Editor, the Advocate:
Patriotic songs generally give us a warm feeling about being part of something large, important and long lasting. We don’t expect policy guidance from a song. But there is an interesting exception: The Marines’ Hymn, in its very first line, gives us excellent policy direction. “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli,” told policy makers exactly what to do after 9/11. Those words refer to punitive expeditions. Simply put, such expeditions send well trained and heavily armed military force into an area to deliver an unmistakable rebuke to any nation or sub-national group that has offended the United States.
The Marines, being our original special forces, were usually the force sent on such missions. They had a well defined and limited goal. They administered a substantial punishment and withdrew from the area.
They did not try to occupy land, they had no interest in changing the culture of the region, they did not try to teach democracy to the people and they certainly were not interested in nation building. The Marines were there to inflict a substantial enough punishment to insure that the undesirable behavior would not be soon repeated. It was a quick, generally effective and relatively inexpensive way to enforce U.S. security decisions.
Contrast that with the actions of the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan. We went in with massive force and huge numbers of military and contractors. At first hailed by some Afghans as liberators, we were quickly reviled for our random (hopefully accidental) killings, our lack of knowledge and sensitivity to Afghan culture and the creation of a subculture of corruption based on U.S. contracts and use of civilian contractors. The perpetrators of 9/11 mostly escaped, frequently to Pakistan where they contributed to political and religious instability.
In Afghanistan we were an occupying army which was so disliked that in 20 years and with the expenditure of over $2 trillion, we could not win over the Afghan people. It took the U.S. 20 years to lose a war – it would have taken the Marines 20 days to have accomplished a punitive expedition. Next time, send in the Marines.
Jim Munro, Port Lavaca