Note: Col. Ken Allard, USA (Ret.) is a former Cold War intelligence officer, West Point faculty member and Dean of the National War College. He also served for ten years as an on-air military analyst for NBC News.
My heart aches for the 12 Marines and one Navy corpsman killed yesterday in Kabul. Even more for their 13 families awaiting that life-changing visit from serving officers in dress uniforms; bringing the official notification that their loved one gave his life carrying out a noble but badly flawed mission. But there is something especially tragic about Marines engaged in a mercy mission, pitilessly targeted by suicide bombers committing war crimes under the guise of religious obligation.
General Jim Mattis is most closely identified with the slogan, “No better friend, no worse enemy” to describe the marine’s warrior ethos. An alite force of naval infantry, marines deploy on the toughest missions: to seize an island, to assault a beach-head - or to rectify an impossible situation created by a singularly inept president. Sadly, that was the situation in which these hapless marines found themselves: guarding the over-crowded cul-de-sac where the truly desperate scrambled madly for escape. Making these uncertainties infinitely worse was that baseline security was supposedly provided by the Taliban, our sworn enemies since 9-11.
How had it come to this? From the commander-in-chief on down through the entire chain-of-command, effective performance depends on many factors but this above all: Has this admiral or general, commander or colonel set the conditions that will ensure the deployed forces have their greatest chance of success? That unforgiving calculus begins at the service academies, continues through the staff colleges and identifies the elites who attend the war colleges and ultimately fill command billets. Regardless of service, these flag officers have learned to construct forces best geared to prevail in their missions, balancing its components on air, land and sea. An equally important question: What forces will flow to the theater of operations and in which order? And when Murphy’s Law always kicks in, what will you do about it?
Unfortunately, we live in an age of rampant military illiteracy where less than half of one percent of all Americans ever serve in uniform. Military history is an unknown subject in most colleges and may permanently disqualify you from applying for journalism school. Joe Biden embodies that legacy of ignorance, made even worse by his 50 years of service as a legislator. Compromising values is a routine legislative strategy where the most fundamental differences are routinely split down the middle. With that training, Biden always sounds like a pandering poseur when he threatens to use military force. Like yesterday, when according to The Federalist, he swore, “Those who carried out this attack and anyone who wishes America harm know this, we will not forgive…We will not forget. We will hunt you down to make you pay. I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command.” Think our enemies believed him, that their sandals trembled at the fearsome prospect of having annoyed the ferocious Joe Biden? Nope, I don’t either.
The munchkins surrounding him went out of their way to assure Americans that now is not the time for recriminations, that our entire focus must be on de-constructing the artful trap which Biden willfully engineered. While Kabul suffers agonies, Washington endlessly dissembles. To hear Biden tell it, they deliberately bypassed the Bagram air base - one of the biggest in the region - because Kabul’s sole airstrip was closer and more convenient. Seriously, fellas? That they reversed the natural order of operations, removing the bulk of American combat power while leaving the teeming multitudes for last? In what war college do they teach that concept? Even worse: The Daily Wire reported on Wednesday that the US is leaving behind for Taliban use some 70,000 vehicles, 600,000 vehicles and 208 aircraft. The article by Joseph Curl quoted one authority, “We built them a pretty amazing war chest and now all of it is in the hands of the Taliban.” Bottom Line: Biden set the conditions for failure, not success.
His presidential ineptitude may have its greatest effect when our enemies test our open southern border, now stripped of all its defenses. When they do, remember that the 2020 electoral defeat of Donald Trump will cast an even larger shadow in American history than the looming towers of 9-11.
** The original version of this column has been updated by the author.
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