Monday, June 21, 2010

You Cannot Lose...

Compare and contrast, I think: the UK special envoy to Afghanistan (who wanted to talk to the Taliban) has resigned; in other news, the U.S. military is apparently very involved in economic development…without having much skill at it. I read the combination of these two articles as saying we're still firmly committed to that whole occupation-and-development model, which is disappointing. The author of the latter article thinks that the U.S. should eventually become good at economic development, but I suspect that’s like getting really good at an unnecessary skill: it shouldn’t be necessary for the military to acquire these skills.

The counterinsurgency doctrine uses this chain of logic: insofar as the military is engaging in small wars against irregular forces, it needs to cut off the base of popular support that’s necessary to sustain any irregular forces. To cut off that popular support, you need to make the people like you more than the opposition. To do that, you need to understand the culture and contribute positively through economic development and security. All of which makes sense as a matter of logic and argumentative consistency. The problem is one of facts: namely that to contribute to economic development often requires compressing twenty years of development into two. And we’re hardly good at getting the twenty years part right either, to judge from the mixed record of economic aid and other development programs in the developing world.

And the examples of the military successfully building societies up economically--the war-gutted countries after World War II—are examples of rebuilding more than building. These societies already had a partial handle on how to be successful economically already.

Meanwhile, irregular forces can’t really beat you, particularly when you’re occupying them. They can only wear you down.

So what’s the best solution to all this? To borrow an aphorism from The Wire, “The game is fixed. But you cannot lose if you do not play.”

A note: two posts ago was the 600th post in the blog. I'm interested, even you aren't, heh heh heh.

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