Monday, March 20, 2006

"Not a Good Day to Die"

I just got through reading this book by Sean Naylor, who is a prize winning military correspondent for the "Army Times." It is a very detailed account of "Operation Anaconda," the only major military operation done in Afghanistan involving a large number of troops. There is now an excellent "trilogy" of books about our war there. "First In," which I reviewed last week, that covers from our first insertion of CIA until the fall of Kabul. "Jawbreaker," Gary Berntsen's account of our failure to get Osama in Tora Bora right after the fall of Kabul, and this book, from right after Tora Bora until Anaconda. Which ends the major warfare there. Everything since has been small unit warfare.

Behind the "fog of war" mistakes, triumphs and tragedies is the-not deliniated but obvious-failure of nerve at the highest levels at Centcom and the DOD. Why did their nerve fail? The pattern that comes though is their fear of the MSM. Every move was weighed based on how the media and the international left would react to it. I am talking about reaction right up to and in the oval office.

We held back on putting A-Teams with the Northern Alliance because we afraid of the casualties we would inflict on civilians. We wasted a month bombing empty buildings in Southern Afghanistan for the same reason. The CIA agents were getting midnight calls from DC asking for confirmation that there were no civilians in a building they were planning to bomb. We would not put 800 Rangers into Tora Bora to stop Bin Ladin because Centcom was afraid we would take too many casualties. We wouldn't allow the Army to bring enough firepower with them for the Anaconda campaign. And it was all due to fear of what the media would say.

When I first discussed our problems with warfare after 911 I commented again and again that we would be affected by what I called the "burned baby syndrome." These books prove we have. And it has been even worse than I assumed.

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