Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's the Rules of Engagement, Stupid!

More from TM on Afghanistan:

The WaPo discusses the ghastly short-term political implications of McChrystal's emphasis on protecting the Afghan population rather than our own forces:

Less Peril for Civilians, but More for Troops As U.S. Toll in Afghanistan Rises, Lawmakers And Families Are Questioning New Restrictions

Concern is rising in Congress and among military families over a sharp increase in U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan at a time when senior military officials acknowledge that American service members are facing greater risks under a new strategy that emphasizes protecting Afghan civilians.

...McChrystal, in a major assessment disclosed by The Washington Post on Monday, castigated the U.S. military in Afghanistan for being "preoccupied with protection of our own forces." He wrote that U.S. and other military personnel must minimize their time in armored vehicles and walled bases and "share risk, at least equally, with the people." McChrystal also called for coalition troops to "radically increase" joint operations with Afghan forces. Both steps, he said, mean greater risk for coalition troops in the near term but could "ultimately save lives in the long run."

The problem is, the long run is a series of short runs, and sometimes you can't get there from here.

If we had strong public support for the effort in Afghanistan, or a President inclined to use his rhetorical gifts to rally some, a strategy that literally trades more deaths today for the prospect of fewer deaths down the road might be sustainable. Bush managed a similar feat (and sans the rhetorical gifts) with the surge in Iraq, which projected a short term increase in deaths with the new mission of population protection coupled with new Rues of Engagement. But as Obama would say with pride, he isn't George Bush.

Like I said before, fight the war to win or don't bother.

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