Dylan Ratigan Show   |  July 01, 2010

Solutions to the country’s longest wars

A Dylan Ratigan Show panel discuss the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how to make America safer.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> well, day four on fix it week garage. today we tackle a true matter of life and death in the country. the wars in iraq and afghanistan . one of them, already america's longest war . the other, unfortunately, not far behind . long and costly. $731 spent in iraq so far. $281 billion in our efforts this afghanistan with no clear end in sight at the the end of the deadliest month in the history of the war. 4,396 soldiers dead in iraq . 1,125 killed in afghanistan . then there are the innocent civilians that our bombs are killing. as many as 105,000 dead in iraq the number in afghanistan approaching 1,000 that we have killed. there are two main problems what what we're doing overseas as i see it. and why we're not doing it well. the first, we have no political will to shift from a strategy that has been repeating itself for years with no apparent end in sight. and two, there may not be a clear understanding of our enemy. we all know about the bribery, and the rampant political corruption . what about our strategy and what we're doing? we may be creating more terrorists. our leaders may not understand the insurgency that they are fighting against think how difficult it would be to launch a counter insurgency strategy if you haven't been able to be truly honest about how a modern day insurgency works. vu for people unrelated using # the internet and communications to disrupt society. us being there may be doing more harm than good. why isn't that conversation taking place in our congress and in our homes? why isn't there an alarm that we've been perpetuating this war. there aren't enough people in the country that honestly give a damn. no one really cares. they may say they care. but the politicians know, the phone is not ringing. no one is expressing themselves. in fact, the number of active duty troops in iraq and afghanistan is at the lowest level since world war ii . which means the percentage of us exposed to the realties of war in the country that we've been fighting for a decade is the smallest it has ever been. why is that? well, more than 1/3 of our soldiers have been sent back to the front lines multiple times. some of the same soldiers sent back five and six times to the same war. why is that? well, it's a way for the politicians to isolate on the poorest and the most isolated group of soldiers they can get and protect themselves from our society, were they to understand how violent and oppressive the actions we are taking against our own people are in perpetrating these wars. the fewest number of americans are truly feeling the brunt of our wars. meanwhile, those who are feeling it feel it harder than any troops in american history . i think we have to raise the stakes on this to decide whether we get out or keep going. and the only way i can see to do that is to return the draft. maybe if the sons and daughters of more americans families, like those of our politicians were being killed in combat or facing the stresses of endless repeat deployment, our policymakers would question why we're still there and come up with a different way to deal with insurgent warfare in the 21st sent re. let's head to the war room . here to discuss it is lieutenant colonial anthony scaeffer and a former state department official who quit in protest to the war in afghanistan . and on skip from boston, a former u.s. air force special operations pilot. whose blog about how to correctly establish an insurgency attracted the attention of the nigerian rebels at one point. john is the author of "brave new

world: the next stage of terrorism and the end globalization." breath, i'll start with you i look at it. i don't have as much information as anybody in the conversation. why are we there? why are we in afghanistan ? why are we paying for afghanistan ? you view, and i don't want to put you in the pro- afghanistan point, but somebody has to do it because i know everybody will say there's all these reasons we shouldn't be. but if you were to make a case for why we should continue, what would be?

>> we left this in 1989 .

>> collaborate on that.

>> in the '80s we were fighting trying to get the soviets out. we kick out the soviets. then the pakistanis go nuclear. they become one of from one of our closest allies to a sanctioned adversaries. we withdrew in partnerships and relationships. hay didn't build again until 9/11.

>> so you have pakistan in total isolation.

>> and a failed afghanistan . they don't know the u.s. they don't trust us . that's what led to 9/11.

>> i get it.

>> we're building from that. right now our goals are quite limited. we're trying to deny a sanction ware on national terrorist threats . to do that you have to have state capacity. we're trying to build up a pakistani capacity. we're trying to shift threat perceptions to their own problem and go in there. that's happening slowly but surely. in afghanistan we want to ensure there won't be a sanction ware for threats. what's ironic is we have more strategic coherence than we've had before. the pakistanis are starting to move into the areas. it's going to take time. in afghanistan we have the resources in place to start doing things. but they're still getting in place. we have 10,000 more troops to come in. we're going to see in december for reassessment. in july an affliction point. winston churchill said at the toughest time, keep calm and carry on. that's where we are right now. iraq is an example of this. we had really tough days in the surge. i was down the hall from general petrae petraeus. keep calm, carry on, reassess in six months.

>> you resigned your position because you think the strategy in afghanistan is fewal. in brief, why would be better than continuing to do what we're doing, in your view?

