Export the Awakening

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I keep forgetting to link to Spencer Ackerman's excellent column on the folly of proposals to "export" the "Anbar Awakening" model to Pakistan. You can tell Spencer knows what he's talking about because he uses so many damn acronyms just like a real defense guy:

In Pakistan, nothing like this exists. The FATA tribes show no sign of tensions with AQSL. The Times reported that many of the same tribes that would form the basis of a FATA Awakening still actively fight alongside the Taliban -- as do elements within the Interior Ministry that would be responsible for nurturing the Awakening. Within SOCOM, which has developed the proposal, analysts have no idea whether the tribes would accept or reject American support. In short, the basic strategic condition that allowed the Anbar Awakening to exist -- a split between Iraqis and al-Qaeda -- isn't in evidence here. All sorts of other potential problems arise: for one, this potential paramilitary tribal force, with its minimal control by Islamabad, wouldn't augur well for the internal stability of a nuclear-armed country. But without the basic FATA/AQSL split, it makes no sense to consider such second-order questions. And in that case, flooding the FATA with money and guns is about as wise as making a blank check out to Osama bin Laden.

I agree. Spencer further argues that the development of this deeply unsound strategy from within the military's special operations command reflects a kind of "Iraq Syndrome" effect:



Right. And here we see a potentially looming institutional problem wherein military officials looking to salvage some dignity from a debacle in Iraq that's not really their fault (it's always important to keep in mind that the objectives of the war, as initially framed, just weren't compatible with the use of sound counterinsurgency tactics on the battlefield) will start seizing on faint glimmers of success and want to apply such "lessons" as soon as possible, whether or not there's really evidence in their favor.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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