“The Ten Ships,” which was written ten years ago, argued that Afghanistan had no intrinsic geographical value in the War on Terror.
One of the reasons the Navy opposed a Southwest Pacific campaign during the Pacific War was the shrewd appreciation that once bureaucracy started on a task it would grow with it like a cancer whatever its original purpose. Admiral King wasn’t against an action in the Solomons. He was just afraid that it would take on a life of its own. The passage of time has not changed this tendency.
The campaign in Afghanistan began in 2002 with a specific purpose. But by the time Barack Obama was running for President its chief attraction was the fact that it was an alternative to the campaign in Iraq.
A 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal covering his speech before the VWF captured his thinking: Afghanistan was a “war of necessity”, unlike Iraq, which was a “war of choice”. Of all the “false choices” the President was fond of rhetorically raising, this was perhaps the falsest choice of all.
By asserting that Afghanistan, not oil or the Middle East or radical Islam was the center of gravity of the enemy, President Obama completely misframed the strategic choices.
Time has been kind to that assessment. Attempts to remake Afghanistan into something moderately Western through nation-building has wound up feeding the Taliban. “Families of almost 150 U.S. service members and civilians who were killed or wounded in terror attacks in Afghanistan sued a group of Western contractors involved in the nation’s reconstruction for allegedly bribing the Taliban for protection for years.”
The alleged payments ultimately helped finance a Taliban-led insurgency that led to the attacks in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Washington. The suit seeks unspecified damages for the families under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“Defendants were all large Western companies with lucrative businesses in post-9/11 Afghanistan, and they all paid the Taliban to refrain from attacking their business interests,” according to the complaint. “Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an al-Qaida-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans.”
The Ten Ships argued — ten years ago — that one denies the jihad money, not give it to them…………
For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East.
Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary.
That the campaign failed to attain many of objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid.
It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan.
Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago.
The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.
If the War on Terror seems largely won today, or at least less desperate than September 2001, it is because radical Islam has discredited itself, the strongmen of the Middle East have self-immolated themselves through their own dysfunction, and entrepreneurs have eased American dependence on foreign oil through fracking and other innovations.