Monday, July 15, 2019

You Enter War to Win, Not to Exit After Defined Losses

This veteran has done more for our country than I ever have or will, but he is wrong to focus on getting an "exit strategy" in case of a war with Iran. Always focus on victory and what is needed to get that (and deciding if we are willing to pay the likely price).

That veteran attacks Trump for rejecting an exit strategy in regard to our long conflict with Iran should it escalate to open warfare:

In complete ignorance to the lessons paid for in blood from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, [Trump] said, “You’re not going to need an exit strategy. . . . I don’t need exit strategies.”

At worst, this is an admission of malfeasance by our country’s commander in chief. At best, it’s a statement ignoring the lessons of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — something we cannot afford.

One can debate the wisdom of war with Iran--which Iran has been waging against America since their Shia Islamist revolution four decades ago--but rejecting an "exit strategy" is neither malfeasance nor a disregard of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have a long history of rejecting "exit strategies" as ill-disguised calls to begin a war with a publicly revealed failure point that would trigger our retreat:

You know my view on the folly of "exit strategies." Long before I blogged I was frustrated with the idiocy of the concept:

Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. [emphasis added and changed from the original post]

Sadly, we face enemies with such a fanatical level of hatred and determination to kill that the war drags on. That's not our fault. If the jihadis stopped wanting to kill us, we'd go home the next day. Indeed, in Iraq we tried going home before that and found we had to go back to wage Iraq War 2.0. It's not our fault our enemies in Afghanistan are so evil and persistent. Really, they don't hate us because we fight them over there. Which is a reason to win and not walk away from Afghanistan.

As for not achieving objectives, of course we have.

In Afghanistan we defeated the Taliban government that hosted al Qaeda and wrecked the terror sanctuary that bred 9/11. And we built an imperfect ally that is out there every day killing jihadis so we don't have to. It is a success that our role is far more limited to supporting these allies on the ground than it was when we had 100,000 Americans on the ground in direct combat. Sadly, sanctuaries in Pakistan and (to a lesser extent) Iran limit how much we can win the war. Are we to abandon what we achieved and go home--only to find we have to go back and fight Afghanistan War 2.0 when we find things really can be much, much worse?

In Iraq we defeated Saddam who made Iraq a conventional threat to the region (remember the Persian Gulf War?), who supported terrorism, who abused and murdered his own people, who tried to kill a former American president, and who was a WMD threat. We created an imperfect democratic ally that struggles with rule of law; and which fights at our side to kill jihadis rather than recruiting and training terrorists. Indeed, like the author of the article fails to do, we can't seem to recognize the evidence of our victory when we are looking at the evidence!

Any enemy would consider it a precious gift to know what exactly would convince us to exit, would they not?

And I'm not the only one to notice that we really aren't in "endless wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan any more. What we are doing is committing troops and money (and yes, occasional casualties) to defend what we achieved. All without "exit strategies." Let's keep it that way.

If we counted our troop deaths (from training and sometimes terrorism) in Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Italy after the major combat ended, it would look like our "endless wars" in those places continue to this day. Let's pay the price to defend our gains to make the higher prices we paid to win them not go to waste.