Thoughts on the Iraq and Afganistan Wars

What follows is a brief excerpt from The Art of War:

1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

Compare this ancient advice to our war on two fronts, and see where we measure up. We’ve spent billions upon billions of dollars on these disastrous conflicts (and can’t even account for where tens of billions ended up). We’ve extended the tours of duty for our soldiers, and then we extended them again. We’ve gotten no support from the societies we’re supposedly trying to help, because we’re trying to generate a new societal structure from the ground up.

I understand that there still isn’t a functioning Iraqi government more than five months since elections were held, because no one got a majority and the various factions can’t agree on how to share power. That’s just fantastic.

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6 Responses to “Thoughts on the Iraq and Afganistan Wars”

  1. Though the conflicts are long, they seem to have arose from much short-term thinking. I think Bush was correct in believing that Afghanistan was not ripe for nation building, but his exit strategy seemed to consist of invading Iraq (with no exit strategy there either).

  2. This was a two front war decision or no war at all. You cant invade Iraq without invading Afganistan. Iran issue is looming down the road so why not get into better geopolitical position, giving our future threats even more weight thus raising the small possibility of compromise. Iraqi army codition is horrible, leadership world isolated and old. Cost is not an issue here since money will be recycled into right pockets. Iraqi war is one of those crazy historical gems where leadership personal financial interests do not collide with nations long term interests, while raising leadership popularity and making sure that 9/11 emotional discharge is grounded and not pointed at leadership. Honestly, this is the closest politics gets to read like poetry.

  3. Invading Afganistan was inevitable, our intelligence sources data indicates Osama is there, media is already mantring the words Afganistan/Osama, there really is no choice. Iraq is a prize that can be squeezed in given nations emotional state,international outrage etc. We can call this “War on terror”. Of course additional media and intelligence “work” has to be done regarding Iraq.

  4. Please disregard first sentence in my first reply, it is obviously a grose mistake.

  5. Chris T Says:

    Expect more such wars. As expensive as these wars have been in absolute terms, they’ve been trivial in comparison to the overall US economy.

    Consider: We’re conducting two wars on the opposite side of the world with no disruption to civil society beyond those fighting or those directly related to those fighting. Most people are not materially affected by the wars and have little emotional stake in them.

    Ten years from withdrawal, the impact on national policy or mood regarding war will be minimal if even existent.

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