Obama-appointed Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s trip this week to the Persian Gulf region is troubling on two scores.
First, he committed a paltry 200 more U.S. Army troops to the Arab and Kurdish effort to capture and hold the Islamic terrorist stronghold of Raqqa in war-torn Syria, where leaders of the unforgiving ISIS army are bent on effecting a scorched earth caliphate to eliminate Christians, Jews and anybody who’s pro-Western. Carter’s move was yet another meager decision to commit U.S. forces piecemeal to a grim and far-reaching war effort.
Second, Carter announced to the press and everybody else that he was beefing up the U.S. presence on that front by a specific number of soldiers, providing broad details about what they would be doing — e.g., special forces operatives will be included in the 200 assigned to recruit, organize, train and advise local Syrian forces. That kind of detail totally undermines any element of surprise that 200 more troops might have effected.
A longstanding and time-tested “rule of war” is on the books for commanders from the president of the United States right down the ranks the U.S. Army captain in charge of an infantry company on the ground. That rule states that you never commit your forces piecemeal.
President Lyndon Johnson showed no respect for that rule. He committed troops a few thousand at a time over three years, beginning in 1965, to the war in South Vietnam. And look how that turned out. The end result was disastrous, with favorable public opinion being almost non-existent regarding the U.S. armed forces involvement in Vietnam despite the international SEATO treaty. Moreover, the cupcake “assistance command” battlefield strategy in the wake of the calamitous Tet offensive of 1968 hamstrung U.S. troops and eventually led to the last American boots on the ground evacuating in the spring of 1975. It was a humbling moral defeat for the once most powerful nation on the planet.
Hopefully, with the inauguration of a new president, we’ll have a commander-in-chief who won’t have to grow a pair, because he already has them. Moreover, the Pentagon hopefully will be more decisive, less transparent, and wise enough to know when to advise the president when it makes perfect sense to refrain from sending our dog into the hunt at hand.