Saturday, April 21, 2012

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Much has been made of the Obama administration's stepped up drone strikes in the wild regions of Pakistan.  There is no doubt that killing al-Qaeda, Taliban and other enemy forces where ever they are found is a good thing.  Similarly the spectacular death of Osama Bin Laden was, well - spectacular, but his death nor the small scale bombing program carried out by drones represent strategic moves.  Over the long term they are effective on the tactical level only.  A strategic breakthrough will not come through commando raids or at discussions in Kabul and Islamabad.  Ground zero has always been the wild tribal regions where the enemy is allowed to hide, train and rearm before crossing the border back into Afghanistan.  Everyone tends to focus on COINs idea about protecting the population while forgetting another one - eliminate the enemy's safe havens.

The case of Iraq is more disturbing because President Obama may have made a tactical calculation that it was better for his reelection chances to not negotiate a new SOFA with Iragi leaders when the original one expired at the end of 2011.  The administration cannot argue it was a smart strategic move to pull U.S. forces out of an unstable country that we hope to have as a stable ally, but is coveted by our greatest enemy, Iran. The hard, expensive and bloody work was accomplished under the Bush administration and all that was required of the Obama administration was to maintain the successes - in other words to not let the nearly trillion dollars and more than 4,000 American lives be in vain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No Massacre at Gun Ri?

I have written a number of articles on military history and military affairs for, but none of them caused the kind of reaction my last one did.  I wrote about 5 massacres perpetrated by American troops stretching from the Spanish American War/Filipino Insurrection to the Vietnam War.  "Massacre" is a very loaded word and I resisted the use of the word for some of the incidents in conversations with my editor, but he gets the final word.

Many people have hear of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War or the Massacre at wounded Knee at the end of the Indian Wars.  While the My Lai case is a pretty clear-cut case of atrocities, the others are a lot less clear.  A little research shows there are several versions of events with different sets of facts and motives.  The No Gun Ri incident during the Korean War is one example: A number of South Korean civilians were killed in the midst of some heavy fighting in July 1950, but it gets complicated after that.

One reader contacted me to say I was basically white-washing the cold=blooded murder of innocent civilians by U.S. troops.  He did not provide any good evidence, but he was passionate that Americans were at fault.  He seemed to completely discount the idea that the troops accidently killed civilians in the chaos and confusion of war and as the Communists were infiltrating the ranks of the civilian refugees to advance the American lines.  The deaths of civilians in war is always a tragedy, but a massacre?