With just one win (Kuwait) in our last five major wars (Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq), Tuesday offered a reminder of how outdated and ineffective our military has become, despite all the money we lavish on it. NYT:
Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents … The victims included two sets of brothers (AP: “four of the nine boys killed were 7 years old, three were 8, one was 9 years old and one was 12”). … The only survivor, Hemad, 11, said his mother had told him to go out with other boys to collect firewood because “the weather is very cold now.” … [A] tree, Hemad said, saved his life by covering him so that he could not be seen by the helicopters, which, he said, “shot the boys one after another.”
Time presumably will reveal whether US forces or some other NATO members operated the gunships. It doesn’t matter for the general point: this is just one example of repeated civilian tragedies. Before state of the art military technology like machine guns and high powered explosives became widely distributed, as it is today, public opinion may have mattered far less in war (events like the Boston Massacre notwithstanding): rifles trump bows and arrows. Today, when an IED costs $100-200, our dismal 1/5 record, with the two current wars arguably our weakest performances of the lot, suggests civilian support is critical, probably determinative — and fiercely against us today in at least one more Afghan village.