The United States military is led and staffed by some of the world's finest minds. The service academies and other officer training programs excel in all aspects. What went wrong in Afghanistan? There was a recent study detailing failures over the past 20 years, and there will certainly be more to come.

But a simple answer is hubris. All of us strive for success and have a hard time owning up to failure. John F. Kennedy famously said after the famed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, "success has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan."

I investigated the Three Mile Island accident early in my career as a team member at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and later the Challenger explosion on a NASA manned space mission. The Three Mile Island accident in particular was due to a well trained, perhaps a bit inexperienced, team of reactor operators just refusing to believe that their actions uncovered the core. It was changed only when a new shift of operators came on duty and quickly figured what had happened. Subsequent simulations indicated many —but not all — of trained operators would have taken the wrong course of action. Since then, with training and new requirements, this has not been repeated. The Challenger accident reflected NASA's underestimating the risks from manned space missions.

The world needs a "hubris-limiting" mechanism of some sort, but it didn't happen in this case. Four presidential administrations had a shot at this, and the fourth (Biden) made a mess of the exit strategy, but the third (Trump) and fourth (Biden) caused the proper big-picture end to happen.

The United States has a history of using selective wars — particularly against Native Americans, ourselves in the Civil War, Mexico, and later Spain — to gain control of new territories or to better our national interests. We're not unique, but I suppose we excelled at it for over 200 years.

If we are to continue to be the self-expressed world leader, we need a better self-restraint model. We're not off to a good start, because the Trump administration wanted to use the U.S. military — based on many published books, including the latest upcoming one from Bob Woodward — to overthrow our election process and maintain him as president.

I served as a ROTC officer in training and spent many years in the Cold War working with the military in weapons systems development. On retirement, I received a flag that flew over key American nuclear weapons producing facilities, and I display it at home. Our military staff are patriotic, hard working, ambitious, and believe that they are doing the right thing. I am glad that they are are on our side. That shouldn't change.

But we have to have a good handle from a bitterly divided federal government on military strategy, especially from the Biden administration, which is both in power and has shown some courage in resolving this mess, but must beef up this effort substantially and place it alongside economic recovery and COVID treatment. It will be messy, won't get much help from the press and is often thankless yet can't be deferred.

(12) comments

BabaYaga

BIDEN is what went wrong in Afghanistan. He's a dementia ridden loser who needs to be removed from office and should have been after getting 13 of our soldiers killed along with over 139 afghan nationals. Everyone who voted for him should be held responsible as the blood is on all their hands!

olefool

Why don't you tell us how you really feel babbayagga.....

public-redux

Why do you live VP Harris so much?

jsklinelga

Mr. Pyatt,

I commend your word play. And your ability from years of experience as a government investigator to twist and contrive facts and opinions to match your predetermined, intended goal. You did it masterfully.

Your ethos. An expert on Military training and logistics because you were in a ROTC program. A patriot invoking Kennedy. A distinguished analyst of facts because you unraveled the failures of Three Mile Island and the shuttle explosion. And as reward for this exemplary lifetime service you received a flag that flew over a government installation.

I believe you believe your analysis but that is scary.. In our society we are inundated with subjective analysis Quite often by "trained" government analyst. The gist of your letter is: I am an authority, mistakes happen, America has a tainted history, we have been trying to leave Afghanistan through numerous administrations, Biden made a mess of it but it is really Trump's fault, because he has allegedly wanted to overthrow our country, according to blindly partisan analyst like yourself.

Masterful word craft. But as Lincoln famously said: "You can fool some of the people.... "

olefool

jsk... At least he has the creds and backup to support his word crafting.... you on the other hand....... Your conspiracy theories come to mind..

Awteam2021

Might you fall in the, “ some of the people all the time”? I do remember you saying, letters like this would get Trump re-election. How did that workout 🏋️‍♀️? Sounds foolish now.

freded

“The Trump administration wanted to use the U.S. military — based on many published books, including the latest upcoming one from Bob Woodward — to overthrow our election process and maintain him as president.”

So why didn’t it happen? Liberal propaganda.

Awteam2021

Incompetency?

He sure made it clear he would do anything to stay in office. Ask the Attorney general of Georgia. Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into Trump's "attempt to influence the election.

MD1756

Tommy Franks and Bush blew it when they let a good number of the Taliban and Bin Laden escape off of Tora Boro. We should have shot up anything that moved on the mountains unless the surrendered and came down a designated route and signed parole terms stating that they would never again take up arms against the U.S. of the Afghanistan government, and if they were caught doing so they would be subject to summary execution. Many people's loyalties over there are with their sects/tribes and not a central authority. We should never have been involved in trying to build a nation that didn't want our help even though they really could use it. I have no interest in helping out a culture that treats women as property and stones people because they don't have exactly the same religious beliefs.

phydeaux994

Thank you Mr. Pyatt, for a bipartisan analysis of the total Afghanistan mess, giving credit where credit is due, and a fair criticism of all involved from the beginning to the evolving end.

Riptide262

Interesting statement "The United States military is led and staffed by some of the world's finest minds." I agree with that statement, however, those minds are led by politicians whose interests generally don't align well with the American population. In addition, they fail to understand the strengths and limitations of the military. I give credit to Biden for getting us out of Afghanistan although I would have preferred a more graceful exit. However, I firmly believe that and ungraceful exit is far better than continuing policies that have failed for decades.

gary4books

Really a good letter from a person who has information to share and experience with what does not work. I would suggest that military officers get promoted for the accuracy of their assessments and not for their hopes. And civilian supervisors should do the same. Much to think about here and no partisan propaganda.

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