May 07, 2009

Control and Collaboration

The most important line in this article on the fighting in Swat:

The government has not helped, refugees said, with its erratic, seesawing efforts to appease and fight the militants. Some said they felt confused and trapped, unsure whether to trust the peace deal forged by the government and Taliban leaders last month, or to flee in anticipation of the fighting that has begun as the peace accord collapses.

In addition to Loup Francart's Maitriser la violence,the semi-obscure book whose influence hangs heaviest over the ideas in David Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerrillais probably The Logic of Violence in Civil War by Stathis Kalyvas. One of the central theses in the book is that collaboration follows after one establishes control over the population -- and not visa versa. In other words, you can't strike deals or buy off your enemies and then expect control over the environment to follow. For this reason, Kalyvas's book has been called "ContraGentile" by one U.S. Army officer for the way in which it discredits the argument of some that we basically succeeded during the Surge because we paid off our enemies. (I myself have argued that one of the ways in which Gian reads what happened in 2007 runs contrary to both social science theory and the available historical evidence we have compiled from both civil war experiences and the events of 2006/2007 in Iraq.) The population takes its cues from the forces seeking to exert control. The forces that succeed in controlling the population, then, are rewarded with collaboration. When the population receives contradictory signals from the forces seeking to exert control, chaos results:

"People in Swat are angry and confused, because the government is reaching out to the Taliban and fighting them at the same time," said Mohammed Riatullah, a relief agency official.

The lesson here is that you can't half-ass control of the population. You have to go there and stay there. By alternately striking a series of deals with the Taliban from 2004 until the present in the FATA and the NWFP and also fighting the Taliban in the very same regions, the Pakistani Army and state looks schizophrenic. No wonder they're having trouble.

P.S. It's not all sticks and stones for Gian, though. Granted, a site called "" is probably not the best place to go for sober-minded discussion of military strategy. And this line was a peach:

It really shouldn’t be a surprise, that members of the elite news media — particularly the ones who don’t necessarily focus on a national security beat — fasten easily onto the conventional narrative and "move on" condescendingly, satisfied their knowledge is au courant and complete. ... To the rest of the world, the mainstream media included, Col. Gentile is kind of a ghost.

Uh, ma'am, Gian was the subject of a prominent article by elite news media journalist Yochi Dreazen (C '99) in the elite news media Wall Street Journal. I don't know a single defense policy journalist for a major U.S. news organization who doesn't know Gian either by name or personally. And for goodness sake, just do a Google News search for Gian's name. But when, I want to know, is regular Abu Muqawama commenter SNLII going to get the credit he deserves for coming up with the phrase "COINdinista"? Is there no justice,