Author and battlefield reporter Bing West spoke to nearly 100 people at the University of Central Florida about the current state of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
West is the author of “The Wrong War,” an account of his time spent embedded with Marines fighting in Afghanistan. His presentation, which was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office, centered mostly on the real stories of Marines fighting on the frontlines of the war in that country.
West spoke candidly about the soldiers he was embedded with, including Dakota Meyer, a recent recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. He also discussed the U.S. goals of destroying al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the attacks of September 11, 2011, and rebuilding a nation after the organizations were gone.
Nation-building was a near-impossible goal for the U.S. military, he said, because Afghanistan is a country with multiple tribes and a high illiteracy rate. He advised that the only way to rebuild Afghanistan is to help the Afghans do it for themselves.
The biggest problem the U.S. military will face in the future, West said, is fighting those who will never wear a uniform. Instead, the U.S. has to fight against bands of guerilla fighters who blend into the civilian population for protection and are increasingly using indirect attacks, such as improvised explosive devices, to wage war.
That kind of fighting, he explained, can take a toll on soldiers’ morale. Adapting to fighting guerillas is the most difficult challenge the United States faces, he said, and it is made more complicated by the fact that insurgents can run over the Pakistani border and escape American attacks.
When asked what he thought about the increasing reliance on unmanned aircraft in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, West replied that these aircraft, which now include blimps, are key in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. These aircraft, he said, are incredibly accurate and help prevent the enemy from gathering in large numbers.
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners of West’s presentation included the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship Program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, LarsonAllen LLP, the UCF Nicholson School of Communication, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, the UCF Book Festival 2012 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.