“Our most complex military challenge…will involve putting boots on the ground in the ungoverned or hostile regions where terrorists thrive,” Barack Obama said, campaigning for president. His comment revealed a lack of understanding of tactical leadership for the military volunteers who march in the “boots on the ground.” Now, emerging policy for the war in Afghanistan is exposing Obama’s failure to comprehend the basics of strategic leadership.
A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans disagree with setting a timetable for withdrawal. And a Rasmussen survey states that U.S. voters think things are going badly in Afghanistan, where the military is scheduled to leave a terrorist safe haven with Obama’s political announcements for an imminent withdrawal.
Obama’s policy called for an increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan in the short term, but a plan to begin withdrawal in July 2011. The administration now is shifting the emphasis to removing U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 as opposed to the earlier emphasis on when withdrawal would begin.
The problem is that Obama’s political fight fails to take into account the welfare of America’s military or the population of Afghanistan with respect to a fundamental concept: all warfare is based on deception. Such deception in warfare, relevant to American “boots on the ground,” applies to the strategy of guerilla warfare used successfully against the Soviet Union by the same Taliban elements now waiting out the real fight for an American withdrawal.
Analogous to misguided perceptions spread by terrorists in Afghanistan about Americans, the Taliban insurgency, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, military historian B.H. Liddell Hart describes a 20th-century case study in guerilla warfare that explains how the Taliban and their Al Qaeda associates will benefit with Obama’s pending withdrawal.
Within four years after the departure of the Japanese, Mao Tse- tung gained complete control of the Chinese mainland, and in the process took over most of the American arms and other equipment that had been poured into China to aid Chaing Kai-shek in his resistance to the Japanese and the Chinese communists…
Violence takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare. In the latter it is counteracted by obedience to constituted authority, whereas the former makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules. It becomes very difficult to rebuild a country, and a stable state, on a foundation undermined by such experience.
An American commander-in-chief, with strategic knowledge from United States military service as a decorated non-commissioned officer (NCO), would not make the same negligent mistakes as Obama, who has neither served nor volunteered to wear “boots on the ground” in the American military. Similar to U.S. Navy warnings that “loose lips sink ships,” significance is attached to operations security (OPSEC) in the U.S. Army. A veteran NCO serving as president in the American chain of command, who has maintained a high standard of OPSEC discipline in subordinates, would also avoid announcing military withdrawals and other strategic decisions.
Until 2012, when Americans will elect a new president, the United States Senate and House of Representatives should judge it as necessary and expedient to remain vigilant with oversight of negligence in executive OPSEC, questioning Obama’s decisions to aid and comfort jihadist Islamic terrorists with useful information against American volunteers.
Robert D. Crews and Amin Tarzi, The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008).
B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, Second Revised Edition (New York: Meridian, 1967).
Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau, Afghan Guerrilla Warfare: In the Words of the Mujahedeen Fighters (St. Paul, MBI, 2001).
Timothy J. Lynch and Robert S. Singh, After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown, 2006).
CSM Robert S. Rush, USA (Ret.), NCO Guide, 6th Edition (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole, 1999).