Afghanistan: A “Strategy of Tactics”?

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Policy Review

Tom Barnett raised some eyebrows Wednesday with his grim prognosis on Battleland on the U.S. role in Afghanistan:

It’s a dependency – pure and simple. The longer we stay, the more we’ll infantilize the system. Ten years in and virtually everything we’ve set about to create is still described as “fragile” – meaning it collapses and disappears the minute we pull out.

Ann Marlowe riffs along similar lines in Afghanistan: America’s War of Perception in the June-July Policy Review (winner of the World’s Most Boring Magazine Title), published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Hoover is basically a conservative outfit, which makes Marlowe’s points sting even more than if they came from some lefty-lib source. Marlowe, a regular visitor to Afghanistan and visiting fellow at the also-conservative Hudson Institute, writes that U.S. strategy there is based on perceptions rather than cold, hard data:

When scientists evaluate a new medicine, they want to see if it is better than a placebo at treating a disease. They test it accordingly, and the scientific community agrees that medications that don’t work aren’t brought to market. But counter-insurgency advocates insist that perception, in this case the perception of the local population in a conflict area, is ultimately determinative of the success or failure of U.S. military operations. If bribing the villagers and spending billions on dubious training programs fails to produce security, COIN advocates answer that we need more troops and money. They will not admit the possibility that the medicine does not work…We are neglecting the political factors and following a “strategy of tactics” that will inexorably lead to an unnecessary, self-inflicted defeat.

Ouch. Read the full thing here.