Talking counterinsurgency

Abu Maqawama has a most excellent (yet depressing) post restating the assumptions of our campaign in Afghanistan.  Here they are, in brief.  Read his post to see them in their gloomy and realistic glory.

  1. “The United States and its allies will devote the time, money, and troops to execute a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan”. Probably False.
  2. “The United States and its allies have vital interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Probably True.
  3. “Afghanistan is a binary conflict between the government and the insurgents”.* Certainly False.
  4. “The provision of social services leads to a reduction of violence”. Mostly false.
  5. “What we do is what matters”.** Mostly false.
  6. “Population-centric counterinsurgency is appropriate for Afghanistan”. Mostly true but perhaps false in one key way.

Spencer Ackerman riffs off that and raises a very important point:

…the American public has never debated, in a rigorous and bloodless way, just how proportional it is to confront a network of a few thousand extremists… through a commitment of something upwards of $300 billion to date and roughly 100,000 troops. The damage that extremist network can export is real. But it’s increasingly insubstantial. If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the perpetrator of the most sophisticated al-Qaeda plot in years, had succeeded, he would have killed an order of magnitude fewer people than on 9/11 — 300 people. Out of a nation of 300 million. And that is ultimately how asymmetrical warfare succeeds: what bin Laden calls “Bleed to Bankruptcy.”

I mean geez…I’m still waiting for the honest debate about our strategy now that the Soviet Union has collapsed.

Here’s a video of David Killcullen talking COIN at Google last year.

Definitely worth watching if you’re interested in the mindset behind our current counterinsurgency policy.

(h/t from Permissible Arms)

I’ve said for awhile now that I’m too close to Afghanistan to make an objective call (or anything that could even be mistaken for one) on the mission there but it’s getting hard to ignore the fact that I don’t really see a good way out of this thing.


2 responses to “Talking counterinsurgency

  1. You’re still waiting for the honest debate about our strategy now that the Soviet Union has collapsed?

    It’s never going to happen.

    The war we have suits bin Laden, yes, but it also suits the powers-that-be in Washington. Rather, it suits their masters. Let me explain. We are waging war against a nebulous enemy with shifting objectives that can never be reached, and that’s exactly the way it’s designed to be.

    See, this war IS the response to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The war without an end, the Cold War, did in fact end, and the military-industrial complex was shaking in their Gucci loafers (which are certainly déclassé these days; I merely quote Ross Perot), but luckily they were able to manufacture a new war, and – goody goody – one that is unwinnable at that.

    Ask yourself, who benefits from this war? The American people? No. The Afghans? Don’t think so.
    The defense establishment? As Hans Landa would say, “That’s a bingo!”

    War on Terror? Puh-lease. That’s a tactic, not an enemy. What’s next, a war on vowels? The Czechs did that, and look where it got them.

    We took a wrong turn somewhere, or maybe our system was rotten from the start, but while we invest in destruction, which by definition creates no long-term benefits, state capitalism is getting ready to kick our butts.

    We’re fighting the wrong enemy. The real enemies are poverty, disease, ignorance, and despair, and few seem to notice the alarming rate at which they are gaining ground in this country.

    Guess who won that war? Scandinavia! France! Switzerland! Lichtenstein! Monaco!

    And who has lost? Everyone else, including us.

    Let’s keep this just between us, though, okay? Some Americans who seem to have blood that’s redder than mine might take umbrage at my opinions.

    • It certainly is troubling that we both have a predilection for fabricating and consuming the idea of permanent conflict. The cold war was rolled into the culture wars which we were able to roll into the War on Terror.

      I suspect there are a whole lot of people in France (at least) who might disagree about ‘winning’ the war on poverty, despair and ignorance. Still, the point is well taken. The fact is that there’s a great deal of room for improvement with our system and there are other examples of such systems working. I will mention, for example, that the socialist hell hole known as Sweden is able to provide a pretty decent social safety net AND is expecting to have a budget surplus next year.

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