I decided to ask someone with real military experience how we could fend off jihad without further digging ourselves into Central Asia. I called up retired Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, one of the few top military leaders who talks on the record, to ask for his strategy recommendation for Afghanistan.
"Basically, let it go," he said.
Let Afghanistan go -- music to my ears, particularly given the source is no Hate-America-First professor or Moveon-dot-org-nik, but a lifelong patriotic conservative warrior. "There's nothing to win there," he explained, engaging in an all-too-exotic display of common sense. "What do you get for it? What's the return? Well, the return's all negative for the United States."
The general continued: "This doesn't mean giving up battle. What it means is you transition to a more realistic, affordable strategy that keeps them (the jihadist enemy) from spreading."
Such a strategy, Vallely explained, relies on "the maximum use of unconventional forces," such as Navy SEALS and other special forces, who can be deployed as needed from what are known in military parlance as "lily pads" -- outposts or jumping-off points in friendly countries (Israel, Northern Kurdistan, India, Philippines, Italy, Djibouti ... ) and from U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups. Such strike groups generally include eight to 10 vessels "with more fire power," the general noted, "than most nations." These lily pads become "bases we can launch from any time we want to," eliminating the need for massive land bases such as Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, by now a small city of 20,000 American personnel who continuously need to be supplied and secured at enormous expense.
"There's no permanent force," the general said. "That's the beauty of it." We watch, we wait and when U.S. interests are threatened, "we basically use our strike forces to take them out, target by target." This would work whether the threat came from Al Qaeda, Pakistani nukes or anything else.
He continued: "This idea that we're going to go in and bring democracy to these tribal cultures isn't going to work. If we have a problem with terrorist countries, like Iran, it's a lot cheaper to go in and hit them and get back out."
In other words, don't give up the battle; just give up the nation-building. "It's up to somebody else to build nations," the general said. "Not us."
He went on: That old myth that (Colin) Powell had -- if you break it you own it -- that's a myth. You break it, you decide whether you own it. You don't have to go in and own it."
And especially not when it is Islamic land that doesn't belong in the West.
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