Sunday, November 1, 2009

Counter-Insurgency Warfare Tipping Point

In deciding whether to commit a large number of troops to Afghanistan, President Obama must weigh two prospects. The first is that the Army is correct in insisting that it's learned to fight counter-insurgencies, and that it can rebuild Afghanistan, shape public opinion there, and make things work out smoothly if it just has 40,000 more troops. The second prospect is that this is mere hubris, and no quantity of troops can "fix" Afghanistan.

To be sure, when the military started its adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, it knew embarrassingly little about counterinsurgencies. Hence all the failure and carnage. But a new crop of military planners, oriented less toward shock-and-awe and more toward psychological and political subtleties, has moved into power. This post-Petraeus generation believes it's figured out how to put Humpty back together again once he's been shattered by our copious firepower (for more on this, listen to a fascinating
interview with Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe on Fresh Air, or read his book, "The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army").

I'm against the surge, but not because I doubt that the Army has "hacked" counterinsurgency warfare. The thing is, if it has, I don't want to know it. And I don't want the generals to know it. And I don't want the world to know it. Why? Because I don't want the Huckabee administration or the Palin administration (and others going forward) to have nation-building in its pocket as a proven viable option. Much as I wish we'd never exploded those atomic bombs, this is a Pandora's Box that should remain shut for as long as possible. Because if we can make this sort of thing work, we will see a resurrection of Neo-Conservatism, with its American exceptionalism and kookie utopian meddling...and it will be the death of us.

No comments:

Blog Archive