War on the Ground

Via Abu Muqawama, a Stars and Stripes write-up of the firefight that left nine American soldiers dead in Afghanistan two weeks back. It’s a stark reminder of the reality of war, the one that’s fought on the ground. Kip from AM concludes:

Counterinsurgency may be a thinking man’s war, but it remains a fighting man’s war. The essence of force remains the same, described by Rupert Smith as “both the physical means of destruction–the bullet, the bayonet–and the body that applies it.” A valiant and successful defense of a position against an overwhelming enemy, executed by brave Americans who have been fighting and dying for this ground for over a year.

It’s looking increasingly likely that whatever American military capacity is freed up by the improving situation in Iraq will become absorbed by Afghanistan. Some might argue that the improving situation in Iraq is proof that counterinsurgency campaigns can be successful. But I’m skeptical. And I wonder how many battles like the one in Nuriland we’ll win before we decide that the war itself cannot be won, or that it’s not worth the cost.Because the tragedy of this kind of war is that while it is fought on the ground, it’s not necessarily decided on the ground.

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