“You know what, though?” He said, his voice rising a bit. “People die in war. It sucks, but it has to happen to get things done.” I was a bit taken aback. Even though I’ve spent years in military contracting, I’m not used to hearing people talk like this. He was right—basic tenets of counterinsurgency, like what I call “the lie of force protection” (i.e. force protection makes you less safe), actually do put people at risk and make them more likely to die. Effective counterinsurgency is a dangerous business. But then the LTC dropped a bombshell that got me to thinking.
“No one has ever gotten a 15-6 for losing a village in Afghanistan,” he said. “But if he loses a soldier defending that village from the Taliban, he gets investigated.”
As soon as he said it, we both paused for a second and looked at each other.
“I think you just explained why we’re losing,” I said, meaning every word. As of late, I’ve been fighting this nagging feeling that, from command on down, there is no concerted desire to accomplish the mission, just a desire to finish one’s tour and head home and screw whoever has to pick up the pieces later.
After another pause, he looked at me and said, his mouth twisting ever so slightly, “You know, I think you’re right.”
We didn’t say much for the rest of dinner.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Another perspective, from Registan.net: