A thousand-piece puzzle spread out on the dining room table is easier to put together than the testimony of our top military and civilian leadership regarding America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
One of the Generals slouched his way through the hearing. Another General was defensive about improper negative interviews he gave regarding his former boss. The Secretary of Defense shifted blame for the whole thing to others and then dodged responsibility for cleaning up the mess he was partly responsible for creating. This is our top military leadership?
When one is faced with a thousand-piece puzzle on the dining room table one starts by finding the straight edges. The puzzle has a border. What is the “border” for these witnesses? The border is what our Constitution provides.
First, the Generals and Secretary of Defense are responsible for the conduct of a specific military action in a war declared by Congress under Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution. The President is the civilian Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States under Article II, section 2. Civilian control of the military is a foundational principle of our governance structure.
Second, during a time of war the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has ultimate decision-making power regarding strategy and tactics and can fire commanders at will.
Third, Congress has some oversight regarding the conduct of the war and the judgment used in making strategic and tactical decisions, but the ultimate oversight is retained by the voter who chooses a Commander-in-Chief every four years.
So this is the outline of our puzzle. Congress authorized action in Afghanistan in 2001 in response to an act of war by jihadists against the United States, and that war has been executed by a number of Commanders-in-Chief and by many field commanders and Secretaries of Defense.
If this has the ring of “too many cooks in the kitchen” it is because there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen regarding the War in Afghanistan.
After we create our border, how do we fit the rest of the pieces together? We start with one corner and build inward toward the center. The corner we start with is, “What specific military action are these witnesses responsible for?” The answer is the withdrawal of troops and appropriate non-combatants from Afghanistan. The question is not whether this withdrawal is wise, (this is a political question), the question is whether this mission was carried out properly. We have found our first internal pieces of the puzzle connected to one corner. In the witnesses own words:
- A logistical success; a strategic failure. Translation: American withdrawal planes took off from Kabul International Airport but carried many of the wrong Afghans (did the Taliban let them through?) and left many American citizens and others behind to fend for themselves. Logical conclusion: a mission failure – both logistical and strategic.
- I did not take the offer seriously (an offer by the Taliban to let United States forces secure Kabul during the withdrawal). Translation: We would have needed more troops to secure access to the Kabul airport. We only had enough troops to secure the inside of the airport itself. Logical conclusion: the General should have asked for more troops.
- The call on how to do that (bringing out non-combatants) is really a State Department call. Translation: I wash my hands of Department of Defense responsibility for withdrawing Americans still in Afghanistan. Logical conclusion: the State Department does not have the ability or the equipment to evacuate large numbers of persons. Only the military can safely do that. The State Department’s job is to determine who is eligible to be evacuated. The DOD still has to be involved until all the right people are evacuated.
So, following just one thread from one corner of the puzzle we come to the conclusion that the plan for the wholesale withdrawal from Afghanistan is a military and diplomatic disaster. Those being questioned by Congress were given a single task that they failed to carry out in a professional manner. Their ineptitude has cost many innocent lives. How our country is left with “woke” versus “warrior” in our military leadership may be partly explained by Obama’s purge while he was President.
Isolating one issue at a time, gathering facts on the issue, and then drawing logical conclusions is part of the citizen evaluative process so important in our Republic. The Congressional hearings were very informative. By design, 1000 pieces of our national puzzle are now thrown out to the public in the form of one disaster after another in order to encourage citizens to throw up their hands and give up on determining causation and accountability. The People are the Sovereign, however, and must judge performance in order to determine who is to represent them.
Eventually, as each piece of the puzzle is painstakingly put together, and action steps demanded by the public at each stage, the whole picture will be seen. What picture might this turn out to be?