Purely Political, By James Buckley
So much for serenity now.
Until a week ago, the overwhelming majority of Democrats, “progressives,” bureaucrats, the very wealthy, media pundits and news readers (there are no more actual journalists that I can tell, certainly not among that group), along with their water carriers in the entertainment industry were settling into what they hoped would be four years of political bliss, or at least for the two years until the midterm election.
The steady hand of their 77-year-old commander-in-chief was on the bridge of the ship of state. Sonar blips emanating from the deep-sea intelligence community informed him there was no danger from below.
Radar signals forecast some slight turbulence ahead, but the vessels on the screen were deemed “friendly.” President Steady-As-You-Go Biden stood tall and his trusty ginger-haired first mate was at his side, ready to interpret the musings of her captain.
Executive Officer Kamala Harris, second-in-command, was itching and eager to take over the helm and become captain, as soon as Steady-As-You-Go left the bridge for a well-deserved nap, or if a sudden bout of sea-sickness overwhelmed him.
All was well on the good ship Lollipop.
So what if the southern border was essentially wide open or that hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 infected … tourists? … immigrants? … invaders? … drug dealers? … money launderers? … human traffickers? … were waltzing across that imaginary line in the sand?
So what if President Steady-As-You-Go slowed, stopped and impeded production of oil and gas in the country, turning the newly energy-independent U.S.A. (the reason for the creation of the Department of Energy in the Carter years was to reach that fabled goal) into just another hat-in-the-hand energy beggar?
We will all become accustomed to $5-a-gallon gas at the pumps, won’t we? After all, that would speed up the conversion to electric cars, wouldn’t it? And, should the pump price of a gallon of gas go to $6 or more, our OPEC partners would be willing and able to fill the oil-and-gas gap, wouldn’t they?
Turns out those faraway blips weren’t that friendly after all. What looked like harmless fishing vessels in all directions on a placid sea, as displayed on Captain Steady-As-You-Go’s sophisticated radar screens, were hostile. And they were moving at increasingly faster speeds as they neared the good ship Lollipop.
Before Second-in-Command Kamala could shout “Ship’s Ahoy!” or even “Incoming! Man Your Battle Stations! Full Speed Ahead!” the blips had taken over 99% of the surrounding ocean. Not only had the super-sophisticated radar screens miscalculated the speed of the blips, but the Sonar under-sea intelligence crew had failed to notice anything at all.
Not to worry, now that the blips had control of the high seas, they’d allow safe passage for Steady-As-You-Go and his crew, won’t they?
Aye, Aye, Captain!
Build Back Better!
Okay, enough with the seafaring references. I spent four years in the U.S. Navy, much of that time as a radioman third-class, so the only things I know about the military I learned on board a tender, then later a destroyer (affectionately known as a “Tin Can” by us seafarers). My job was to calibrate our receivers to a constant frequency, use Morse Code when all else failed, and to deliver messages to the captain on the bridge or in the radar room.
And I never spent one day as a soldier and never saw military action (though my ship’s crew was called to General Quarters and ordered to take up battle stations a couple times while off the coast of Vietnam).
But, as an enlisted sailor, I came into contact with a large number of enlisted personnel (as opposed to officers), and I can say that we were an unsophisticated bunch. Though in my defense, I was a voracious reader in between poker games in the gun mount and liberty weekends ashore.
So, rather than state my opinion of the ongoing Afghanistan disaster, I’m going to relate what retired U.S. Army General Don Bolduc, who served 10 tours in Afghanistan, said during a recent interview with Douglas Blair from the online Daily Signal.
I do believe General Bolduc hits the nail on the head.
BUILDING A NATION
“This (war) was lost at the higher levels,” the general said, noting that initially, the Army’s role was to “advise and assist (ousted President) Hamid Karzai in developing an Afghan indigenous force to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in southern Afghanistan. We did that.
“It absolutely is a war we could have won,” the general said, and he laid the blame squarely on the notion of “nation building” that the military engagement turned into.
By June 2002, the Army had essentially completed its mission, and, the general elaborated, “it was our opinion on the ground that the best way to approach this war (would be to) let the Afghans defend themselves, let them build their security, let them figure out how they’re going to prosper.”
Unfortunately, the general observed, the U.S. decided to try and create a Western-style government, Western-style military, Western-style police, and he believed that was the wrong approach.
In light of that, the U.S. did change and began a “bottoms up” approach that was beginning to work. “U.S. casualties were falling dramatically and the Afghan government effectively controlled about 90% of the country,” the general said.
“Next thing I know,” the general said ruefully, “I’m sitting in briefings and we’re … in the middle of 2013 in Afghanistan, and (I’m told that) we’re going to pull all our assets out of the village areas before the mission was actually complete and solidified.”
President Barack Obama had decided the war was over, and “we’re going to transition to noncombat operations.” Within three years of that decision, casualty rates climbed again.
“We were losing big time,” said the general.
“As special ops, we were down there in the villages, and they loved us because we weren’t trying to change them. We were trying to facilitate their success using their culture and their beliefs in the way they want to live and just supporting that so they could build back up their institutions.
“The Taliban destroyed their family; the Taliban destroyed their education system; the Taliban destroyed their security, their confidence. And so that all needed to be restored, and that took time. And that’s what they saw our special operation forces doing, working with them, beside them and not trying to turn them into Americans …
“And I think that’s one of the biggest frustrations that people in Afghanistan see and have is that in many respects, we took over. I mean… in the early years we named their country, wrote the constitution.
“We brought the Italians in to put together their justice system. We brought the Germans in to put their police together, and the U.S. military put their army together. Then we built their government, and we built it largely on a bureaucratic process that we were familiar with in the West. We focused top-down, so one of the things we did was we invested in corruption.
“I credit President Trump with his plan,” the general related, “but he was pushing back against the Defense Department that wasn’t onboard. So when he transitioned out of the White House, and President Biden came in, I could see quickly that this was going to deteriorate …
“I was very supportive of President Trump’s withdrawal approach and plans. We needed to change our military mission there, but there was a responsible way to do it, and then there’s an irresponsible way to do it. And I think we see the irresponsible way to do it…
“We can see that this is definitely the wrong way. And now we’re seeing the worst planned withdrawal by political and military leaders, I think, in the history of warfare.
“It is a disaster; it is shameful.”
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.