Petraeus Predicted Afghanistan Debacle in 1987

David Petraeus' 1987 PhD dissertation:After all, if a country with relatively few public opinion concerns or moral compunctions about its tactics cannot beat a bunch of ill-equipped Afghan tribesmen, what does that say about the ability of the United States --- with its domestic constraints, statutory limitations, moral inhibition, and zealous investigative reporters --- to carry out a successful action against a guerrilla force?

Adam Weinstein points to this passage in David Petraeus’ 1987 PhD dissertation:

And while observing the Soviet difficulties in Afghanistan with a certain sense of vindication, the US military are at the same time reminded of the difficulties of defeating a determined guerrilla opponent who enjoys sanctuaries and is fighting in rugged terrain. After all, if a country with relatively few public opinion concerns or moral compunctions about its tactics cannot beat a bunch of ill-equipped Afghan tribesmen, what does that say about the ability of the United States — with its domestic constraints, statutory limitations, moral inhibition, and zealous investigative reporters — to carry out a successful action against a guerrilla force?”

What, indeed?

via Crispin Burke

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Southern Hoosier says:

    I would like to point out that the guerrilla force has a strong ideological belief, Islam. Do our troops have a strong belief in what they are doing, or are they simple trying to stay alive long enough to get back to the States?

    During WW II we knew the threat of Nazi German and Imperial Japan. During the Cold War we know the threat of the Soviet Union. Now we are told that “Islam is peace.” How do you motivate your troops to wage war against the Religion of Peace? Here in America we are told that Muslims are free to practice their religion, even if we disagree. And now we are sending our troops into Afghanistan to deprive the Taliban of their right to practice Islam as they see fit. Our troops are told that the can kill the Taliban,but they must respect them and can’t insult them. Is it any question about why the war is proving unwinable.

  2. Franklin says:

    Based on Abu Ghraib and many similar incidents, I’m not convinced our troops have been told to respect anything.

  3. Tano says:

    Is it any question about why the war is proving unwinable.

    Are you trying to argue that having respect for your enemy renders you unable to fight effectively?

    Do you really think that the reason we are in Afghanistan is so we can prevent the Taliban from practicing their religion in a certain manner?

    Do you really think that we are in Afghanistan to fight against Islam?

    I find your comment to be an odd mix of ridiculous ideas, having nothing to do with reality.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    Southern Hoosier is right. The Afghanistan war is totally about Islam and something about the Taliban not practicing like we can practice which means the soldiers can’t fight effectively. Yup, totally coherent.

  5. Southern Hoosier says:

    Tano says: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 09:31 Are you trying to argue that having respect for your enemy renders you unable to fight effectively?

    Yes. it is easier to kill the enemy when you dehumanize them. It is much easier to kill gooks, Krauts, Nazis, Commies, Japs etc than it is to kill human beings.

    Do you really think that the reason we are in Afghanistan is so we can prevent the Taliban from practicing their religion in a certain manner?

    Why else are we fighting the Taliban? The Taliban practice a very pure form of Islam. They blow up girl schools, stone people to death for minor offenses, they allow disobedient wives to be disfigured. It comes down to human rights.

    Do you really think that we are in Afghanistan to fight against Islam?

    No, that is the problem. We are not fighting against Islam.but Islam is at war with the West and Islam is winning.

  6. Southern Hoosier says:

    Neil Hudelson says: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 10:53

    Southern Hoosier is right. The Afghanistan war is totally about Islam and something about the Taliban not practicing like we can practice which means the soldiers can’t fight effectively. Yup, totally coherent.

    Really quite simple. You have to ask the question, why are they fighting and why are we fighting. Can you tell me that much?

    Tthey kill us in the name of Allah according to the Koran. If they get killed they go to Paradise. We kill them in the name of of of, American Idol, I guess. If we get killed we get to come home in a body bag.

  7. Southern Hoosier says:

    Franklin says: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 09:12 Based on Abu Ghraib and many similar incidents, I’m not convinced our troops have been told to respect anything.

    We have to respect Islam and do nothing to offend the enemy.

    U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious “Crusade” in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-military-weapons-inscribed-secret-jesus-bible-codes/story?id=9575794
    We burn Bibles so as not of offend Muslims.

    (CNN) — Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/20/us.military.bibles.burned/