October 17, 2009

Alternatives to Population-Centric COIN in Afghanistan

Credit goes to reader and enthusiastic supporter of all things counterinsurgency Michael Cohen for sending along this piece by the very serious and very smart Austin Long that escaped my view earlier this week. Austin makes a case for a counter-terror campaign in Afghanistan and, bless him, gets down to the specifics. The people who have actually led and executed counter-terror operations in Afghanistan -- Gens. Stan McChrystal, Mike Flynn, Scott Miller -- are the best people to explain why such campaigns will not work. In the words of Gen. McChrystal, “You can kill Taliban forever, because they are not a finite number.” And in my mind, these kinds of CT strategies ignore the political dimension even more egregiously than do most counterinsurgency strategies. But read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. You guys may think I'm so far down the road of counterinsurgency that I am not open to alternatives, but I really am. I'm just wary of those which are more conceptual than operational.

A few more things for the readership:

1. The leader in this week's Economist agrees with us imperialist war-mongers, so go direct some of your hate mail in their direction.

2. Easy on the Vietnam analogies, gang. There are a lot of good books on Vietnam, and what historical conclusion one draws from the war depends on which books one has read. (Of course, we have actual veterans of the war who read this blog, so they can probably skip the reading list.) Who do you read? Krepinevichir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0801836573? Karnowir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0140265473? Goldsteinir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0805090878? Sorely? Fallir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0811732363? Those who suggest advocates of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan have not read their history need to explain exactly what history we need to read that we have not. Regardless and whatever you think of the current U.S. administration, the decision-making process of Barack Obama's national security team could not be more different than that of Lyndon Johnson.

3. Anyway, this is what I'm reading this weekend.ir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0465044131