07 March, 2008

Playing to tie

This fits with what I've seen elsewhere, as well as Freedman's recent analysis on Stratfor. I get it from the Security Framework Project. I wish people in authority would admit it, and let the public in on the secret:

I think we need to refocus our priorities on al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda is strongest in Afghanistan, and the border of Pakistan. We need to make sure we're doing what's necessary to go after the person and the organization that killed 3,000 innocent Americans back on 9-11 of 2001. But I've talked to senior members of the Bush administration who have told me, off the record, that we're playing for a tie in Afghanistan, which is not acceptable in my view.

- Rep. Patrick Murphy, the only Iraq War veteran in Congress

Actually, I can see playing for a tie if you expect the opposition to fall apart on its own, but that doesn't seem to be the case this time.

More generally, much of what's wrong is we still don't identify the enemy, or our allies. While alliances are always imperfect, Pakistan barely even qualifies as an ally. Pakistan is not and never was a complete ally, because Pakistan is not and never was a complete country. At best, some elements in Pakistan have worked with the US (of elements thereof) on limited issues of mutual gain, or as a result of personal payoffs.

So long as there are safe havens for the enemy in Pakistan, as I suspect there will be for a long time to come, the US can't have a traditional military or political victory in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has its own identity problems. The center of gravity in Afghanistan has never been the cities, and the sense of national identity has always been very weak. You can't defend someone who isn't really there.

So what's to do? We can (and sometimes do) play people against one another. We can (and sometimes do) develop good intelligence and act on it. We can (and sometimes do) maintain a dirty, invisible "war". We can declare a local "victory" and shift our military resources elsewhere.

Maybe I'm just tired today.

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