Archive for April, 2008
I did not have much time for blogging the other day when the good news of General Petraeus’ nomination to CENTCOM broke. However, blogfriend Pundita, who specializes in the political and economic nuances of the inside-the-beltway shaping of American foreign policy, was kind enough to inquire of my opinion yesterday via email. Even kinder on Pundita’s part to use it in a post:
“Mark, What do you think of the nomination? Good move, or is it kicking Petraeus upstairs?
This is excellent news and yet more confirmation of the competence and vision of SecDef Robert Gates – as well as his political clout. General Petraeus was due for consideration for a significant posting after his tour of duty in Iraq and CENTCOM chief is among the best options.
Had Petraeus been sent to NATO or the Pentagon, that might have indicated an institutional retreat from the current, evolving COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy on the part of the Army’s old guard, just as they did in the wind-down of Vietnam.Moreover, the appointment of a traditional, conventional warfare advocate at CENTCOM instead of Petraeus could easily have been taken as a signal that the Bush administration was gearing up in it’s waning days to “broaden the war” by initiating a major conflict with Iran.
I expect that Petraeus is also the most ‘confirmable’ candidate, given the rhetoric of Democratic candidates on Afghanistan. And given that NATO is struggling in executing COIN consistently against the Taliban, Petraeus’ skill and experience will be needed to get things back on track without antagonizing our European allies.
On a related matter I’m very, very happy with Robert Gates. I think he just gave a ‘shape up or ship out’ warning to the senior brass. What he said the other day to the cadets regarding John Boyd was akin to a Soviet General-Secretary giving a speech to the Supreme Soviet on the virtues of Milton Friedman. Or Pope Benedict praising Martin Luther.
Thank you for your observations. I was not happy when I first heard Gates was on track for SecDef. Your analyses suggest I should stop sticking pins in his effigy — er, wait a minute, maybe it’s been working. Also, I note that you’re recommending John McCain signal that if he wins the White House he’s going to keep Gates as SecDef.Interesting points. And Gates in that position might dissuade President McCain from his views on Russia, which deeply trouble me”
Me too. I hope that Senator McCain broadens and deepens his foreign policy and defense teams in the coming months. Russia and China are not our allies by any means but it makes little sense to try and provoke each of them into an active, anti-American, partnership. Let’s deal with these powers pragmatically when and where they are willing to get down to business and quietly but firmly pushback where they are negatively impacting our interests.
If some segments of the American Left can’t stop being apologists for the long expired Soviets then there are some on the Right who need to accept that America won the Cold War and that it’s time to move on.
Dr. Dave Kilcullen begins a COIN series at SWJ Blog:
Like the Romans, counterinsurgents through history have engaged in road-building as a tool for projecting military force, extending governance and the rule of law, enhancing political communication and bringing economic development, health and education to the population. Clearly, roads that are patrolled by friendly forces or secured by local allies also have the tactical benefit of channeling and restricting insurgent movement and compartmenting terrain across which guerrillas could otherwise move freely. But the political impact of road-building is even more striking than its tactical effect
….But the effects accrue not just from the road itself, but rather from a conscious and well-developed strategy that uses the road as a tool, and seizes the opportunity created by its construction to generate security, economic, governance and political benefits. This is exactly what is happening in Kunar: the road is one component, albeit a key one, in a broader strategy that uses the road as an organizing framework around which to synchronize and coordinate a series of political-military effects. This is a conscious, developed strategy that was first put in place in 2005-6 and has been consistently executed since. Thus, the mere building of a road is not enough: it generates some, but not all of these effects, and may even be used to oppress or harm the population rather than benefit it. Road construction in many parts of the world has had negative security and political effects, especially when executed unthinkingly or in an un-coordinated fashion. What we are seeing here, in contrast, is a coordinated civil-military activity based on a political strategy of separating the insurgent from the people and connecting the people to the government. In short, this is a political maneuver with the road as a means to a political end.
A nice piece, one that reveals the multiple dimensions of connectivity inherent in something so seemingly straightforward as a “road”. The connectivity itself is a weapon against disconnecting, isolating, hyperideological, insurgencies like the Taliban.
Incidentally, this isn’t America’s first foray into road building in Afghanistan; the Eisenhower administration, as a Cold War intrusion into the Soviet sphere of influence, built a modern highway for Zahir Shah that constituted, for many years, Afghanistan’s only paved road outside of Kabul.