Last Plan for Afghanistan

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Year after year, the Pentagon doles out mega-billions for the most sophisticated and expensive war-fighting armaments. And year after year ragtag hostiles with primitive arms and no formal military training circumvent and neutralize our most expensive and sophisticated and deadly weapons. From conflicts in Southeast Asia to the Middle East to Northeast Africa to Central Asia, our generals on the blue Potomac River have been stymied and confused.

The Pentagon's initial plan in Afghanistan, let's call it Plan A, was simple and direct: kill the bad guys! The problem is the bad guys know all about Plan A, and they refuse to play the role assigned to them by the Pentagon. Instead of hanging around open areas to be pounded into smoldering charcoal, the wily creatures scoot into hiding places ... disperse throughout the region ... slip into villages and towns ... evaporate into the civilian population.

Without a clear, stationary target to pulverize, Plan A quickly went limp and staggered to a fork in the strategic road.

To the left was Plan B, which said rein in the firepower. Turn our hard-charging warriors in the field into potted plants on garrisons. Yikes -- was the collective cry of our military establishment. To the right was the default strategy: pursue the bad guys into the villages and towns and blow them to smithereens.

Unfortunately, Plan C blew to smithereens more than bad guys. It disassembled a slew of grandmas and grandpas, little kiddies, uncles and aunts ... turning them into smoldering charcoal. Where this did not happen, the Taliban lit roaring propaganda fires.

Plan C turned out to be an expertly designed, superbly executed, stunningly effective recruitment program -- for the bad guys!

Like the dimwitted Sunni insurgents in Iraq, who were most proficient at blowing up fellow Iraqi Sunnis, which turned the population against their cause, Plan C's slaughtering of Afghan civilians turned Afghans against the US-led effort. There's a certain logic here. Raking up the smoldering remains of grandma puts one in a nasty mood. This nasty mood leads to action against the charcoal makers.


So the Afghanistan War turned brutally south brutally fast.

The generals on the Potomac River, knowing they were in over their heads, rushed down the rickety steps to the Pentagon's basement for an old file marked: "Vietnam Tricks For Covering Stupid Generals' Butts." But Afghanistan is not Vietnam. The generals can't blame the antiwar demonstrators for their failure, antiwar demonstrators no longer exist. Or blame the backstabbing politicians, nearly all of whom had been foaming for war. Or blame the traitorous press, the press having been the shrillest voice for war. But there were some old Vietnam tricks the generals could borrow.

When losing a war, change the war. A war in one country, Afghanistan, needed to become a regional war with Pakistan and Iran. Then that had to be stretched eastward to the Philippines and westward right into your local flaming Starbucks. A regional war that has the potential to tip over into a world war. No need to actually say the words, "domino theory."

Like during the Vietnam War, this fogging and stretching of the Afghanistan War was of limited utility. The American mind was already fogged and the reasons for the war were already too stretched. Next on the chart was the schoolhouse strategy. But Vietnamization -- oops, I mean Afghistanization, instructing Afghan soldiers and bureaucrats to lead the way -- has worked as well in Afghanistan as it had worked in Vietnam. It seems our most lethal military does not take naturally to the teaching profession.

Fast forward over strategies that had our troops doing everything -- everything, unfortunately, except containing the wild-fire set by the Taliban -- and we arrive at Plan P. This is also called Plan Pretzel. A half-baked notion that promised to twist and bend our hard-charging straight-shooting combat machine into a smooth operating police force. Well, a police beat in far-away dusty villages is also something our lethal military has a difficult time embracing.

By now the generals on the Potomac were dripping wet bullets, having humped the strategic terrain from us killing the bad guys to locals killing the bad guys to no one killing the bad guys, to us teaching the local military to us policing the villages to us stimulating the sleeping Afghan economy to them reducing the opium explosion to us reducing the opium explosion, to us building up the central government to us building up the war lords' provencal governments to -- well, it was time to get serious. It was time for Plan Z.

Since the beginning of our strategic stumbling and lurching and circling -- our generals prefer to call this "a hybrid war strategy" -- Plan Z has been operational. Actually, all plans from A to Z have been operational. Nothing changes, except the defense budget.

But Plan Z is different. It's one of those rare strategies that is hatched not from the mind of confused strategic thinkers but from the womb of Americana. What is Plan Z? Buy the bad guys!

Plan Z is the merging of American fighting with American culture. In our country, the sicker you are the more you pay. If almost dead, it costs you a fortune. Want a college degree? No problem, but you'll make loan payments for life. Want a larger military? No need for a draft, just increase enlistment bonuses. Want free and fair elections? Lobbyists will gladly buy them. Want peace in Afghanistan, pay the Taliban.

WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The defense bill President Barack Obama will sign into law on Wednesday contains a new provision that would pay Taliban fighters who renounce the insurgency....


Unfortunately, our brilliant generals on the Potomac did not reach the dark rear of that dusty Vietnam file. It is there, behind the old tricks, an unpatriotic sleazebag had slipped in several lessons. But the generals have been very busy. In the spring they threw together a plan to rush our troops into the hinterlands, to save the war. Now they're working feverishly on a plan to pull the troops back to urban areas, to save the war. And of course they're fine-tuning the plan to buy the Taliban. Still, In the rear of that Vietnam file is an interesting caveat worth a good ponder.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the master Texan politician, was convinced the Vietnamese would respond as his fellow Texans respond. Tighten the screws on them and offer a pile of dough, They'll choose the pile of dough over the tightening screws. That's Texan knowledge.

But Vietnam is not Texas, and those dense Asians continued the war all the way to the bloody end.

In 2001, another President from Texas, George Bush, had the CIA hand over piles of dough to Afghan fighters to snatch Osama bin Laden. They handed over the dough and we're still waiting.

Afghanistan is not Texas, nor America. Like several decades ago Afghanistan was not the Soviet Union. A century ago Afghanistan was not England. Several centuries ago Afghanistan was not Mongolia. More centuries ago Afghanistan was not Greece. And if we don't quickly understand Afghanistan, we're going to be history.