Sunday, November 15, 2009

For Blundering Harder

David Broder was paid to write this:

It is evident from the length of this deliberative process and from the flood of leaks that have emerged from Kabul and Washington that the perfect course of action does not exist. Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision -- whether or not it is right. [emphasis mine]
It requires an especially staggering magnitude and kind of stupidity to conclude that after years of blundering through a poorly-conceived, reckless occupation of Afghanistan and achieving nothing more than a costly stalemate, the next best step is to stop thinking, decide something or other, and start blundering harder.

I don't know what should be done; I strongly doubt the USA has any answers for Afghanistan, but we have seen what comes of shipping bottomless supplies of troops, contractors, and cash -- death and waste. It's reasonable to expect that more of the same will produce more of the same.


libhom said...

Did Broder have a senior moment.

Tom the Redhunter said...

No time to set up links, but here are some points:

- Most wars do not proceed in a linear fashion. There are ups and downs, and it is quite common for one side to be losing and then suddenly turn th tide, or for their to be a years-long stalemate, and then suddenly one side emerges victorious.

- The shortest time it's ever taken to beat an insurgency is 10 years. In modern history, anyway. So we're ahead of the curve in Iraq and on par for Afghanistan. See the Malayan Emergency as the classic example.

- Contrary to popular belief, most insurgencies fail.

- Insurgencies are 'low intensity" wars, as opposed to WWII-style "high-intensity" wars. The latter mostly end in big dramatic fashion. The former peter out over a period of years, and in fact it can be hard to determine when they ended at all.

- The point from the above is that although it takes 10 or more years to defeat an insurgency, it isn't WWII the whole time. Just as the insurgency peters out, so does the level of counterinsurgent troops.

- Finally, a common thread is found in the insurgencies that are defeated:

1) the government is caught unawares
2) the government is slow to respond, and most of it's initial response is wrongheaded and only makes the matter worse.
3) The government finally figures out they need to change strategy
4) The initial change in strategy increases "the violence"
5) Contrary to the chorus of naysayers the government wins.

- by 'the government' I mean foreign troops too helping out.

As for reading material, If I had to limit myself to one work, please google for the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 This is the book written by then-Lt. Gen. Petreus' team from mid-2005 through 2006, and published in Dec of 2006. In it is the strategy behind what is popularly known as the "surge."

You can order it from Amazon or just download it as a pdf from a number of websites.

It's more than a military "how to," it's chock-full of history too.

Dale said...

T the R, I appreciate your comment. It seems to me the paradigm here is not insurgency / counterinsurgency; as I read about the situation in Afghanistan, it sounds a lot like the situation faced by so many American cities and neighborhoods in the 19th and 20th centuries -- namely, a relatively weak state vying against violent factions, aka, mafia.

People faced the dilemma of following the law and 'cooperating with authorities' and having their businesses or themselves destroyed versus going along with what the biggest local thug wanted.

Thugs blended in with everyday people -- no uniforms worn. In plenty of cases, the mafia infiltrated or controlled the police and the political establishment, blurring the lines still further.

It didn't help matters that the thugs weren't united -- that there was no singular enemy on which to focus, even if you could identify its members: they had their ongoing battles amongst themselves. This strife did not neutralize them, but perpetuated them.

It was a long, slow, slog of a crawl out of these problems, and of course, it's still not entirely gone to this day.

Suffice to say the remedies for it -- the way out -- was not adding an occupying force, of whatever size. It was not a 'counter-insurgency' by the cops or the army, unless you flatten that term / concept to meaninglessness.

Economic development was a big part of it. Again, that didn't come from thousands of troops, let alone foreign ones.

Certainly it takes years and years, decades even, if that example is any precedent. I doubt whether the US military is the proper agent to be driving that decades-long slog.

Montag said...

Are we ignoring the question of the opium money?

I mean, the Taliban outlawed it in February 2001, the biggest crop in history was 2008, NATO controls the major routes in and out, and the NATO forces have been accused of trafficking.

It may explain why we invaded in 2001, were hugely successful, then just ignored everything while Iraq was going on.

larryniven said...

Isn't it great when this happens? Watching a professional writer botch things is one of my favorite masochistic pastimes. I mean, really - how many unpaid bloggers would never ever produce a line of thought so painfully idiotic?

Dale said...

LN, David Broder has been mailing it in since, oh, the early 1970s as far as I can tell. How some people reach high places is among life's terrible mysteries.

Dale said...

Montag, yes indeed. The tie-in to poppy adds to the mafia comparison, I think.