GLOBAL COUNTERINSURGENCY….Shockingly, I think I pretty much agree with Glenn Reynolds on something related to national security:
We like to treat this [i.e., the broad war on terror] as a military problem because (1) we’re good at those; and (2) that seems to produce simple questions, like “more troops, or not?” Trouble is, those probably aren’t the right questions.
Our Army size was entirely adequate for crushing Saddam’s forces in short order. It’s probably adequate to doing the same to Iran’s forces. It’s not up to fully policing a big country once we’ve done that. Do we want a military that is?
Good question. Do we? In any case, this is related to something I’ve mentioned before, the idea of the GWOT as large-scale counterinsurgency rather than conventional war, a theme that George Packer writes about in the current issue of the New Yorker. His piece isn’t online, but here’s the summary:
Packer talks to a remarkable theorist named David Kilcullen, an Australian anthropologist who is also a lieutenant colonel in his country?s Army and the chief strategist in the U.S. State Department?s Office of the Co?rdinator for Counterterrorism. Kilcullen, who is ?on loan? to the U.S. government, claims that the notion of a ?global war on terror? is fundamentally misguided, and argues that America is in fact facing a ?global counterinsurgency.?
….Packer writes that the Bush Administration has also failed to recognize that America is losing the ?propaganda war? in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan….?America?s information operations, far from being the primary strategy, simply support military actions, and often badly: a Pentagon spokesman announces a battle victory, but no one in the area of the battlefield hears him (or would believe him anyway).? In Iraq, Kilcullen says, ?We?ve arguably done O.K. on the ground in some places, but we?re totally losing the domestic information battle. In Afghanistan, it still could go either way.? Packer notes that however careful Kilcullen is not to criticize Administration policy, his argument amounts to a thoroughgoing critique. He writes, ?As a foreigner who is not a career official in the U.S. government, he has more distance and freedom to discuss the war on jihadism frankly, and in ways that his American counterparts rarely can.?
Food for thought. I confess that I’m not entirely sure (a) exactly what a “global counterinsurgency” would entail, although a few of its features are fairly clear, and (b) whether we ought to create a branch of the military dedicated to occupation and peacekeeping (since it seems unlikely to me that our existing Army can do both that and fight conventional wars). I lean toward believing that we should, because even though I’d like to see us fight many fewer wars than we do, it’s inevitable that we’re going to fight at least few. As long as that’s the case, we better learn how to fight them successfully.