I give two thumbs up to Celeste Ward for her piece in the Outlook section of the Wash Post today challenging the almost godlike status of COIN (counterinsurgency). It has received all the credit for 'solving' (ha) Iraq and has become the exclusive plan for success (ha) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is as if there is this tunnel that we must go through to 'win' and the sign above it is 'COIN.'
Ms. Ward makes an extremely important point about the 'surge' in Iraq, which is what the military et al would like us to see as proof of COIN's success. Not so fast, she says:
"Exhibit A of the counterinsurgency movement is the "surge" -- the catch-all term used to describe the increase in American troops and the new approach the United States took to the Iraq war beginning in early 2007 -- which supporters portray as the clearest example of counterinsurgency in action. The story of the surge has developed into a tidy narrative -- bordering on mythology -- that overlooks several critical factors. Many questions remain about what really happened in Iraq."
COIN crazies have also come out saying Pakistan needs a COIN strategy, Aye Yae Yae. For a reaction to that, see my post directly below on Bill Moyers last Friday with Mufti and Cole. Similarly, in the middle of the whole Somalia debacle, Andrew Exum (CNAS, who I usually like) and other COINies were out, COIN swords drawn, ready for battle. I cant even imagine the rallying cry this would have created there. Would have been like a bull horn times 5 million.
I think what they fail to address is that maybe, just maybe, the US military presence in these places, protecting civilians or not, is creating more enemies (Taliban) than we are getting rid of. (I really mean 'maybe' bc I don't know exactly how I feel about this.)
Because locals - in Afghanistan and Pakistan - detest the Taliban, can we have a strategy that helps them in a less obvious way, so as to avert multiplying the Taliban? This also, however, sounds dangerously like what we did to fight the Soviets in the 80s. But what we are doing now might be just as detrimental.
I do, however, understand, that in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, all civilians are not hostile to having US troops around, they want their help in fighting the Taliban. But is our presence making the Taliban harder to fight?