Quagmires: Then And Now

Shortly after Moscow began its intervention in Syria, Obama opinedAn attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work“. Well, on Friday Damascus broke the seige of Deir ez-Zor which probably marks the beginning of the mopping up phase. In short it’s not a quagmire and it did work. The US involvement in Afghanistan, on the other hand, is about to enter year 17, getting on for twice as long as the Soviets were there. That is a quagmire and that hasn‘t worked; the Pentagon isn’t even sure how many soldiers it has there: 8.4K, 11K or more? Russia has had three military actions this century – Chechnya II, Ossetia and Syria – all victories; all US military interventions have been failures.

What’s the difference? I would suggest that Russia initiates military violence with a clear plan
1) to do only what violence can do
2) that is integrated with a diplomatic and civil program for the things it can’t and
3) coordinated with reliable allies on the ground.

When it has done what it set out to do, it stops.

Washington, on the other hand,
1) expands its aims after the initial success far past those that violence can achieve
2) has a negligible diplomatic effort and
3) its allies on the ground turn out to be phantasms of the Washington echo chamber.

Added to which, I do not believe that the US military is nearly as competent as its cheerleaders think it is; I suspect it resembles the post-Vietnam mess I saw on exercises in Germany in the 1980s. Maybe even “hardwired for failure“.

US troops: 16 years in Afghanistan

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