By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
September 11, 2012
September 11th is now a somber day every year when we remember the civilian and military dead and injured, both on that day in 2001 and since. Eleven years later, some number crunchers at Brown University have come up with two total cost figures: 300,000 lives and $4 trillion ($4T). Since the study/report comes from an Ivy League source, DefenseReview (DR) is naturally skeptical as to its accuracy, but I can tell you from talking to our contacts within the U.S. military Special Operations community, $4T is probably significantly more than was necessary, and we haven't fought the wars as intelligently as we could have.
In the interest of full disclosure, I initially supported the war in Iraq, since I wanted to watch a ruthless dictator get his comeuppance just like an action movie bad guy. I thought we'd pay for his ousting by shipping newly-inexpensive Iraqi oil over here by the boatload, lowering U.S. gasoline prices to 50 cents to $1.50 per gallon at the most. Little did I know then that we wouldn't capitalize on our freeing of Iraq by shipping home any Iraqi oil whatsoever as payment for our military services, or that we'd be fighting there so long and throwing so much taxpayer money into a bottomless Iraqi sand pit. The idea that the price of gas would go significantly down thanks to the cheap supply of liberated Iraqi oil, and that the American people would thus greatly benefit from our tyranny-busting efforts for many years to come, just seemed logical at the time. I was wrong. If gasoline were at $1.00 to $1.50 per gallon right now instead of $3.50 to $4.00 per gallon (approx.), perhaps all of our blood and treasure expenditure would have been worth it. Inexpensive gas would have not only had its own signifcant benefits for the economy with regard to air and land travel costs, but our food would be much cheaper than it’s become over the last few years. Food inflation (and inflation, in general) is now a major problem.
I also initially supported the war in Afghanistan, until I noticed that we were fighting it 20th-century-style by using large numbers of conventional infantry troops. Instead, we should have fought it 21st-century style from day one to the present. Afghanistan should have been an exclusively military Special Operations Forces (SOF)/CIA/PSYOPS war from the get-go, along with all the necessary manned and unmanned air elements. SOF hunter/killer teams should have been utilized to neutralize/terminate and snatch-n'-grab enemy targets like leopards in the night, since we own the night with night vision/I2 (Image Intensification) and thermal/infrared (IR) optics. The enemy should have woken up every morning with various (specifically targeted) men in their villages either dead or missing, never to be heard from again, with some PSYOPS thrown in for extra effect. We appear not to have learned as much as we should have from the Russians' debacle. For the record, I support HellFire missile strikes from UAS/UAV/drone aircraft against enemy targets, provided we also do snatch-n'-grabs when possible.
I did not come by this opinion in a vaccuum. It's the result of talking with and interviewing both U.S. military Special Operations and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) personnel, some of whom have been seriously wounded as a direct result of our flawed conventional warfare tactics. All of these men have lost good friends in combat. The ground-pounders/trigger-pullers have done an amazing job in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but the way the command structure has prosecuted both wars has been very problematic.
By the way, if the goal was to secure Afghanistan against foreign fighters/insurgents flowing in from Pakistan, we should have walled and/or fenced off the AFPAK border with overwatch infrastructure in place to guard and defend it as part of the security strategy.
I could of course go into much more detail on the above points, but I'll leave that for another day. Today is about remembering, mourning and contemplating the way we fight our enemies, now and in the future.
God bless the souls of those Americans, civilians and military, who lost their lives on 9/11 and since. God bless their families. God bless our troops who continue to fight for us and sometimes sacrifice their very limbs for us, and their families. And God bless this great country, the United States of America.