Human ingenuity

English: Michigan's Upper Peninsula

English: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human ingenuity will defeat high-tech every time, well almost every time. Joseph Heywood, author of The Snowfly and several crime novels set in Michigan‘s upper peninsula was a tanker pilot during the Vietnam war. In his autobiography entitled Covered Waters, Tempests of a Nomadic Trouter, he has this to say about the ingenuity of the Viet Cong enemy:

“I talked to a Forward Air Controller (FAC) about interdiction packages. Usually the package consists of a huge mine, but to keep the enemy from exploding it prematurely, they seed the area with tiny antipersonnel mines. The enemy uses a rock tied to a string, throwing it ahead of him, then dragging it back to explode the CBUs. After he cleans a path, he pulls an ox in front of the main mine. With a rope the ox then pulls a plow or metal object like a garbage can lid by the big one, exploding it. The process, which takes us a day to put in place, and many thousands of dollars, is cleared by the enemy in 2-4 hours with a rock, a string, an ox, and a piece of metal. Simplicity can always best complexity.”

And then there is the home field advantage which applies in knowledge of the war zone as well as in sports. We lost in Vietnam, did poorly in Iraq and are losing in Afghanistan, at least in part, because the enemy knows the country better than we do. In our war for independence from Great Britain, the greatest military power of the time, we won in part because we had the home field advantage. And we might still be part of the British Commonwealth if we had not had the help of France.

Donald Rumsfeld believed that the US could and should rely on high tech to allow us to field a small military. The enemy responded with IEDs, improvised explosive devices, and suicide bombers. Rather than relying so much on high tech, I believe that we should out-think and out-improvise our enemies. Let’s start encouraging Yankee know-how to win hearts and minds rather than firepower to kill.

 

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Bush and bin Laden

English: Osama bin Laden Compound Italiano: Il...

English: Osama bin Laden Compound Italiano: Il complesso di Osama Bin Laden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. The following is from Decision Points by George W. Bush and these are Bush’s words.

“Driven out of their strongholds, the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda fled to Afghanistan’s rugged eastern border with Pakistan. In early 2002, Tommy Franks mounted a major assault called Operation Anaconda. Out troops, joined by coalition partners and Afghan forces, squeezed out the remaining al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan. CIA officers and Special Forces crawled through the caves, calling in airstrikes on terrorist hideouts and putting a serious dent in al Qaeda’s army.

“I hoped I would get a call with the news that Osama bin Laden was among the dead or captured. We were searching for him constantly and received frequent but conflicting information on his whereabouts. Some reports placed him in Jalalabad. Others had him in Peshawar, or at a lake near Kandahar, or at the Tora Bora cave complex. Our troops pursued every lead. Several times we thought we might have nailed him. But the intelligence never panned out.

“Years later, critics charged that we allowed bin Laden to slip the noose at Tora Bora. I sure didn’t see it that way. I asked our commanders and CIA officials about bin Laden frequently. They were working around the clock to locate him, and they assured me they had the troop levels and resources they needed. If we had known for sure where he was, we would have moved heaven and earth to bring him to justice.”

Those are Bush’s words, and I don’t believe them. And here is why.

At that time we knew that a portion of the Pakistan government was supporting the Taliban and probably still are. We surrounded Tora Bora on the Afghan side and relied on the Pakistanis to block exits from Tora Bora into Pakistan. They allowed bin Laden and much of al-Qaeda to escape. President Obama was able to find and kill bin Laden ONLY because he kept the Pakistan government in the dark.

We have George W. Bush’s words above. Years later, he expressed unconcern about bin Laden being only one man, as if the man responsible for 9-11 was not important. In his book In My Time, Dick Cheney does not mention Tora Bora. Tommy Franks in his book American Soldier did not know where bin Laden was. However, Franks’s deputy in command, Michael DeLong in his book A General Speaks Out, said that bin Laden was definitely at Tora Bora. He said that in the first edition of the book and changed his story in the second edition. Donald Rumsfeld claimed that we could not use American troops to block exits from Tora Bora because they would upset the area residents. Imagine that.

We had troops in the area who ready and eager to join in the battle. They were not used and wonder today why not. Tora Bora occurred within 90 days of 9-11. Imagine how different our world would be today if we had killed or captured bin Laden and the majority of al-Qaeda there. The war against al-Qaeda would have been one of the shortest wars in our history. At the beginning of the US Civil War, Union soldiers were asked to enlist for a short war, 90 days or less. The Civil War dragged on for four long, hard years. The war against al-Qaeda began on 9-11-2001 and has dragged on for 11 years with no end in sight.

How do I know that Bush’s words are untrue? Let me count the ways.

When 9-11 occurred, I thought that the Bush team was the team we needed to fight al-Qaeda. One year into the Iraq war in 2004, I had changed my mind completely. I wanted to know what was happening in Iraq and the media were not forthcoming. I started reading every book I could on Iraq and they convinced me that the Bush administration was incompetent. I have continued my reading on Iraq including Paul Bremer’s 2006 book entitled My Year in Iraq. I am convinced that all of Bush’s efforts were a mistake and a terrible of waste of life and national treasure. Even the apparent success of the surge was a fortuitous coincidence with Iraqi internal conditions that made the surge look like a success to American reporters.

Then in 2005, there was Katrina which could have been largely prevented if Bush had strengthened the levees instead of spending the money on a shipping canal that was hardly ever used. He had 4.5 years to address that problem and did not. The Afghan and Iraq wars continued during Bush’s second term. In 2007 and 2008, the banking system nearly ground to a halt and the Great Recession began. Bush could have acted earlier with Alan Greenspan to stop the inflation of the credit bubble. He did nothing.

If the Bush administration was so incompetent after invading Iraq, do we have any evidence that they were more competent before? No, we do not. We know now that Iraq was invaded under false pretenses. The Bush administration did not prevent 9-11 from happening. After it happened, it declared war on Afghanistan even though the Taliban were willing to turn bin Laden over to another country. Bush refused and started bombing the country. Rumsfeld knew that there were few targets to attack in Afghanistan and expressed the desire to start bombing Iraq where there were more targets.

So I say to you that the Bush administration was an incompetent administration from beginning to end, for the entire eight years. Not capturing bin Laden and the majority of al-Qaeda at Tora Bora when they were cornered was either stupid or criminal or both.

Drones

Predator Drone

Image by Doctress Neutopia via Flickr

Drones are remotely-piloted airplanes that the US government uses for surveillance and attack outside the US. It is estimated that each drone requires approximately 300 people to service and control in flight while a plane with a pilot requires approximately 100 people. We are employing many more drones so that at present there is a shortage of trained personnel to operate and support them. (Aside: great employment opportunities there.)

At first, drones were used only to look for and kill the top leaders of al-Qaeda. As more drones became available, they were used further and further down the chain of command until now drones are used to identify and kill SUSPECTED enemy soldiers. That’s right suspected enemies, no way to determine from 1,000s of feet in altitude and operated from 1,000s of miles away. The expansion of the list of targets reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld after 9-11. He wanted to use airpower against Iraq because there were so few targets in Afghanistan.

Wars are won and lost on the ground, so-called boots on the ground by infantry men and women. Wars are not won at a distance either in the air or at sea. Indiscriminate killing, as the US is now engaged in around the world in the War on Terror, will create more future terrorists than our drones are capable of killing. Before we attack suspected enemies, we should at least give them the opportunity to explain who they are and what they are doing. Too many innocents are dieing from our mistakes.