Stephen M. Walt. Foreign Policy, 16 November 2009.
Walt makes a fundamental strategic point. The Bush wars involved operational and grand strategic errors, so why institutionalize a shift in defense planning that in effect has the U.S. military prepare for more strategic errors by our leadership? Why not opt to correct the error? It is really an elemental point of strategy: Don’t compound error!
I understand how military professionals who have been ordered to take on foolish strategic missions might feel that counterinsurgency theory is an attractive way out of their tactical and operational dilemmas. But there is really no excuse for civilian leaders, including Sec Def Gates, chasing the mirage of COIN as if it were an answer for our current problems dealing with the consequences of a disastrous Bush national security strategy. Change the strategy and there will be no need for investments in COIN!
Adam L. Silverman. Sic Semper Tyrannis, 12 November 2009.
Given the reality that the US faces in Afghanistan; the historic lack of functional centralized government, exceedingly high number of societal elements, many of which are geographically isolated or semi-isolated, the illegitimacy of the current Afghan government, and the fact that groups we are fighting are not all insurgents makes successfully reaching the COIN end state of tethering Afghan society back to the Afghan state very, very difficult. The debate on the use of COIN really needs to be focused in on this difficult set of Afghan circumstances and whether they allow any chance for a positive counterinsurgency outcome.
Dave Anderson. News Hoggers, 06 November 2009.
COIN does not decrease the chance of future interventions; it instead probably increases the chance of future interventions and invasions as it is a “solution” that is “proven to work” as long as not too many questions are raised about either what “working” means or the initial rosy scenario assumptions that are made to sell the invasion.
Karl W. Eikenberry. The The New York Times has published two cables authored by the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul addressed to Secretary of State Clinton. The first is dated 06 November 2009 and is entitled “COIN Strategy: Civilian Concerns”. The second is dated 09 November 2009 and is entitled “Looking Beyond Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan”.
Quibble: COIN is a tactic, not a strategy. Non-quibble: Wars are rarely decided at the tactical level.
Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason. Military Review, November/December 2009.
By misunderstanding the basic nature of the enemy, the United States is fghting the wrong war again, just as we did in Vietnam. It is hard to defeat an enemy you do not understand.
Elections don’t make democracies; democracies make elections.
As Jeffrey Record … notes, “the fundamental political obstacle to an enduring American success in Vietnam [was] a politically illegitimate, militarily feckless, and thoroughly corrupted South Vietnamese client regime.” Substitute the word “Afghanistan” for the words “South Vietnam” in these quotations and the descriptions apply precisely to today’s government in Kabul. Like Afghanistan, South Vietnam at the national level was a massively corrupt collection of self-interested warlords, many of them deeply implicated in the proftable opium trade, with almost nonexistent legitimacy outside the capital city. The purely military gains achieved at such terrible cost in our nation’s blood and treasure in Vietnam never came close to exhausting the enemy’s manpower pool or his will to fght, and simply could not be sus-
tained politically by a venal and incompetent set of dysfunctional state institutions where self-interest
was the order of the day.
No Pashtun would ever identify himself by his province, where we are attempting to impose external governance. Rural Pashtuns thus have no perceivable political interest in this keystone of international military and political effort in Afghanistan.
“Extending the reach of the central government” is precisely the wrong strategy in Afghanistan because it is exactly what the rural people do not want. The level of coercive social change that would be required to actually implement this radical social revolution in Afghanistan is beyond our national means.
Gian P. Gentile. New York Times, 31 October 2009.
History shows that occupation by foreign armies with the intent of changing occupied societies does not work and ends up costing considerable blood and treasure.
The notion that if only an army gets a few more troops, with different and better generals, then within a few years it can defeat a multi-faceted insurgency set in the middle of civil war, is not supported by an honest reading of history.
Algeria, Vietnam and Iraq show this to be the case.
Michael A. Cohen. The New Republic, 29 October 2009.
for Biddle article see: http://www.comw.org/wordpress/dsr/is-there-a-middle-way-biddl
In poker terms, Biddle’s argument is the equivalent of betting all your chips on an inside straight draw. And then doing it again on the next hand.
James Kitfield. National Journal, 17 October 2009.
Caroline Wadhams and Colin Cookman. Foreign Policy, 15 October 2009.
Dexter Filkens. New York Times Magazine, 14 October 2009.
…our military leadership in Afghanistan acts, to judge by Filkins piece, as if winning were a hard but typical thing to do, if only things were done right this time. (By the way, if Filkins had written a piece similar in tone about LeBron James, it would be considered embarrassingly fawning. Why is it that our objective reporters for major newspapers regularly fall in love with their military subjects and cast them as stars? And why is such work never considered embarrassing?)
~ Tom Dispatch
Thomas G. Mahnken. Joint Forces Quarterly, 01 October 2009.
Gian P. Gentile. Parameters, Autumn 2009.
Population-centric COIN may be a reasonable operational method to use in certain circumstances, but it is not a strategy.
Agreed! COIN is a collection of tactics. What is missing in Afghanistan is a strategy with any credible chance of success … despite the lip-service to political solutions.