Friday, March 6, 2009

Bing West Speaks of Iraq and Afghanistan, Past, Present and Future

Bing West, former Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Ronald Reagan, fourth generation Marine, scholar and author was the speaker in the Distinguished Speaker's series at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.


While there were a lot of books being handed to him to sign, this was not an event to plug his latest book The Strongest Tribe. This was an opportunity for him to speak to Marines and guests about Iraq and Afghanistan and what awaits as the Obama administration hammers out its War strategy.

West told everyone to watch the 8 people Obama has selected to help him formulate this strategy (Jones, Mullen, Gates, Biden, Hill and Holbrooke are the six that I can remember, I forgot my notebook and pen). He believes a strategy will be hammered out when NATO meets in Germany in April, not before. Key to this strategy will be who will be the risk assessor of the policy. I personally wonder if Hillary Clinton, in her role as Secretary of State may emerge in that position.

As you can tell from the photo below, people were paying close attention.

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More than one were taking notes.


West didn't offer what he thought should be done in Afghanistan. He did say that it wasn't so much the surge in Iraq that turned the tide as it was the change of hearts of Sunni tribal leaders. Something similar would need to be done in Afghanistan. By that, he meant not the surge but a change of hearts and minds of the Afghanis. Will it happen? West couldn't tell. He did predict that we would be fighting there actively for the next 5 years or more.

I wonder, does Obama's administration have the will to stick things out that long in Afghanistan.

West talked about how American attitudes have changed since World War 2. After 2400 Americans were killed in a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans didn't push Japan back to the other side of the international date line, providing them a sanctuary. The US went after Japan. However in 2001, the US let Osama Bin Laden escape into the mountains of Pakistan. West thinks that if terrorists are able to mount another large casualty attack on US soil that Americans may stand up, roll back their sleeves and finally go all out after them.

I don't think so. I think, with the current state of the economy, if there were a successful, large casualty attack here in the US, that many Americans (Democrats especially) may demand a complete pull out. They will say the wars were the reason for the attack, they will point to Bush's failed policy and that it didn't make the world safer but more dangerous for America.

The question session was very short. I would be curious as to his thoughts on the possibility of a failed state situation in Mexico with drug cartel funded militias crossing the US border and waging war with local law enforcement in border towns.

West spoke of the US resources being spread thin that besides the economy, it was Afghanistan + One that could be big factor on future policy, strategy and funding. The Obama administration has moved to remove supplemental spending from the DoD budget and wrap all of the supplemental into the regular budget. Good idea? We'll see. It could be like the auto manufacturers going back to Congress asking for more money. At what point though, do we just not have enough money to keep handing out for defense, domestic programs and this stimulus plan?

Below, West signs copies of his books for Marines and corporate sponsors.

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Yes, I got my picture taken with him too. I handed my camera off to a Marine. He did a good job. I would like to know why my make-up seems to disappear. I think I'm going to have to start refreshing my make-up toward the end of the day or something.


This is one of my favorite book signing photos. The Lieutenant looking over Bing West's shoulder telling him what to sign.


I also really like this shot because this Lieutenant looks so excited!


There were several couples. I like to see wives or girlfriends attending these with their Marines. I think its a good sign when your significant other is interested in your career in this way. These are my favorite 'couples' pictures. The gal below didn't like this picture because it wasn't as modest as she would have liked. I cropped it to make it modest because they both had such nice smiles in this shot.

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Of course, this one below is my most favorite. This is Col Camp and his wife.


The two Majors on the left were sitting at my table. They along with a gentleman on the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation board and a Spanish Naval Officer were great dinner companions. We had great conversations going. The three active duty officers were attending Command and Staff. I asked if they were all in the same conference group.

That got raised eyebrows, "Are you a spy, how do you know about conference groups?"

I rolled my eyes and laughed. Of course, I told them I had dated a Marine (Major A) who went through C&S last year.


1 comment:

Pistolmom said...

Interesting blog!