Sunday, 26 June 2011

Losing Patience with Counterinsurgency

At the video is the fascinating exchange where General Petraeus endorses torture in the case of the ticking time bomb. Keith Olbermann, whose "Countdown" program has been resurrected, smeared Petraeus on this in a recent segment, with quotes from other top officials who essentially impugn the general's reputation.

More video from the testimony at Gateway Pundit, "American Hero General David Petraeus: “I Disagree With Barack Obama… I’m No Quitter”."

Yeah. A hero. Not to Keith Olbermann.


Anyway, on the implosion of counterinsurgency, see National Journal, "Washington Losing Patience with Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan."

John Nagl is the kind of guy who brings to mind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wicked line in The Great Gatsby about people who succeed at such an early age that “everything afterward savors of anticlimax.” A star at West Point and a Rhodes scholar, the native Nebraskan was only 37 when he landed on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in January 2004. In that article, Nagl offered an inside-the-Sunni-Triangle tutorial on what he came to call “graduate-level war.” Nagl’s mantra: “We have to outthink the enemy, not just outfight him.” In an era when small but wily bands of nonuniformed insurgents could stymie America’s mighty military machine with stealthy guerrilla attacks and roadside bombs planted in the night, the U.S. had to figure out how to hunt down the bad guys and cut off their support from the local population. Nagl, after studying the British and French colonial experience, as well as America’s handling of the Vietnam War, helped to develop what has since become famous as U.S. “counterinsurgency doctrine,” or COIN. As his celebrity grew, Nagl proselytized about it everywhere, even on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

By the late 2000s, the precocious Army major had become part of a brain trust around America’s uber-general, David Petraeus, the commander who implemented the Iraq troop surge. Commissioned by Petraeus, Nagl helped to author the official counterinsurgency manual that has since reoriented American military doctrine, shifting the center of gravity from rough-and-ready conventional war fighters to cerebral specialists in irregular warfare and targeted response. After retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in early 2008—even though he seemed to be on the fast track to four-star fame—Nagl took over a little-known think tank, the Center for a New American Security, and turned it into what journalist Tara McKelvey called “counterinsurgency central in Washington.”

Brilliant and brash as ever at the advanced age of 45, Nagl delivers a sober endorsement of the military’s current COIN strategy in Afghanistan, which, because it was adapted from Iraq, is partly his brainchild. It is a strategy that many experts believe is not working—and the skeptics may now include President Obama himself. “I think any sane person would be disillusioned,” Nagl says over a lunch of mussels and mozzarella salad at Finemondo, a lushly decorated restaurant around the corner from his office. Even some of those around Petraeus (who is retiring from the military to run the CIA) are losing heart. But Nagl says that the Janus-faced core of COIN strategy—winning over the Afghan population with kindness, aid, and a multibillion-dollar policy to “clear, hold, and build” towns and villages while ruthlessly killing off insurgents—is just starting to succeed. He laments that the debate in Washington is dominated by critics who complain that the war is almost 10 years long and already more hopeless than Vietnam.
RTWT.

Yet another reason I'm unhappy with the president. Cut-and-run is one thing, but running when the tide is turning is another. George W. Bush refused to abandon Iraq, and that's when the consensus from all quarters was that the war was a "fiasco." We persevered in Iraq, and it's a stable emerging democracy today. In Afghanistan, I'm not confident we'll be able to say the same thing a fews years from now.

Cross-posted: "The Implosion of Counterinsurgency."

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