Tonight's debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan highlighted some interesting military thinking by the Vice President. The overall vice-presidential debate is not the concern here - the sole issue is Joe Biden's absolute lack of understanding of military operations in general, and specifically how his policy of a date certain for withdrawal is perceived by our enemies. I will not address Biden's thoughts on Iran - his lack of understanding of that threat is mind-numbing, but a subject for another day.
I am going to keep this simple. It's not a hard concept to understand, yet I am amazed that the Vice President - and by extension, the President - doesn't get it. Neither have any military experience and thus seem to think that their political experience extends to the area of military strategy. It doesn't. What works on the south side of Chicago or in the bowels of the U.S. Senate does not work on the battlefields of the Middle East and South Asia. In other words, Biden is out of his element.
Here is the basic concept. I will use small, easy to understand words in case the Vice President and his military advisors are reading this.
If you tell the enemy the exact date when you are quitting the fight, leaving the battlefield and departing the area, you have told that enemy the exact date that he has won. It is exactly what happened in Iraq, and it is exactly what will happen in Afghanistan. Anyone who believes otherwise is either lying to himself or is not capable of understanding the basic military situation on the ground in this part of the world.
Yet, Vice President Biden, faced with numerous opportunities to clarify the stated Obama date certain withdrawal plan with some qualifications that would add some sense to what most military people think is a misguided policy, he failed to do so.
On at least five occasions, Biden stuck to his guns - stuck to what cannot be anything but a recipe for disaster, banging his fist on the desk to indicate his blind acceptance of a nonsensical policy.
"We're out of there in 2014."
"We're leaving in 2014, we are leaving in 2014, period."
"We will leave in 2014."
If you are either the Taliban or al-Qa'idah and hear this stated as American policy, you have to be thrilled. You tell yourself that all you have to do is lay low and survive until 2014 and then march in and take over. Or, you mount a campaign to speed up the withdrawal process and influence domestic public opinion in the United States by recruiting Islamist Afghan soldiers to kill their American advisors. It's working.
The Vice President goes on to state that 49 of our allies agree with this doctrine. I am not sure that's true, but I can tell you from having worked with our NATO allies in the past, I am not surprised that they are looking for any reason to leave. Without American troops, NATO is useless. Many of us joked (with some justification) that NATO actually stands for "not after two o'clock." So, bottom line - I don't care what our allies think, we should craft American foreign policy based on American national interests.
It gets more telling. The Vice President equates "trained Afghan soldier" with American troops. When questioned about withdrawing troops deployed for the surge, Biden said that every American troop that was withdrawn was replaced by a trained Afghan. If the Vice President honestly believes that a "trained Afghan" is the equivalent of an American soldier or marine, he is woefully misinformed.
In closing his keen military analysis, he defended the date certain for a withdrawal with the notion that if you tell the Afghans (as he claimed we did in Iraq) that we are leaving on a certain date, they will step up and take on the responsibility for their own security. In what universe? When you make these inane declarations, all it does is reinforce the belief among our Afghan allies that we are deserting them.
It's pretty simple. Tell the bad guys when we are leaving and they know the date they win. Tell our allies when we are leaving and they know we are deserting them. Both are disastrous, yet that is exactly the policy that the Vice President espouses. It is a blueprint for disaster, a blueprint for certain defeat.
Let's use a World War II analogy. President Franklin Roosevelt announces the he is going to withdraw American forces at the end of 1944 - after all, the French and British forces must assume responsibility for their own security. If we tell them we are leaving, it will force them to step up and take over. War on schedule, withdrawal on a timetable. Make sense? Of course it doesn't.
Mr. Vice President, if you insist on this flawed military strategy, you and President Obama will have ended both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh, yeah, you will have also lost both wars.