I went with MJ to the Miller Library in York, PA yesterday. I picked up a 2008 edition of the Atlantic and read up on insurgency, Iraq, Afghanistan, David Petraeus, and war fighting in general. I then proceeded to Google Petraeus’ dissertation and downloaded it. Maybe sometime I will get around to reading the nearly 300 page .pdf document.
One of the first evolutions in the war approach by America since Vietnam is a move away from intervention due to military regime threats per say to now responding to global political instabilities:
To Nagl, the lessons of the recent past are self-evident. The events of 9/11, he writes, “conclusively demonstrated that instability anywhere can be a real threat to the American people here at home.” For the foreseeable future, political conditions abroad rather than specific military threats will pose the greatest danger to the United States.
Nagl makes a solid and refreshing point next, leading into evolution number two:
For Nagl, the imperative of the moment is to institutionalize the relevant lessons of Vietnam and Iraq, thereby enabling the Army, he writes, “to get better at building societies that can stand on their own.” That means buying fewer tanks while spending more on language proficiency; curtailing the hours spent on marksmanship ranges while increasing those devoted to studying foreign cultures. It also implies changing the culture of the officer corps. An Army that since Vietnam has self-consciously cultivated a battle-oriented warrior ethos will instead emphasize, in Nagl’s words, “the intellectual tools necessary to foster host-nation political and economic development.”
This second evolution will challenge much of what we call National Security today. If for the slightest reason you are seen as having some minute connection to anything Middle Eastern, there is a chance you can be monitored, not permitted to pass security clearances, and rendered unable to serve your country with your skills, education, fluency in Arabic, and or other training possessed by you. DADT doesn’t help with this, either, but that is another discussion.
The Green Zone, starring Matt Damon, mostly focuses on the questionability of if there were WMD’s in Iraq. I appreciate the movie for its suggestion of a bottom-up approach to war. Damon forms relationships with Iraqi citizens and informants. The information he provides is what is fed into policy and mission planning. As I transition into the second article, and into Afghanistan, the second war evolution above is absolutely essential for
America to approach Afghanistan in a smarter over stronger way.
To understand Afghanistan, you have to have a glimpse of their government. Just as with Vietnam, we are approaching our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of 1) intervening 2) ridding the countries of terrorist strongholds 3) equipping the domestic governments and police forces* and 4) withdrawing. The starred (*) item has been a difficult task. The Afghan police throughout the country have been perennially plagued with corruption, which can in part be due to frustration with Kabul. They are usually undermanned and unable to fully spar with the Taliban. Also noteworthy is that Afghanistan has not had a strong central government since the 19th century: “under the “Iron Emir,” Abdur Rehman, in the late 19th century, Rehman famously maintained control by building towers of skulls from the heads of all who opposed him.” Much of Afghanistan is provincially maintained which can be a gift and or a curse.
The glut of American and NATO forces are in major metro areas within Afghanistan, far away from the real action and influence. See once again Vietnam with the hamlet systems – in desperate hopes of protecting the villagers from night time visits / attacks from the Viet Cong, Americans placed walls around Vietnamese villages. America is not attempting that now with Afghan provinces but the village remains just as valuable to this 21st century war effort.
The approach to rural affairs is no easy task, however:
The rural Pashtun south has its own systems of tribal governance and law, and its people don’t want Western styles of either. But nor are they predisposed to support the Taliban, which espouses an alien and intolerant form of Islam, and goes against the grain of traditional respect for elders and decision by consensus. Re-empowering the village coun cils of elders and restoring their community leadership is the only way to re-create the traditional check against the powerful political network of rural mullahs, who have been radicalized by the Taliban. But the elders won’t commit to opposing the Taliban if they and their families are vulnerable to Taliban torture and murder, and they can hardly be blamed for that.
The article is summed up below:
As long as the compounds are discreetly sited, house Afghan soldiers to provide the most visible security presence, and fly the Afghan flag, they need not exacerbate fears of foreign occupation. Instead, they would reinforce the country’s most important, most neglected political units; strengthen the tribal elders; win local support; and reverse the slow slide into strategic failure.
I personally feel this threat was needed to of been addressed but looks all too familiar to Vietnam. If we are able to adapt our military approach, take a blow to American pride by trading in our tanks for intelligence and Arabic speaking men and women, and be ready for dirty fire fighting with the Taliban, we can confront these extremists. Until then, we will have in our future text books a new Vietnam similar in being a quagmire.