Kings of War discusses an article in Foreign Affairs that argues for an emphasis on working with tribes rather than focusing on the central government. I’m no fan of the central government in Afghanistan and have even engaged in (the completely unrealistic) wondering if we could dispense with a central government in favor of several city based regional governments. KoW talks about the problems of local empowerment…
By empowering local movements one does, of course, take something away from the central government. That can be handled well …designed to be in opposition to each other, acting as checks and balances, allowing each level to the subversive from time to time,…or it can lead to what Ernest Gellner called atomisation, where fragmentation occurs to such an extent as to render social action impossible. If each patch (village, tribal area, etc.) takes care of itself, we might see a Rouseau-esque peace, with each community isolated from his neighbour, living in tranquility. Or, to see it another way, the extreme end of the ‘localised’ spectrum might become asymptotic to some kind of Hobbesian state of nature.
And then the big question:
Can WE actually MAKE someone function in this way? Or, is our very involvement, our very presence (not to say our very existence, although for some opposed to the nature of the West that may be case) part of the problem? If Westerners are the ones empowering, or building the capacity of, the local headman (yes, man), is it really empowerment? Or does the whole strategy fall into that uncomfortable category of ‘things that should work, except that they don’t and never will, so long as we have anything to do with it’?
My apologies for referring to myself here but DefenseTech had a post about one of my COIN recaps and I’d like to recommend the comment thread. Specifically, the discussion centers around the idea that we might be relying too much on fire support at the expense of maneuver.