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September 09, 2009

New Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan Prove Deadly for US Troops

U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren't near the village.

And so four Marines died in the ambush.

DPUD and WeaselZippers have the story.

There has been some agitation on the left about bugging out of Afghanistan. You know, Afghanistan, the war they claimed they so desperately wanted to win so they wouldn't seem wholly defeatist as they were calling to bug out of Iraq.

The left has taken to calling Afghanistan "Obama's Vietnam."

Well, if we're going to let troops die as part of a PR stunt, then yes, it does begin to resemble Vietnam.

Either we're going to give our troops every advantage in an effort to allow them to win or we should, in fact, get out. If Obama has in mind a Nixon-style "decent interval" where we are going to let troops be killed in an effort not to win a war but to simply contrive a politically-palatable "defeat with honor," then get them out of there.

I have never been in the military and don't want to glibly second-guess military decisions. I do recognize and allow that a lot of civilian casualties may result in more US troops' deaths, as they provide sympathy for the Taliban and create hostility to our troops.

But this, I think, is obviously taking that line of thinking too far. Far too far. Troops -- real troops -- were under fire now. They cannot be sacrificed in favor of some hypothetical troops who we can speculate might not be killed in the future if we feed these guys to the wolves.

If there's anything worse than losing Afghanistan, it's our policymakers deciding in advance to lose Afghanistan but then feeding our troops into the meat-grinder anyway as a political fig-leaf to demonstrate "well, we tried" before giving up.

I don't mean to be glib, but as Yoda said: Do or do not. There is no try. That may be a bit of silly Space Confuscianism but it's a damn good guideline in fighting a war. Our troops deserve a hell of a lot better than dying not to vindicate an important national security goal but merely to provide some politicians with political cover.

As John Kerry (I think) said of Vietnam, "No one wants to be the last soldier to die for a lie." And if these rules persist, if this happens again, our troops will in fact be dying for a lie.

Better to pull them back to their bases and let the country devolve into chaos and Taliban rule. At least then they can wait in relative safety for a president who values their lives a bit more.

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posted by Ace at 12:45 PM

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