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September 21, 2009

Blogging the McChrystal Review - Who are the People?
Posted by Michael Cohen

The McChrystal report makes a big point about the "people" being the "center of gravity" and the key "objective" in the counter-insurgency fight, but is rather breezy in how it describes them (p. 2-4).

For example, the report says that "communities make deliberate choices to resist, support or allow insurgent influence" which is almost certainly true. But then the report makes no effort to describe which people, which communities, which ethnic groups choose to support or resist insurgent influence. I'm still going through the report, but I don't see anywhere where it makes a distinction between these groups or identifies the regions where the challenge is the greatest. For a report that makes a big point about "people" being the objective that seems a pretty big oversight. Clearly the motivations of the "people" in  Kandahar is different from those in Kabul or Kunduz - and also quite clearly, they can't be solved by good governance alone. The report seems to presuppose that governance is the key to bringing the people to the side of the government as if ethnicity or tribal affiliation plays little role.

These sort of wide generalizations about the people are endemic. Take for example this section:

First, some GIRoA officials have given preferential treatment to certain individuals, tribes, and groups or worse abused their power at the expense of the people.

Second, the Afghan government has been unable to provide sufficient security, justice, and basic services to the people. (p. 2-8)

Well the first point here would suggest that not all the "people" share the same frustration toward their government, but it also speaks the the complexity of Afghan politics - a point alluded to in the report, but not fleshed out. It also suggests that perhaps the more effective strategy in Afghanistan would not be to focus on areas where the Taliban are both strong, and also have local sympathy, but instead on areas where the opportunity for political and security gains might be more fertile. It was a point that Sean Kay made a few weeks ago in Foreign Policy:

Shift from COIN to containment: Rather than a heavier presence, the United States should limit its military operations in southern Afghanistan and consolidate existing gains. Where possible, U.S. officials can negotiate with Taliban in the south if they will turn against global jihadists. Many Afghans supporting the Taliban can be bought out -- requiring financial incentives to persuade and empower populations to reject extremism. While several years ago major troop increases could have worked in southern Afghanistan, more troops now may be dangerously counterproductive. Increased presence in the south risks pushing Taliban over the mountains and into nuclear armed Pakistan. Meanwhile, previously secure areas of northern Afghanistan are falling under Taliban and al Qaeda influence -- encircling Kabul and threatening NATO supply lines.

A little prioritization from McChrystal would be nice, doncha think?


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21 Sept 2009

As a 26 year Air force Vietnam veteran, I think the way we are fighting this war is wrong at many levels. In Vietnam, we underestimated the staying power, skill, ingenuity and willingness to die of the enemy. Quite simply, they outlasted us in a long protracted war of attrition in which they were willing to sacrifice considerably more casualties than the United States. North Vietnam taught us how the wars of the future were going to be fought. In order to win we had to hit them with overwhelming force then move on to the next base camp. Occupying Arab countries for long periods of time is suicidal in this new equation since our culture and religions are so diametrically incompatible to each other. The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan require the ability to gather intelligence, kill the enemy, better the lives of the people and set up self rule, and get out as soon as possible. Remember, we had allot of success in "Vietnamization". The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan require the ability to kill the enemy, better the lives of the people, set up self rule then get out as soon as possible. Iraq took six years too long while it bankrupted our treasury and will to win long term.

In order to do the above and strategically win the war on terror, it's important to have a draft (without college deferments). Presently, less than one percent, (military), of the population of this nation bears the burden and sacrifices which is morally wrong. This has weakened our military and created a false sense of security, while the rest of the country hardly knows a war is going on. Our country has never fought a war without a draft which rightly places the burden on all Americans. Moreover, we have never used Reserve and National Guard forces in place of a draft, further weakening our home emergency needs.
In the words of Gen William Westmoreland, on the Vietnam War, “When the President and his administration failed to level with the American people about the extent and nature of the sacrifice that had to be made, they contributed to a credibility gap that grew into an unbridgeable chasm. A low key approach (no draft or one with college deferments), means that some make sacrifices while most do not, and even those who make no sacrifice dislike it because their consciences trouble them. IF A WAR IS DEEMED WORTHY OF THE DEDICATION AND SACRIFICE OF THE MILITARY SERVICES, IT IS ALSO WORTHY OF THE COMMITMENT OF THE ENTIRE POPULATION." (A Soldier Reports, p500,). He also warned about the failure of graduated response, the failure of waiting too long to pursue the enemy into Laos and Cambodia (make it known we will destroy the attackers of 9/11 wherever they are, including Pakistan). These are just some of the lessons learned from the last insurgent war that we fought.
We should have dealt with these important issues six years ago but surrendered to the political expedience of the President and military leaders who should have remembered the lessons of Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan and any standing army since Alexander the Great.
Moreover, I ask you why the Powell doctrine was ignored in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan and to this day is not applied wisely to the present request to increase troops to Afghanistan. I remind you that in 2001 we took down Afghanistan with small CIA and Special Forces units together with the Northern Alliance and the warlords we could win over against the Taliban. This is the only strategy that will work and a huge standing army will only result in coffins body bags and an endless unsuccessful entanglement.
My son is on his third tour of duty to the desert. How many more sons and daughters will have to serve innumerable combat tours before the rest of the sleeping public wakes up to the seriousness of the situation. Our enemy has millions of fresh recruits to draw from while we have exhausted the military heroes who are just trying to do their job. How much longer are we going to fill the VA hospitals with new young injured veterans that have to compete with limited VA funds to treat veterans of previous wars? As they slowly bleed us. I hope we wake up before it’s too late. For the third time I will not be sleeping much until my son comes home. How can YOU sleep?

Gerard Cefalu USAF RETIRED

The Guard and Reserve have been heavily committed in every war except Vietnam. 5 of the first 7 divisions to see combat in WW-II were National Guard divisions.

I, personally, sleep every night in Afghanistan. That is, when I'm sleeping at night.

Cohen is so far off base with his "knowledge" of Afghanistan that it's actually laughable. It's clear that he has no real grasp of the complexity on the ground, or what is and isn't effective. For that, he is an ass. Worse than that, he is a pompous ass. He is an ass because he is speaking as loudly as possible about an issue upon which he is singularly unqualified to speak. The only people who can actually tell are those who actually do know what they are talking about. Because of his self-righteous attitude, he is a pompous ass.

There will come a time when I return from Afghanistan and visit Washington. There are some people there that I would like to meet and show my appreciation to.

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