The major international news story last week was the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the murder of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. While the Administration’s cover story for what happened was busy unraveling, another major event happened that received scant attention. I read a brief account of the events, but gave it too little thought. The major networks reported it, but didn’t give it the emphasis it needed. After all, they were too busy reporting on the “film maker” whose work prompted the “spontaneous demonstrations” that overtook much of the Muslim world and Mitt Romney’s “gaffe” that turned out to be pretty accurate after all. I guess there was either not the time or maybe the intellect (maybe both) to appreciate this event.
Whatever the organizational outcome, the Sept. 14, 2012 attack on Camp Bastion is arguably the worst day in USMC aviation history since the Tet Offensive of 1968. The last time VMA-211 was combat ineffective was in December 1941, when the squadron was wiped out during the 13-day defense of Wake Island against the Japanese. Eight irreplaceable aircraft (the AV-8B has been out of production since 1999) have been destroyed or put out of action – approximately 7 percent of the total flying USMC Harrier fleet.
An attack of that size and success is a major defeat for the NATO coalition in general and the USMC in particular. In a slower news cycle or a Republican Administration, this would have dominated several news cycles and the media, Congress, and the public would be asking hard questions of the President.
The tempo of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan has been accelerating of late and will probably do so until winter hits. In fact the tempo might increase even after winter hits as the draw down of the US “surge” is completed. The Taliban have good reason to believe that NATO and the US especially has given up on the war and that they (the Taliban) will soon be back in control in Kabul. The Administration has done nothing to dispel that impression and it’s reaction to this attack is unlikely to do anything to change that.
Afghanistan was, and probably is, still winnable, although the President and the American people have to want to win. I’m not sure about the American people, but I’m pretty convinced that we have a President that doesn’t care about winning this war or what will happen to the Afghani people if we don’t.
Which is disheartening in the short term, but even worse, damaging to America’s standing in the world in the short and long term.