “Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.” I remember history. The USSR did not disappear because of a speech Ron Reagan made in Berlin. The people of the Soviet Union marched on the halls of government because they were tired of all their youth and treasure being spent in trying to hold Afghanistan, which was their neighbor, not half-way around the world.

    Winning their hearts and minds is tough. If you are a young boy, and see your door kicked off its hinges at 4 AM, and foreigners pointing automatic weapons at your mother and sisters as they lie on the floor, how do you respond? Is it with love, knowing that they are just looking for weapons in the neighborhood? Or do you vow to get the foreigners out of your homeland when you grow up?

    We have arguably the finest military in the world, able to engage any threat of force and disable or eliminate it. But nation-building is not taught in boot camp. The past VP has said, “I thought we would be welcomed as liberators.” The first step in nation-building is to learn how the locals think. You can’t skip that step and just make your plans applying our way of thinking.

    The tribes in those areas have been fighting each other for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They will still be fighting each other when we either call it quits, or run out of “blood and treasure” and can no longer function.

    Bad Nick’s earier post to this effect was spot-on.

  6. Glen says:

    Having spent time at Dak To, Vietnam in 1969 where “Vietnamization” started, where we endured a 45% casulity rate, I have always been confused about the United States’ envolvement.

    I just completed a book, “Vietnam, Now” by David Lamb. I suggest that every Vietnam veteran get a copy and read it. I now understand the war, the people and our “misadventure” in that country. We should have never gotten involved in that country, were correct in getting out and NEVER could have won the “WAR”.

    Many of the same situations exist in the part of the world we a fighting in now. We will NEVER “win”.

    Obama was handed a terrible situation with both the economy and our “war” envolvements. Is he doing everything perfect — no. Is he doing all of the right things — I don’t know. Is he doing the best that he can — I hope so.

    I pray for him and our country — maybe more of the same would help.

  7. Sam says:

    The only ones that are winning are the ones who fleed their country and immigrate to North America and (land as a refugee) And take all the handouts that are available to them (thank you tax payers) and start building their communities here on THIS soil!!! Open you eyes people!!! They are takin’ you blind sided. My Grandfather is rolling in his grave!

  8. Gary says:

    For the record Viet Nam was never considered a war but a police action. Even though it felt and sounded like war to me. I know I was loading all sorts of bombs on planes that dropped them somewhere so that I along with many others could do it again the next day.
    Now like Afghanistan we are fighting an enemy that doesn’t care enough not to blow each other up let alone someone else. When we fight a war or police action we must abide by all the rules of fair play as it were. Yet like Viet Nam it is hard to tell who the enemy is and hard to accept fighting someone else who only knows how to fight dirty so to speak. I like many Viet Nam Vets feel this war is going to end up another Viet Nam. I do feel that this should not happen and hope that the politicians keep there noses out of it and let the military do what has to be done to end this War as soon as possible.
    Last there is no way to make any war politically correct.

  9. Mike Loscher says:

    I don’t care if you call it a war or a police action we can not win there. There mind set is just not ours. When the majority of people see as sinners how can anyone think we can win their hearts and minds. You can not win in a religious war as both side think they are right and I don’t care what you call it it is about religion.
    Yes I serviced in Viet Nam and that was a different type of war that we had no hope of winning.

  10. Linda Mason says:

    I wonder how close the date is to the timeline for Obama to start politicking again for reelection? Pretty damn close in my book. That is all it is, a chance for him to get reelected. Nothing more.

    It has been said, and I have said it and I know many others have, their values are different, their concept of human life is different, and I think most of all, they have been fighting each other for centuries. They will continue to fight. Only now they have this hatred and anger for the USA. They will continue to do anything they can to destroy us as a people and country. By prolonging this war, it is a way for them to win. We get weaker and less able to protect ourselves while their anger and hatred grows. The learning process for them is an upward spiral, they will only get better at what they do.

    It is scary. We all will suffer sooner or later. Just a matter of time.

  11. Herman Kophoff says:

    My Wife and I lived in Holland during world war 2 and listen to many speaches made by Hitler. I get the same uneasy feeling listening to Obama, he scares me.
    He did not come up with anything He could not have come up with 80 days ago, what kind off War experience does He have, instead off leaving it up to His generals. and then put a time line on this war to bring the Troops Home is ludicress. The other site must love Him.
    All He does is campaining instead of solving the problem by giving the Business Men a Tax brake instead of making them feel uncomfertable.

  12. Steve says:

    We are in this mess because the Generals are persuaded that a limited war could be won. There is no “win”, just as there was no way to win in ‘Nam.
    Wars and warfare have changed too much to be compared to previous conflicts.
    Winning “Hearts and Minds” assumes that the population to be won has similar values to ours. This is simply not the case, therefore a flawed strategy.
    Conquest assumes Imperialism and is not a viable option.
    Like classic Tic-Tac-Toe, the only way to “win” is not to play. Once you understand the options, the best outcome you can hope for is a stalemate.
    A time-line exit strategy makes sense. We should not be there under these conditions in the first place.

  13. don says:

    There is a quote “War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military”; I can’t see why we are in Iraq or Afghanistan and I’m disappointed in Mr. Obama’s choice. I’m afraid he IS listening to the generals who are safe in their HQ and NOT on the front line with our young people in uniform. Those countries are not likely to become democracies ever but we are trying to force it upon them. Color me unhappy!

Leave a Reply