Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ghost dancing.


More disturbing news from Afghanistan today... A US service man seems to have lost it and allegedly went on a killing rampage, targeting civilians for no apparent reason and killing many of them. In this type of military engagement, also known as conventional warfare, things like this happen all the time. Unfortunate? Yes. Avoidable? Hardly. War is a nasty business, always was and always will be. When you have thousands of kids out there, armed and ready to go, things can turn ugly at any time. And the more the conflict endures, the more likely some incidents like this will happen.

When you look back at the so called "War on Terror", you can clearly see that all the achieved goals are attributed to special ops, the role of conventional forces being one of holding ground and absorbing any punches thrown at them by insurgents, from angry street mobs to suicide bombers. Time and time again, history shows us that the deployment of conventional forces on an unconventional theatre of operations transforms them into little more than punching bags, their successes being reduced to the occasional and temporary space interdiction of limited areas that lasts only as long as they occupy them. And it doesn't take a genius military strategist to see that countering an unconventional foe by this method requires a huge amount of boots on the ground for every unconventional pair of boots on the other side. That is the meaning of unconventional - it can happen anywhere, so you need to be everywhere. The reason why the "surge" partially worked in Iraq was this. And guess what happened when it ended...

Inevitably, when trying to counter an unconventional enemy by deploying conventional forces you end up with an occupation army that is reduced to the role of... Well, occupying. Then, unfortunate incidents like the one on today's news start to happen. The sooner the fact that unconventional forces alone must be used to engage unconventional enemies is recognized, the sooner this recurring nightmare will stop. Expecting the soldiers, sailors and marines to continue to take unnecessary punches and taking casualties for the sake of a few miles of dirt here and there with no lasting impact on the course of events is not just unreasonable, it is pointless and unfair to all of them, with the inevitable downside of having some of those kids going nuts at some point and making matters even worse than they already were.

Time to get those boots off the ground and return to the strategy that actually produces positive results, with maximum impact on the enemy and little to no collateral damage and casualties on the part of the engaging forces. In other words, leave it to the guys who know how to get in and out of a place like they were never there and get the deed done. Enough sacrifice on all sides for nothing. You can only dance with ghosts if you become one. Time to ghost dance again and do the deed.

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