Redefining Winning in Afghanistan

Redefining Winning in Afghanistan by John Mueller - The National Interest

In his recent speech on the war in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump laid out what he said was a “plan for victory” and assured us that “in the end, we will win.”

For all the very considerable expense, however, the American military does not have a very impressive record of achieving victory. It has won no wars since 1945—especially if victory is defined as achieving an objective at acceptable cost—except against enemy forces that essentially didn’t exist.

The various attrocities committed by the Islamic State have continued to fuel opposition to the group, but it's still making headway in Afghanistan.

In his recent speech on the war in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump laid out what he said was a “plan for victory” and assured us that “in the end, we will win.”

For all the very considerable expense, however, the American military does not have a very impressive record of achieving victory. It has won no wars since 1945—especially if victory is defined as achieving an objective at acceptable cost—except against enemy forces that essentially didn’t exist.

It triumphed over tiny forces in Grenada—possessed of two vehicles, one of which was rented—and over scarcely organized thuggish ones in Panama and Kosovo. And, although the Iraqi opponent in the Gulf War of 1991 often looked impressive on paper, it turned out to lack quite a few rather elemental qualities: defenses, strategy, tactics, training, leadership and morale—it was, as one general put it ironically at the time, “the perfect enemy.”

There are also a few wars in which it could probably be said that the United States was ahead at the end of the first, second, or third quarter—Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. But the final results of these were certainly less than stellar: exhausted stalemate, effective defeat, hasty withdrawal and extended misery.

Trump notes that “we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS” in Iraq and Syria, and he seems to suggest that those results can be duplicated in Afghanistan. And, indeed, foreign-policy analyst David Ignatius has suggested that in its current war against the Islamic State, the U.S. military may well have found a winning combination.

It is not at all clear that this approach has much wider potential, however. The strategy against ISIS is working because of a couple of complementary features not likely to be found in many other conflicts—including especially Afghanistan…

Read on.

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From our article above:

"For all the very considerable expense, however, the American military does not have a very impressive record of achieving victory. It has won no wars since 1945 -- especially if victory is defined as achieving an objective at acceptable cost -- except against enemy forces that essentially didn’t exist."

In this regard, has our author forgotten about the Old Cold War and, as to this war, our "victory" there?

This, when he suggests that the American military, at acceptable cost, has won no wars since 1945 -- this, except against enemy forces that essentially didn't exist?

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above

Thus, re: "victory" -- and the American military record regarding same -- to see these matters:

a. Less in the relatively "short"/"hot" "small wars" terms that our author above describes? And, instead,

b. More in "long-generational"/"cold" "big wars" terms; terms which seem to better characterize our conflicts -- yesterday as today?