Friday, July 4, 2014

Another Military Disaster

I read The Outpost by Jake Trapper. It’s about a remote Army outpost in Afghanistan that should have never been. It was located in a particularly dangerous area close to the Pakistan border. Small, difficult to defend, 45 minutes from air support, down a road that only small trucks could navigate. And the worst part, in a valley with mountains on three sides allowing direct fire into the outpost.

Military history is replete with dumb ass ideas. The charge of the light brigade, charging machine guns with overlapping fire day after day in WWI. This outpost reminded me of Dien Bien Phu – the epic 1954 French decision to locate a base in valley surrounded by mountains that could only be resupplied by aircraft. The VC handed the French their heads in that battle and ended French involvement in Vietnam.

Afghanistan reminds me Vietnam in several ways. In both we were up against several forces: 1) a corrupt government, 2) no way to project permanent force to the enemy, 3) supplies from allied countries [Russia and China for Vietnam and Pakistan for Afghanistan], 4) ability to cross neighboring borders with ease, 5) an enemy willing to kill citizens to intimidate the locals against us. 6) locals who had a history of shifting sides going back centuries – the clan, the tribe, not citizenship is paramount.

If Alexander, Genghis Khan, the British and Russia could not tame the place, what the hell were we thinking? But, that is another story. Here we have Generals and Colonels deciding to put bases in indefensible positions – a place that anyone that has gone through platoon level maneuvers knows not to do – you never take the low ground by choice. Then compounding the problem by refusing to withdraw or put enough resources into play to make it work.

We have great people in our military. If only they had commanders that could make good choices.

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