The Madness Of King David Petraeus

A military reader writes:

You say that Petraeus's strategy of COIN is misplaced in Afghanistan because it's missing certain components. I would say that you understate the case. COIN isn't merely the wrong strategy in Afghanistan. It is, in scientific parlance, "not even wrong." It's the sort of wrongness that doesn't even bring you closer to understanding what the right move is. 

As a contrast, Operation Market Garden was the wrong move. It needed more troops, more armor, more logistical support, etc. It was an excellent try, though, and it nearly succeeded in taking the Rhein.

By contrast, to say "we're going to pursue a strategy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan" makes about as much sense as "We're going to pursue a strategy of de-Nazification in Afghanistan." It's a non-sequitur. I mean, for goodness sakes, an insurgency is a campaign to overthrow, reduce the reach of, delegitimize, or destabilize a local government. There is no government in Afghanistan to be an 'insurgent' against, merely a collection of warlords, drug barons, and theocratic gangsters of whom the Taliban and the Kabul Mayor Karzai are merely two of the most notable.

You can't have a "counterinsurgency" in a country that doesn't have an insurgency, and you can't have an insurgency in a country that doesn't have a government to begin with.

COIN in Afghanistan? What next, building a GOTV operation in Mogadishu? Striving to become an Admiral in the Swiss Imperial Navy? Writing a book on the mating habits of the North American Snipe? It's a non-sequitur!

Having said that, I'll likely be deploying in February, and will do my darnedest to fulfill the mission my commanding officer assigns me, even if I think that his playbook is about as relevant to Afghanistan as would be "The Art of French Cooking." And you can bet I won't be mouthing off about my CO's particular merits to the newsies who occasionally pass by.

That's the core virtue of the US military for you: bravely, competently, relentlessly pursuing wars that cannot be won. May God forgive the idiots who send them into brutal battle under such circumstances. And no, I do not revere David Petraeus. I suspect history will be brutal about his record.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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