Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Georgia on my mind, and Afghanistan

Via Jim Lobe, I came across the blog of ex intel guy, Pat Lang. In it he has a post about Outpost Margha. A Telegraph article about this lonely spot provides the background for what is endured in a lonely spot.

Thinking about the soldiers' plight is not pleasant. According to the Telegraph,

The soldiers will stay at Margha for about a month, when the next Chinook will arrive to take them back to a forward operating base for two days' break - just enough time to rest, take a shower and do their laundry, before they are sent out to one of the other remote combat outposts for another month of relentless guard duty. The men do 15-month tours in Afghanistan.

I am writing an article I hope to sell about a civil war officer. In researching his war, the hell that was a soldier's life came through. Marching to Shiloh, getting up in the middle of the night to be ready to advance at dawn, marching against massed artillery and rifle fire. Retreating via forced march in any kind of weather. Day's without sleep or rest. At least in that war, once disengaged, there was usually some rest. The outpost life seems a worse fate. I thought as I was reading it the sentence would say "the next Chinook will arrive to take them back to a forward operating base for two weeks' break" instead of "two day's." How do they stand it? I am guessing, better than anyone can expect, but not all that well at the end of the day.

Dr Ira Katz, the head of mental health services for Veterans Affairs - a government department that looks after the welfare of US war veterans - estimated recently that there were about 1,000 suicide attempts a month among war veterans, the highest number since records began.

The situation has got so bad that about 20,000 troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq have been prescribed antidepressants - 17 per cent of those currently serving in Afghanistan, and 12 per cent of those in Iraq. The drugs help the soldiers cope with the unimaginable stress - for an overstretched military, it helps keep them in the field.

Living with death at your door is bad enough, but it is all a constant irritation. Who knows what drives you over the edge. Per Colonel Lang, "Men living on combat rations for months at a time? Constipation must be a problem."

The Colonel also points out,

Air power is lovely as a source of logistical and fire support, but "Margha" is resupplied by civilian contractors and has one mortar as its available indirect fire support? There is obviously not enough US air power available for either job.

His tactical suggestions make sense, but point up the futility of it all.

Both the foreground ridge in the picture and the one behind it should be covered with pre-registered artillery and mortar fires so that every attack by fire will be answered so rapidly that it will be extremely dangerous to fire from those positions. Dare I think of an aggressive program of ambush patrols on the part of these paratroops? There would have to be a lot more of them. They are now now more or less pent up in their little fort. The Taliban must think they have already died and gone to paradise. This is eerily reminiscent of old British experience in this same area.

A counter-battery mortar radar would be a good idea at "Margha" if they do not already have one. There should be US artillery positioned to support places like this, but in today's army that kind of thinking seems to have gone away.

If we haven't done this by now, it's probably because we can't. The resources are not there.

So what has this to do with Georgia, much the same as Iran. Every time we make the Iran adventure noises, the mullahs say, in effect, "Yeah, you and what army?" Now, Putin is as well. Heck, he may even have said it in the Great Hall to the "leader of the Free World." He could say anything he wanted and Bush would not be wearing his famous you know what eating grin.

The Colonel has another post, Let's make a deal - NATO and Russia in which he suggests,

The Deal: No expansion of NATO on the borders of Russia in return for a commitment on the part of Russia that there will be no further introduction of Russian Republic forces or "volunteers" into former parts of the USSR that are now independent.

That deal was, in essence, made with Gorbachev and we broke it. This is another reason why a neutralist foreign policy is the path. The United States, like any other country cannot be trusted. We have to enshrine a Neutralist Ethos as our way or we shall ruin ourselves.

I recommend the blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008.

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