Why Can’t the Massive US Military Impose its Will on moderate sized Enemies ?

Tom Streithorst spent much of the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a news cameraman embedded with the American military. He provides an article at pieria.co.uk on Why the World’s Biggest Military Keeps Losing Wars.

Tom gives four reasons

1. Too much logistics, not enough combat.

They call it the tooth to tail ratio: the number of combat soldiers compared to the number in support roles. More than three-quarters of Americans in Iraq didn’t fight.

US mess halls had pecan pie, sweet ice tea, lobster and steak on Fridays, all shipped halfway around the globe. The logistical tail was wagging the combat dog. In Afghanistan, the Americans had to pay off the Taliban so the supplies could get through.

Donald Rumsfeld was right about one thing: the American military is too big and bulky. Special Forces are lean and mean and – not coincidentally – more successful.

2. Learn the Language

One desert night on a Marine base outside Basra, I [Tom] chatted with an Egyptian interpreter hired by the US military. Knowing that Cairene Arabic is vastly different from that of Southern Iraq, I asked him if he had any trouble understanding the local dialect. He shook his head. “I have no idea what they are saying. I have a much easier time understanding you.” His English was excellent, which is presumably why he got the job, but his comprehension of Basrawi Arabic was almost nonexistent. But Marine officers, who inevitably spoke no Arabic, depended on him to explain what the locals were trying to tell them. Since the interpreter just made up what he thought his bosses wanted to hear, the Marines were operating with negative intelligence

3. Fear of Casualties

One of the most moving moments of my time in Iraq was a memorial service for a young soldier, nicknamed “Doc”, a 19 year-old medic killed by an improvised explosive device in Diyala Province. Almost all of Camp War Horse showed up for the ceremony. We stared at his boots and dog tags while his comrades remembered his bravery and kindness. As the service came to a close, his Sergeant called roll. He barked out the dead man’s name; the silence was blistering, and unforgettable. Four Generals flew in from Baghdad to pay their respects. As well they should. The death of a young man is always a tragedy. But had generals in the First World War gone to as many funerals, they would never have been able to plot the next battle.

4. War as Symbol

From a military perspective, the Tet offensive was a great victory for American arms. For several years the Americans had been desperate for the Viet Cong to stand up and fight, to stop hiding in the shadows. In February 1968, they did. Initially, they were successful. For a few hours they captured the US embassy in Saigon. For a few weeks they conquered the ancient imperial capital of Hue. But soon, the immense firepower of the US army took its toll. The Viet Cong were slaughtered, more than decimated, destroyed as a fighting force for the rest of the war. Tet was a great battlefield success for the US army. It is also the moment the United States lost the Vietnam War.

Vietnam was televised. Civilians watching at home did not see victory, they saw carnage.

Fifty thousand Americans died in Vietnam. So did more than 2 million Vietnamese. If war were a numbers game, America would have been victorious. But war is ultimately a matter of will.

The Atlantic also has an article – What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan? by Robert L. Grenier

Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani, the Taliban’s military leader for southern Afghanistan, sat stolidly, his great bulk sup­ported in an overstuffed chair to my left. It was October 2, 2001, and events had been hurtling forward since the terrorist attacks of September 11. President George W. Bush had delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban in his State of the Union address on September 20: Hand over al-Qaeda’s leadership or share their fate. But the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had not yet begun, and I still saw a chance, however small, for a peaceful way out. That was why, as the CIA station chief in Islamabad responsible for both Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, I was having this meeting with a top Taliban official.

“Look,” I countered, “only Afghans can make a permanent solution for Afghanistan. The United States will be able to chase the terrorists away, but without a responsible Afghan government, they can come back. If the Taliban is willing to be that government, this will be acceptable to us; but if not, war will inevitably come. … No one knows how it will turn out. All that is sure is that it will be a disaster for Afghanistan, and the end of the Taliban.”

The outsized mullah began waving his hands as he launched into a long string of excuses. “Bin Laden,” he said, “has become synony­mous in Afghanistan with Islam. The Taliban can’t hand him over pub­licly any more than they can publicly reject Islam. Neither Omar nor the rest of the shura like the Arabs”—that is, al-Qaeda— “[and] they want to cooperate with Amer­ica, they do, but public threats from the United States have aroused the people and boxed the leadership in politically. Besides,” he complained, “Omar has made a public commitment to bin Laden; he can’t simply renounce it now. He would like to be rid of this man, but his hands are tied. In fact, Omar sent a messenger to bin Laden five days ago; he re­minded Osama of the [religious council’s] decision that he should leave the coun­try. ‘You must deal with them,’ the messenger told him.”

Osmani then made an offer. “I can track Osama down and kill him if you like,” he said. “But I can’t use my own troops. That would be too public; my role would be known. For that, I have to find outside operatives. This will take time.”

I shook my head: It wouldn’t work. “Washington will see this as a delaying tactic,” I told him. “They might have listened to this months ago, before 9/11, but it’s too late now. The United States is preparing for all-out war as we speak. If you want a risk-free solution, you won’t find it. If you want to save the Taliban and your country, you’re going to have to take risks.”

SOURCE – pieria, The Atlantic