Monday, October 26, 2009
To describe any public figure as “corrosive” to the “pillars of our country” cannot be dismissed as mere political rhetoric. Such an attack is—and can only be viewed as—a sweeping broadside designed to undermine the President and establish him as an “other.” If there were any question remaining whether Rep. Pawlenty would seek the 2012 Republican nomination, he has now disabused America of it.
It is, though, disingenuous (and, potentially, dangerous) for Gov. Pawlenty to describe President Obama as “corrosive” to such things as “markets, private enterprise, individual responsibility, freedom and liberty.” Indeed, were the nonsensical accusations of socialism not treated as reasonable, honest concerns by news organizations, remarks like Pawlenty’s would be laughable. Unfortunately, as we have seen over the course of the last several months, such ridiculousness must be refuted.
Under the banner of the free market, fiscal responsibility, freedom and liberty, Pawlenty seeks the nomination of a Republican party responsible for cutting taxes while engaging in incredibly reckless, unwarranted and voluntary deficit spending (see, e.g., Operation Iraqi Freedom). Pawlenty seeks the nomination of a Republican party responsible for corporate welfare both through no-bid contracts (see, e.g., Haliburton) and through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (yes, passed by a Democratic Congress but orchestrated, signed, and necessitated by a Republican administration). Pawlenty seeks the nomination of a Republican party responsible for the Patriot Act, Warrantless Wire Tapping, Free-Speech Zones, and eight of the most damaging years to the Constitution.
Pawlenty thus desires the mantle of a party more aptly described by his anti-Obama abuse than the target of said abuse. In short, Pawlenty will not only prove to ultimately be corrosive to America, he represents a party that has proven itself already corrosive to America, its values, its primacy, its national security, and its economy.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In the New Yorker, Steve Coll deconstructs the Pashto-language “Book of Rules” distributed by the Taliban’s Military Committee to its fighters over the summer. The excerpts Coll points to demonstrate that the Taliban’s Military Committee at least is well aware of the importance of its fighters relationship with the civilian Afghan population. That the Taliban Military Committee is cognizant of the feedback loop inherent in its people’s war underscores the importance of a US strategy hyperaware of its affect on the Afghan population.
Coll’s article is also a timely reminder for the Obama administration and its critics that the Taliban, too, engage in strategy reviews and that arriving at correct—as opposed to quick, reflexive—conclusions is what yields success.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By way of comparison, the Bush administration kicked off its review of strategy in Iraq by appointing the Iraq Study Group in March of 2006. The ISG spent nine months meeting, taking evidence, and debating strategy before publishing its report and recommendations on December 6, 2006. The Bush administration then ignored the ISG’s findings and recommendations, and then took another five weeks before President Bush announced the Surge strategy on January 10, 2007.
Additionally, the war conditions in Afghanistan are markedly different from those in Iraq. As I’ve pointed out before, the conditions in Afghanistan are such that fighting effectively ceases during the winter months – medieval though it may seem, there is an actual fighting season in Afghanistan. Combined with the amount of time necessary to deploy additional resources in Afghanistan, the regularized fighting season gives this administration plenty of time to review the strategy it inherited from the Bush administration and come to grips with the critical question of the Afghan campaign: what is the United States’ goal? It must be from the answer to that question that strategic, tactical, and resource decisions flow.
None of this is to suggest that the Afghan strategy review should not be approach with a sense of urgency. It absolutely should. However, the review process has not taken too long—in this case, effective solutions are of greater utility than quick answers.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The Times report describes a deteriorating situation, though it reads as it may be a bit of hyperbole. More worrying is that the civilian efforts themselves—aside from the question of those efforts reaching the Afghan people due to security concerns—may be insufficient:
Henry Crumpton, a former top C.I.A. and State Department official who is an informal adviser to General McChrystal, called those stepped-up efforts inadequate. “Right now, the overwhelming majority of civilians are in Kabul, and the overwhelming majority never leave their compounds,” said Mr. Crumpton, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan. “Our entire system of delivering aid is broken, and very little of the aid is getting to the Afghan people.”While the number of civilian advisors seems doubtlessly anemic, the harsh Afghan winter and the regularized annual fighting season gives the United States nearly a six month window of opportunity to not only revise the strategy brought to bear in Afghanistan but to deploy the troops and technocrats necessary to implement that strategy effectively.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Kissinger once said, “If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just
say yes. If you say no, you’ll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be
Monday, October 5, 2009
This weekend’s assault, coming during the Obama administration’s high-profile Afghan strategy review, will doubtlessly focus attention on the controversial question of whether to deploy more US troops to Afghanistan. I’ve advocated for that as part of a broader counter insurgency strategy in the past – and I continue to believe that that is the correct approach for the situation at hand.
In fact, the New York Times article reporting this weekend’s assault on the American outposts featured comments from the Governor of Nuristan, Jamaluddin Badar:
The fighters had come from Pakistan, [Mr. Badar] said, after military operations pushed them out of their bases there. He said the strike was led by a Taliban commander named Dost Muhammad, whom he described as the shadow commander for the Taliban in Nuristan.I have argued in the past that, as the Afghan Taliban have used Pakistan for safe-haven and strategic depth, so will the Pakistani Taliban, should the United States abandon Afghanistan. I have also argued that which side of the border functions as a safe-haven for the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban depends on the level of pressure exerted by anti-Taliban forces in the neighboring state. Mr. Badar’s comments apparently bear this argument out and demonstrate that Pakistan’s on-going push against the Pakistani Taliban is having an effect.
Rather than react to the coordinated assaults on its outposts in Nuristan, the United States should recognize that the fight in Pakistan and the fight in Afghanistan are integrally related. Here, now, the stability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are at stake. The United States should reinforce its position, provide sufficient troops and civilian assistance to wage an effective counter insurgency, and to aid Pakistan by denying the Pakistani Taliban Afghan breathing room.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Faced with the ongoing joint US-Pakistani pursuit of Pakistani Taliban, it’s becoming quite dangerous to be a Mehsud in Pakistan.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
On this last point, protecting the population, NATO’s forces in Afghanistan have been dreadful. Instances of ISAF airstrikes killing dozens of Afghan civilians have been abundant over the last eight years. It is to Gen. McChrystal’s credit that in response to the disastrous airstrike in May that he issued an order acknowledging the counter productive nature of airstrikes and heavily restricting their use.
So, one would think, today’s report of 30 Afghan civilians killed when their passenger bus struck a roadside bomb near Kandahar would work to NATO’s favor, beginning to wean the population of Kandahar from the insurgents. However, in today’s bombing, we can see the paradoxes of counter insurgency well illustrated. While the population will turn against NATO for collateral damage emanating from its use of air strikes, a bombing like today’s will not compel the same reaction vis-à-vis the insurgents. Rather, the population will look at today’s bombing and ask, “Why can’t NATO secure the highways, and prevent bombings of passenger busses?” The question is a fair one. NATO cannot secure the highways for many reasons, not least of which is that there are too few NATO troops in Afghanistan generally, and in Kandahar province in particular.
Afghans will not countenance the indiscriminant killing of their brothers and sisters by either NATO or the Pashtu insurgency. But, the technological advantage, the foreign origins, and the transitory nature of the ISAF sets the standard of conduct for NATO much higher – and for the insurgency, much lower. The careful, conscientious use of force by a sufficiently large contingent of NATO troops is the only way forward in Afghanistan.