The last time we visited, we discussed what we can do, as individuals, to contribute to the solution of the bedlam that seems to surround us every day.
After all, we are only one person. We is an interesting word here. We is one? We is two. Or three or more. If you start as one and choose to do good, as we discussed last time, you will discover other like-minded people and the one becomes we. It’s true in business as it is in life, and I believe in government, too.
Events are happening so fast in this world of geopolitics and foreign policy that it is impossible to be timely in a newspaper column. Even a daily blog or podcast struggles to keep up. Maybe that is why so many get their news from tweets. Tweets. Did you ever think that someday we would get a complete picture of news and opinions from something called tweets? Who has the time to be distracted everytime someone somewhere who we follow has an original thought or worse, retweets someone else’s original thoughts. I need to be more organized than that. But back to the column …
In January 1942, the month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Congress began hearings to begin to determine what went wrong there. How could we suffer a sneak attack? Were we prepared? Who was responsible for preparation and execution?
At the time, the men with direct authority were Gen. George Marshall, who was the Armed Services Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral H.E. Kimmel commanded the fleet at Pearl Harbor and Lt. General Walter C. Short was the Army commander responsible for the defense of the military installations in Hawaii.
The hearings began almost immediately, but this was wartime and we had some other things, perhaps more urgent things, to take care of at that point in time. However, at the conclusion of the war, hearings of greater depth were conducted, and responsibility and failure were assigned. The verdicts will be debated in history symposiums, but conclusions were reached and people, flag officers, were held accountable.
If part of what I see and hear about our withdrawal from Afghanistan is true, flag officers need to be held accountable. This was not a sneak attack. This was a foregone conclusion. Our departure did not need to meet a timetable other than as needed and used for logistics needs. President Joe Biden obviously knew we were leaving, he even admits that President Trump got it started. So planning was either ongoing or someone is negligent or failed to prepare intentionally. There is no excuse for lack of planning here. There is no excuse to endanger our people to indefensible positions. There was no military or logistical reason to abandon Bagram Air Force Base and all the equipment. It is criminal malfeasance to abandon approximately $90 billion in war material and in the hands of people who months ago were our enemy but now they handle security for our departure?
This is not about the United States leaving Afghanistan, it is about how the mission was to be planned and accomplished. Chaos and bedlam are not inevitable. After 20 years, arbitrary dates are just that, arbitrary. We obviously beat these guys 20 years ago with overwhelming and relentless force, withdrawal could have been done from a position of planning and strength. Because someone chose to organize this “mission” as a third world bazaar, we have lost 13 of our best and brightest, and for what? May God bless them.
I don’t believe this operation was conceived in the field by our field commanders. The scope was too large. It is conceivable that General Kenneth McKenzie of Central Command and his team submitted the plan but if that is the case, they are incompetent. If that is the conclusion then that needs to come out or be refuted. It is my sense that there were directives issued from above. I believe that either no one had the fortitude to disagree with those directives or they were negligently submissive. Either way, this needs to see the light of day. Just because a wrong decision is made doesn’t necessarily make you negligent, just wrong. But questions need answers and we owe the 13 if nothing else.
I remember as a kid thinking about the term Commander in Chief and I remember thinking how could some men have no military experience and be in charge. I have come to comprehend how this works. I used my management principles to understand the mobilization and coordination of personnel and material. However, (in business or) in government, it requires a group of serious people both civilian and military to advise the president. I am not sure that these are the right people.
We came together, as a people, to ask some hard questions after Pearl Harbor. For the sake of our men and women of future endeavors, we need to again.
• William Peterson recently retired to Ottawa after working in the hotel industry for 40-plus years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.