Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest post: Afghanistan Strategy Change Needed; Making the Case

Much of the discussion about war strategies, ROE, nation building and the like has been steeped in one side or the other denouncing existing strategies or defending them. All of it is based on intelligence reports and analyses by third parties trying to untangle the seeming conflicting daily stories and events coming from both Afghanistan and Iraq.

There should be little doubt that any critical look at the analysis of the current strategy in Afghanistan should include a look at the progress or lack thereof in Iraq. After all, the argument for a successful COIN operation seems to stem in part from our experiences there. The recent uptick in bombings, the reemergence of Al Sadr on the political scene, the continuing violence by Afghan troops and police against our troops and continued instability in the Iraqi government all paint a picture of a country on the verge of a change unfriendly to us. If COIN is then to be seen as the strategy that provided what now exists, the bad should not be overlooked or understated if the intent is to use it as a template for future campaigns in this part of the world.

For a quick recap:

The first written guidance for Counter Insurgency Doctrine (COIN, as we know it today), first emerged in 1940 in the 'Small Wars Manual' of the United States Marine Corps. Much of the doctrine, strategy and wisdom imparted by the Small Wars Manual was generated from 40 years of Marine Corps experience garnered during the Banana Wars fought in Central and South America. It is worthy to note that Major General Smedley D. Butler, a hero from those campaigns and twice awarded the Medal of Honor, denounced the small war effort as a waste of Blood and Treasure in his book 'War is a Racket'. Although the book is a damning expose on political and industrial motivations, it is also a wake-up call to anyone unlucky enough to have to plan such a campaign.

The next major emergence of the doctrine came in 1948 in Malaya. 'Chairman Mao' was busy redefining government and society in his sphere of influence and sent a contingent across the Thai border into Malaya with the specific intent of destabilizing the government, turning the local population against their British overseers and offering the Malayan people an alternative a` la Communist China. It took 12 years for the British to destroy a relatively small force and return Malaya to some semblance of normal. This campaign the British dubbed 'The Malayan Emergency', has been touted as confirmation of COIN theory and because of it's successful employment there, has been tried several times since with a generally mixed if not disastrous effect.

It should be noted that the British had been in Malaya for 100 years prior to Mao's incursion and the relationship between the Malayan people and the British was amicable. The British owned the plantations, hired the Malayans as workers, provided security for Malaya and shadow governance. Religious differences weren't an issue probably because the typical lifestyle of this tropical state precluded serious religious study. They just weren't that invested. Whatever the reasons, neither British nor Malayan took issue along the lines of religion.

When David Petraeus and the Pentagon began formulating strategies for Afghanistan, they set out at a disadvantage. Whether intentionally sidelined or blinded by agnostic indifference, the reality is the completed assessment of the enemy either ignored the likely effect of religious ideology or seriously downplayed it's role as a motivator for both the tenacity of the enemy and willing cooperation of the civilian population. This analysis put Afghanistan more or less en par with Malaya in the sense of human terrain. The assessment suggested there could be a meeting of the minds and that we, as a Western culture, a predominantly Christian culture, could be viewed by the average Afghan as a liberator of the Afghan from his Taliban oppressors. I have no doubt, the analysis included tribal structure and although likely naive` in the beginning, at least accounted for it. Not so the ideology. Even today, getting any elected official, in this country to discuss even the possibility of the predominant religion of the region playing a role is impossible. Whether for political gain, ignorance, personal prejudice or special interests influence, the vast majority of this government has hamstrung itself and the entire military establishment by it's stubborn refusal to accept what any High School student of world history should know.

Understanding the bare basics of Islamic doctrine, for the novice, as it affects a believer's relation to the world around him is as easy as a quick Google search. For the analyst, there are libraries devoted to Islamic history and scores of academics who have dedicated significant portions of their lives to studying and understanding the core doctrines of the religion. So why is it that the Pentagon and the intelligence community as a whole seem to have shifted the entire weight of authority on the subject to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization established outside this country in 1928 and whose stated primary goals are in fact antithetical to our national security interests? This is one of many questions that could be and should have already been asked of the Pentagon and upper echelon military establishment by our elected Representatives and Senators; yet they remain silent.

The most basic understanding of the doctrine of Jihad and the Islamist's relationship to the infidel community, places us in a tenuous situation under normal circumstances. Placing the sovereign forces of this nation of infidels in the midst of an Islamic nation is an insult and intolerable to the Islamist - whether 'enemy' or 'friendly'. The number of incidences where Afghan and Iraqi Policemen and Soldiers have fired upon American and NATO forces, which continues to this day, should be providing a wake-up call to our Representatives and yet they remain silent.

There are six points of change to the argument that we have been making collectively and I will provide them here. For those who have wanted to call their Representatives and Senators to voice their concerns and have not known what to complain about specifically, this list will help. I also recommend Robert Spencer's 'Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades'. For those who are ready for 'meat', I highly recommend Andrew Bostom's book 'The Legacy of Jihad'. For those of you with a 'fast food' appetite, there is always Wikipedia and the several sites a simple search will provide. For an understanding of the Malayan Emergency; read; 'War of the Running Dogs'. This last one will give you a perspective of the complexities of a COIN operation. The point is, in the year 2011, there is little excuse not to self educate on the defining international issue of our day.

The Six Points of Change to confront your elected Representatives with:

1. Revisit our assessment of the enemy and human terrain in that part of the world and make it align with history, Islamic doctrine and how they see themselves.

2. Rewrite the strategy so that it aligns with our 'new understanding' of the enemy and the 'friendly population' there.

3. Write an ROE that is commensurate with the new strategy based on our new and corrected understanding of the enemy and civilian population.

4. Identify the specific threat to our national security and allow our Marines and Soldiers to locate, close with and destroy them without fear of retribution from the hordes of self absorbed and self-righteous prosecutors gleaning after action reports.

5. Write a definable Mission Statement and Operation Order, complete that mission and bring our forces home.

6. Cease and desist from all activities distracting our Armed Forces from completing the Mission - including Nation building schemes. This is the work of Diplomats, Bureaucrats, the Peace Corps and Missionaries - not Warriors!

The road to change is never an easy one and with all of the distractions afforded the average American on any given day, it is amazing that anyone is paying attention to anything of importance. That box in the family room, video games, snowmobiles, sports, the almighty dollar, legitimate family concerns, hurdles to jump in contacting anyone in DC and the all important Evening News all do their part to keep the American citizen from actively holding their Representatives accountable for their actions.

The primary concern here should not be the Health care bill or Union domination of the work force, the survival of the car industry or any other self-serving issue; it should in fact be a heartfelt concern for those who willingly sacrifice their time, and their very lives for us; The Warrior!

Call your Representative today!

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard

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