Afghanistan Parallels6 June, 2008
I have been re-reading a very interesting book: The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost. It was written by the Russian General Staff in an attempt to understand and draw lessons from what happened to the vaunted Soviet Army when it went up against a bunch of poorly armed, poorly trained, technologically backward Islamic warriors. With the help of U.S. (and other nation’s) intelligence agencies, the Mujahideen were able to fight the Soviets to a standstill and then, eight years later, force a humiliating retreat which gave Mikhael Gorbachev an opening to emasculate the entrenched, elderly, old guard generals.
Due to a lack of money, the Russian General Staff’s study of the war was published in English long before it was published in Russia. The translation was done by Lester W. Grau (Vietnam War veteran and, at the time this was published (2002), a foreign military studies analyst at the Army’s Combined Armed Center at Fort Leavenworth) and Michael A. Gress (a Siberian who served in the motorized rifle forces of the Soviet Army). In addition to the translation, Gress has also added commentary at the end of sections and chapters.
I was struck by one of the editorial paragraphs at the end of chapter 3 Organization, Armament, and Tactics of the Mujahedeen. Here’s the original quote (in the book it is italicized, but I’m skipping that for ease of reading (and I have added my own parenthetical wording to show how the paragraph fits today’s situation in Iraq)):
What is apparent from this chapter is that the Soviets (Americans) did not have a clear understanding of their opposition and that the Russians (Americans) still lack this understanding even when looking back in retrospect. There is a Russian (American) desire to impose structure and order on the unstructured and disorderly Mujahideen (Iraqi insurgents). There is a Soviet (American) need to quantify the unquantifiable. There is faulty Soviet (American) intelligence involved in the basic task of identifying the major opposing factions. There is an inability to understand the enemy, since the Soviet (American) perception of that enemy is filtered through the prism of Marxism-Leninism (The Global War On Terror) — and that prism disallows any popular uprising against a Marxist-Leninist state (and that prism disallows any popular uprising against what is perceived as an occupying force — all attacks must be al-Qaeda). Despite all their efforts, the Soviets (Americans) did not understand who they were fighting.
The last time I posted about the Iraq war, I got one comment that basically said we are in Iraq so arguing about why we are there is pointless, the question is what do we do now? That is why the paragraph above is significant. The Bush Administration’s insistence that all combat in Iraq is a direct result of Al-Qaeda has blinded them to the reality that the average Iraqi sees the Western forces as an occupying army. The absolute incompetence of the civilian leadership, and much of the military leadership, of the United States military has prolonged an impossible situation.
The war was sold using propagand based on intelligence which was known by the White House to be incorrect. The post-invasion planning was ignored. And the military (and I’m not sure how much of this is the military’s preference for preparing for big wars rather than guerilla war and how much of it was the hubris of the civilian leadership) has fucked up so badly in Iraq that any chance of a successful conclusion has been scuttled.
But we are supposed to believe that the Republican Party knows national security, knows how to prosecute a war, knows how to ‘win’ in Iraq. The asshats do not even understand what is happening in Iraq and will not see the parallels between the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and the current situation in Iraq.
In short, throw these incompetent criminals out of office and send some legal briefs to the Hague so we can start a war crimes investigation.