The Western world has been defined by the effectiveness of their militaries. Western militaries defended the interests of their respective states and provided the shield which allow the West to prosper. Those militaries forged the world we have today. They defended the West against all enemies, whether they were the Ottoman Turks, the Soviet Union during the Cold War, or other Western militaries. Foremost in military effectiveness has been the United States military and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Both militaries have an illustrious history but there are deep cracks appearing in their foundations and in the intelligence communities which support them. Two events, the Abbey Gate attack in Afghanistan and "Jericho Wall,” Hamas’ battle plan codename for its attacks against Israel, are warnings of the consequences of these fissures.
On August 26, 2021, a suicide bomber killed thirteen American servicemembers and 170 Afghan civilians at Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport during the disastrous U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan. Three days later, in a horrible case of mistaken identity, a U.S. drone strike against suspected members of the terrorist organization responsible for the attack killed an Afghan aid worker and nine others, including seven children. Before the Abbey Gate attack, there were multiple warnings to President Biden and by UK officials of likely terrorist attacks centered on the airport. Indeed, four days before the attack, President Biden himself warned of that growing danger of terrorist attacks. Biden’s decision-making was disastrous as was the performance of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark Milley. Gen. Milley has stated that he warned Biden against a precipitous withdrawal. Biden did it anyway. There and then Gen. Milley should have resigned in protest at the catastrophic decision-making of the Biden administration which killed thirteen American servicemembers and the abandonment of Americans left in Afghanistan.
Two years later, the horrific October 7 terror attacks against Israel, which killed over 1,200 Israelis, reveal problems with the IDF’s response but more significantly with its intelligence capabilities. Reports that for over a year the Israelis have been in possession of Hamas’ attack plans, codenamed "Jericho Wall,” but ignored them because they were seen as beyond the group’s capabilities. Purportedly, Israel did not share "Jericho Wall” with the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).
These events reveal that the performance of the U.S. military and IDF are not what they should be. Like Heinrich Schliemann excavating the nine levels of the ruins of Troy, these failures have many layers and will be analyzed for many years. Excavation of the truth regarding Afghanistan will continue to be hindered by the Biden administration, which will do its utmost to conceal its responsibility for the debacle. It will take a modern Schliemann to dig through their layers of deception and obfuscation. But three causes are clear.
First, these were major intelligence failures for both states. The United States’ IC failed in its estimates of the ability of the pro-Western Afghan National Government to remain in power. In reality, it collapsed like a house of cards. Equally damaging was its underestimation of the popularity and military effectiveness of the Taliban and their supporters to conquer the country. Afghanistan disintegrated as quickly, calamitously, and tragically as South Vietnam did in 1975. In the case of Gaza, despite media accounts to the contrary, it strains credibility that the Israelis did not share details of "Jericho Wall” with the U.S. IC given the close cooperation going back many decades between the intelligence communities and militaries. Even if did not, the U.S. has the world’s best intelligence capabilities to monitor and assess what is happening in Gaza independently of the Israelis. Moreover, the U.S. also works closely with the Egyptians, Saudis, Turks, and Gulf sheikhdoms, who would provide their own intelligence about what was occurring in Gaza. "Trust but verify” is what President Reagan told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and that is the rule of the intelligence community when working with friendly services. That fact that the U.S. intelligence community did not warn President Biden means that they are guilty of malpractice. That they suppressed, ignored, or were sloppy reveals a deep failure in the U.S. intelligence community that must be investigated and corrected.
Second, military leadership failed and must be held accountable. Chairman Milley bears responsibility. As argued, he should have resigned immediately once he realized that the Biden administration was pursuing a dangerous path. He did not. While Biden is the president, and the buck stops with him, Milley is the president’s principal military advisor. If Biden is going to ignore Milley’s recommendations, his resignation might have stopped the calamity. As Chairman, Milley demanded accountability. Fair enough. But it is a two-way street, servicemembers depend upon accountability of their superiors, including at the highest levels of service—that’s Milley. That is what occurs in professional militaries. In addition, the IC made a terrible mistake that killed the ten Afghans in the drone strike. There needs to be accountability for that grievous blunder. At root, Milley failed the men and women of the U.S. military. The IDF’s operation in Gaza also is worrying. It has been halting but seems to be improving. No doubt the problematic start to its operations in Gaza is due to its heavy dependence upon reserves who needed training before confronting the unique horrors of urban warfare in Gaza and due to the Biden administration’s pressure.
Third, the U.S. intelligence community, military, and the IDF are politicized, and this is causing a crisis in the civil-military relations of both states. The eroding performance of both militaries, the difficulties faced by the U.S. Army and Navy in recruitment, the emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and the lack of accountability in the U.S. military (we will see about accountability for the IDF) suggests that the U.S. military does not possess the professionalism that it did during the Cold War.
In large measure, the success of the U.S. military and the IDF during the Cold War was that both were supremely professional. To the extent that there was a secret weapon to defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War, it was the professionalism of the U.S. IC and military. The U.S. military and IDF operated under what is called objective civilian control, the military follows civilian orders, but the civilians permit the military to have an autonomous domain. In essence, the civilians tell the military their objectives, and the military is left to execute those orders. Today, that key to military effectiveness is on the cusp of being lost. The U.S. is slipping into subjective control—where the military is corrupted by civilians and becomes a political military like the Soviet Red Army or the People’s Liberation Army, not a professional one. The politicization of the military started aggressively under President Obama and is now well underway. The civilian progressives of the Obama and Biden administrations do not respect an autonomous domain but force the military to adhere and conform to their progressive ideology. Whether progressive officers and NCOs can win wars is not the progressive concern—transforming the military is. It will be cold comfort for the American people if the answer is the U.S. military can no longer win wars against America’s enemies.
The rot must stop now, and these problems addressed. The U.S. is in the fight of its life with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Military weakness invites aggression, and a politicized military is a weak one. U.S. military weakness ensures that the Cold War with the PRC may turn hot far sooner than the intelligence community or military anticipate.
Militaries have protected the West for centuries and in the modern era, the U.S. military and the IDF have expertly and ably defended the U.S. and Israel. Abbey Gate and "Jericho Wall” are warnings that big things are amiss—there are deep problems in the U.S. military and IDF. As both become politicized forces, they are losing military effectiveness. The Biden White House and the Pentagon’s civilian and military leadership have been negligent in its responsibility for correcting these great faults. "Jericho Wall” taught the IDF a powerful lesson, and the U.S. should well heed it. Abbey Gate should have taught the U.S. IC and military too, but the Biden administration suppressed the necessary analysis of what were the causes of the failure and what lessons should be learned. These attacks are harbingers of even greater failures to come. The PRC’s military is likely to teach the U.S. military some hard lessons as well. They will come at great expense and with dire consequences for the American people and their security.