Two opinions on Afghanistan

which I recommend everybody read:

Reform or go home, by David Kilcullen in yesterday’s New York Times.  Pretty much sums it up — it’s the Afghans’ problem.  Although I think his emphasis on early elections is misplaced (in IWCKI, I quote Lee Kuan Yew as observing that elections may be the end point of an evolution to democracy, but they are not the beginning), his point that it’s all about governance is hard to dispute.  Of course, “governance” is the one thing that outsiders cannot provide.  Draw your own conclusions.

Theories about 4GW are not yet like the laws of thermodynamics, by Fabius Maximus, a reprint from March 2008. Fab reminds us that what we’re involved in in Afghanistan is not 4GW for the most part but “counterinsurgency,” that is, interfering in somebody else’s civil war, and occupation (a losing game, at least since the end of WW II). The 4GW part — attacking the remnants of al-Qa’ida in Pakistan — is a very small part of it, requiring at most a few hundred troops.  If this seems low, ask yourself:

  • How many al-Qa’ida, that is, fighters under the command of OBL and his staff, are there?
  • How are they organized and equipped?
  • So why would we need more than a battalion of US special operations forces, marines, or armored cav to defeat them?

Finding and eliminating them might require an awful lot of other types of people, but relatively few combat forces.

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