>> i don't think anyone here is going to argue leaving or abandoning afghanistan . we're talking about having 100 sthourkz troops in afghanistan . spending $130 billion a year in order to require them safety, which is something they don't need or require because they've established safe havens around the world. they don't operation as an organization. they're more like a mafia organization than a conventional military force . so where we're going at right now in afghanistan in my view is destabilizing the region. foreign troops are having a destabling influence throughout the region.

>> what do you say?

>> i agree with both sides. i think we need to look at this as a smaller version of our own cold war . the problem is, when you deal with those issues you have the isi, who is a de facto proxy for going against the indians in kabul. so you're not doing anything. so i compare this to if your blender goes off, you don't put your hand in, you the cord. not good. bad results.

>> so to apply that metaphor to this, where is the blender?

>> right. and we need to g here to cut the cord. the cord is from pakistan , into afghanistan , which is a blender.

>> my book is coming out in august. it talks about this. we knew the safe havens in pakistan were the problem. they've continued to be the problem. we suffered nine years of neglect for looking at the source. for any number of years. and the other thing, if i may, we're trying to support a central government , which is hugely unpopular, been unsuccess unsuccessful. but security is what we're after here. security, like politics, it's all local. if you're creating a half and half situation by securing five provinces, you have the rest of the country largely overrun by the taliban. in many ways we're creating more of a problem being have the troops where they're at. i would argue we need to cut back to 2003 levels.

>> and i want to bring john rob into the conversation. when you look at the modern day insurgency and your perceptions of how it works, where do you come down in terms of our resource allocation to deal with it? are we overinvesting things in your view that don't yield positive resulresults? are we investing in things that make it worse?

>> well, in my view there is no strategic interest for the u.s. in afghanistan . we're actually making mings worse. by exporting the insurgency to pakistan , drawing attacks on an ongoing basis, killing civilians. the elephant in the room here is that the u.s. is broke. and that we have a trillion and a half dollar budget deficits . and they're going out as far as the eye can see. you write global guerrillas are cheap and plentiful. we newel them. they change tactics daily. develops a new military doctrine every decade or so. we wrap our effort in great secrecy, but they, again, the guerrillas wage and open source warfare swapping trade craft over the web. i'll ask the three of you this. i'll start with you, brett. not should we or shouldn't with bein afghanistan , but you're faced with the way we are in afghanistan . the troop levels. the resource investment. the corruption of karzai . is there another way to be there that achieves the security objectives without the expense we're enduring?

>> yeah. we want to get to a place where our partnership, or level of presence is sustainable. what we're doing now is not sustainable.

>> i want to stop you there. you were involved in trying to make a position change in iraq . meaning the iraqi government was suddenly more responsible. how would you begin to effect something like that here?

>> iraq , the parallels are there strategically. there's a lot of differences. the end of 2006 we were losing iraq . the surge was not about keeping 160,000 troops the there forever. it's building the capacities of the iraqis to take it on themselves and setting the conditions so we can get out. in afghanistan we're doing the same things. it's not all on karzai . petraeus is a master at finding local partners and find r denyiing --

>> they always talk about the extra troops. the reason we don't have 160,000 more troops in iraq is because of the political efforts we did. in 2005 the sunnis boycotts the election. they were left out of the government. in 2008 we made a lot of efforts to bring them back to the government. we brought the sunni tribal leaders and brought them back. you have a government that represents private 65, 70% of the country. but 30% of southern and eastern afghanistan who are outside of the government. that's why they're calling for the government to bring the people back into the government. include them.

>> toe any, you get the last word.

>> there's two aspects we need to look at. the capacity that was there in iraq is not going to be there in afghanistan when you have 90% illiteracy and other things, other problems. you're not going to have a professional force. with that said, you have to establish an ability to have a negotiated piece where everybody comes to the table. president karzai is kind of for show. everything i've read about it. along with that, you have to bring people in and allow the people that helped us win our victory. in 2003 , the victory was won by afghan militia forces. who are allies of the united states . the taliban can be approached. there's the gray, the white, and the black. the white are the guys doing it because there's no other game in town.

>> i need a job. you got a gun?

>> and the gray are the foreigners who come in to help out. you need to deal with the white ones. you need to deal with the grays viciously. scare them out. then the black, you bring the northern ireland peace process . some hardened guys ended up taking the silver or --

>> right. so if i live in those who were there but don't really have a strong passion to be there, just don't know what else to do, scare the living crap of the people in there because they're looking more some sort of mercenary thrill. you isolate the worst of if bunch. and you're saying you may be surprised how they break. is that your view?

>> and we get to a security situation in which what we're doing now will make sense. you'll see some results in six months. but that's the strategy. that's what we're trying to do. that's the whole point of it. this these things don't happen overnight. if you don't like the movie, you can't walk out of the theater. the movie is still going on.

>> we all benefit from the conversation that you guys share.