December 29, 2009

Afghanistan Policy Debate in the Boston Review

Nir Rosen and I had breakfast this morning and caught up over coffee and eggs, but that hasn't stopped us from going at each other in this month's Boston Review, which features an article by Nir and then a forum in which I participate along with Alex Thier, Andrew Bacevich, Aziz Hakimi, Syed Saleem Shahzad and Helena Cobban. In my contribution, I argue that Afghanistan will mark the end of what I'm calling the "Third Counterinsurgency Era". While small wars and insurgencies will continue to take place across the globe, the United States and other western powers will not soon stomach another large-scale intervention requiring counterinsurgency operations along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe the United States and other great powers will continue to be challenged through "small wars", of course, but we are more likely to fight these wars by, with and through local forces rather than directly -- as in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is why I think foreign internal defense (FID), unlike COIN, is underdeveloped doctrinally in light of the challenges the United States and its allies will face in the future. I hope Brimley and the other new whiz kids at the Pentagon are thinking about that as they go about drafting the new QDR.

[The existing joint doctrine for FID can be found here (.pdf). One wonders whether or not we should convene a group of scholars and practitioners to scrub this in the way that we did FM 3-24 in 2005.]