April 1, 2012  

More on truth, lies and duty

While it is commendable that Lt. Col. Daniel Davis spoke his truth, there are some problems with his observations.

Davis speaks of “the enemy,” but of whose enemy is he speaking? Are the enemies of the Afghan government enemies of the U.S.? Is the U.S. fighting a war or doing counterinsurgency? What is our mission? How did killing Taliban become a U.S. war policy?

Davis says he deployed hoping to find local governments and military “progressing toward self-sufficiency,” but becoming self-sufficient is not an outcome of the application of military power; to the contrary, a nation has military power because it is self-sufficient. Mirroring U.S. policy, Davis puts the cart before the horse.

Davis asks an Afghan police captain if the police send out harassing patrols, but harassing patrols and combat patrols are military functions and should be separate from police authority. Police should not hunt people down for the purpose of killing them. They are law enforcement, not war fighters. Of course, the police captain thought Davis’ question nuts: “No! We don’t go after them,” he said. “That would be dangerous!” The captain made a sane response. Sticking him and his officers out in the middle of a lawless nowhere is nuts. How does it benefit anything if another firefight happens or not? If their government is a chimera, why would anyone expect the police to die for a fantasy? Afghan policemen are not cavalry troopers; the latter get to go home after their tours.

“Abysmal” is the word Davis uses to describe the “tactical” situation, but really, he is describing the social and political status quo, too. A change in tactics can only affect the military situation, leaving the other failures in place.

Davis sometimes gets bogged down in the how’s, but addressing the why’s will deliver a better truth. The war was based on lies and false assumptions, and truth can never flow from that font.

This is no slam on a midlevel officer who is putting it on the line, but shouldn’t we have had this discussion 10 years ago rather than last week, and shouldn’t it be led by someone with more horsepower than an 0-5?

— Lt. Col. Jim Hruska, Army (ret.), Tallahassee, Fla.