Petraeus, Afghan strategy, and Israel: Another week of daftness from U.S. leaders

A number of items over past week caught my attention, and, being a bear-of-little-brain, they added to my confusion about why those brilliant folks who lead us seem so many times to have even less brains than I do.

General Petraeus: Here we have a four-star U.S. general in command of a 120,000-person, U.S.-NATO army in Afghanistan, where, of course, he is losing the war. Faced with coming defeat, it seems odd that the general still has time to intervene in domestic U.S. politics with his pathetic moaning about “how burning Korans in Florida will endanger U.S. troops.” (NB: Losing Afghanistan would make Petraeus 0 for 2 in wars: Attacks are again occurring across Iraq and a U.S.-trained Iraqi soldier today killed 2 and wounded 9 U.S. soldiers. Perhaps he is seeking to divert attention?)

Now, there is no doubt that burning Korans in Florida will incite more Muslims to fight us and so more U.S. service personnel will be at risk. But that impact pales when compared to the U.S. soldiers and Marines who are dying and being maimed in Afghanistan because of the impact of first General McChrystal and now Petraeus greatly reducing nighttime operations — at which U.S. troops excel — and air support for our troops in order to chase the never-to-be-caught phantom of winning Afghan hearts and minds by reducing civilian casualties.

In this context it is worth recalling that the Afghans hate and fight the U.S. and NATO because we are occupying their country. If we did not kill a single civilian, the insurgents — whether driven by faith or nationalism — would still be fighting to drive our forces and non-military presence out of their country.

Petraeus already has plenty of American blood on his hands. He ought to focus his attention on rectifying that failing and stay out of domestic politics like all good soldiers should.

Afghan Strategy: The media report that the long-planned U.S. military offensive to drive the Taliban from Kandahar Province is ready to start. “Unnamed” U.S. officials and military officers have leaked to the media that this could be the beginning of the end for the Taliban. The mainstream media reporters lap up this swill and spew it out to Americans — no one more so than the Washington Post’s David Ignatius — as if the Kandahar offensive has the remotest possibility of lasting success. It does not.

  • Do our political leaders, generals, and journalists know that Kandahar is one of more than 30 Afghan provinces; that the insurgency has or is spreading to all of them; and that focusing so much strength in one southern province gives the Taliban and its allies access and opportunities elsewhere?
  • Do they know the people of Kandahar hate infidel occupiers as much as any other Afghan, and that they prefer the brutal but effective law-and-order and lack of corruption they experienced under the Taliban?
  • Do they know U.S. and NATO generals have given the Taliban more than 180 days notice that the Kandahar offensive is coming; that the Taliban and its allies have sewn the province with mines, IEDs, and booby-traps; and that the Taliban has moved its most important stockpiles of military materiel out of harm’s way — just as they did in Helmand Province last spring?
  • Do they know that if things get too hot for the Taliban in Kandahar they will exit to an adjacent province or move across the border into Iran or Pakistan, and there wait to return as soon as U.S. and NATO forces leave?

One must believe that our bright, well-educated politicians, generals, and journalists know all these obvious things. The question that occurs, therefore, is: “Why are they getting our soldiers and Marines killed for nothing?”

Israel: Having yielded to President Obama’s plea for more useless Palestine-Israel peace talks, the Israeli government quickly scuppered them and showed Obama who is boss.

  • Even as the talks opened, Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said the talks were pointless and pledged to wreck Netanyahu’s government if he made any concessions.
  • Next, on the weekend, Israel’s defense minister signed a defense cooperation agreement with Russia, a pact the media reports will focus on Moscow purchasing Israeli — read U.S.-origin — technology for unmanned military drones and lasers. The timing was not coincidental. The Israelis were reminding Obama that a good deal of highly sensitive U.S. technology could find its way from Israeli hands to Russia if Israel is pressed too hard to cut a deal with the Palestinians.
  • Then to top off the week, the former chairman of the “Conference of Major Jewish American Organizations” published a letter effusively praising Obama for having substantially improved Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors, thereby once again reminding the Palestinians and all Muslims that the idea of an even-handed U.S. approach to peace is still a fantasy.

If Americans needed reminding that there is no difference in the lust of Democrats and Republicans to get the United States involved in an Israel-Muslim religious war where no U.S. interest is at stake, this week’s events did the trick. And if anyone is looking for something more lethal to the lives of U.S. troops and destabilizing to U.S. domestic security than burning Korans and Petraeus’s enemy-protecting regulations, he or she need look no farther than the current U.S.-Israel relationship.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.