Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Madame Secretary, resign...

I join Andrew Sullivan in calling upon secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to resign over the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day.

There is ample evidence the government knew quit a bit about the bomber long before he boarded the plane but did little to stop him.

Someone needs to loose their job over this. There is no reason a man with such strong links to AQ, who was already banned from entering Britain, has any business coming into the U.S. under any circumstances. It may not be entirely Napolitano's fault, after all, I'm sure she was just following procedures that were put in place 8 or more years ago, but the buck stops at the top, and that is why the president should send an unambiguous message to his cabinet secretaries and all public managers in the employee of the Federal Government: incompetence will have consequences. Security lapses of this magnitude will end careers, both political and civil service, because George "heckuva job Brownie" Bush is no longer president. Remember, this attack follows the shooting at Fort Hood, another incident where clear warning signs were ignored.

At the same time, I'd also like to endorse Tom Friedman's idea to reduce the reward for Osama Bin Laden - to one penny, because I think Friedman was making sense when he wrote:

All we are doing is feeding their egos, and telling them how incredibly important they are, when we not only put a $25 million bounty on their heads, but in the case of bin Laden, double the figure. We are just enhancing their status on the Arab street as the Muslim warriors standing up to America, and only encouraging other megalomaniacs out there who might have similar fantasies to follow suit. We should be doing just the opposite - letting these two losers know that we don't think they are worth more than a penny or a pistachio.
This latest incident just confirms what I've believed for a long time - the Varsity team played for the first and last time on 9/11. Since then, Bin Laden has been reaching deeper and deeper into the bench for players, and the results have less and less spectacular, culminating in last Friday's lame attempted bombing that went off like something out of Jihad for Dummies.

So mister president, two things; fire JN and drop the reward on Bin Laden to, oh, I don't know, how about an Ipod filled with pictures of you golfing and playing with your dog?  

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama's Middle East Endgame: Part IV - The Iran/Iraq Dynamic

In 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, the given reason was to stop Iraq from developing NBC (nuclear-chemical-biological) weapons.

Since Iraq has stabilized I've been wondering how long it will be before the U.S. takes a very different view of Iraq's nuclear ambitions, do mainly to Iran's nuclear program and Iraq's need to deter their historical enemy in Persia - which was the same reason Hussein sought nukes in the 1980s.

So today, as Iraq and Iran once again play their dangerous game, I imagine there are people inside both the Iraqi defense ministry and the American D.O.D. who are considering way to deter Iranian aggression against Iraq. And because Iran is a de facto nuclear power at this point, the options for deterring them are few:

1. Iraq could develop a notorious, indigenous, crash nuclear weapons program.
2. Iraq could embrace nuclear power for civilian use and follow the German/Japanese model of becoming a de facto nuclear power.
3. The U.S. can make an explicit security guarantee which places Iraq within a region wide, NATO style security agreement.
4. Iraq could pursue less kinetic means of fighting against the Iranians. For example, Iraqi government officials and clerics could express their moral outrage at every act of violence the Iranian regime perpetrates against its own people, or perhaps encourage Kurdish rabble rousing among the Iranian Kurdish population.

My guess is that over the short term options 2, 3 and 4 will be utilized by Iraq/the U.S. against Iran. Option 3 is a U.S. centric option but option 4 is an Iraqi centric option, because an Iraqi Shiite Muslim has the moral authority to speak out on behalf of the Iranian people that an American government official does not.   

Obamacare, creating a nation of Californias

It appears as though Obamacare is going to pass the Senate, thanks to senator Ben Nelson.

The deal was sealed Friday night at about 10:30 with a handshake between Sens. Nelson and Reid, ending 13 hours of negotiations. Mr. Reid later called President Barack Obama, who was flying back from the global climate summit in Copenhagen on Air Force One, to inform him the stalemate was resolved.

"Inaction is not an option," Mr. Reid said Saturday.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Obama hailed what he called a "major step forward for the American people."
This is a horrible bill and Ben Nelson has been allowed to make a horrible, short-sited deal to accomplish it. Nebraska will never have to pay their share of increased Medicaid costs associated with the new bill.  And neither will several other Democratically controlled states:

Nelson’s might be the most blatant – a deal carved out for a single state, a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion for Nebraska, meaning federal taxpayers have to kick in an additional $45 million in the first decade.

But another Democratic holdout, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), took credit for $10 billion in new funding for community health centers, while denying it was a “sweetheart deal.” He was clearly more enthusiastic about a bill he said he couldn’t support just three days ago.

Nelson and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) carved out an exemption for non-profit insurers in their states from a hefty excise tax. Similar insurers in the other 48 states will pay the tax.

Vermont and Massachusetts were given additional Medicaid funding, another plus for
Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Three states – Pennsylvania, New York and Florida – all won protections for their Medicare Advantage beneficiaries at a time when the program is facing cuts nationwide.

All of this came on top of a $300 million increase for Medicaid in Louisiana, designed to win the vote of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.
This bill will create a nation of Californias, meaning it will create a situation where many other states are forced to follow California's lead into virtual bankruptcy. This is because many of the currently uninsured will be pushed onto the roles of Medicaid, which is paid for largely by state governments. So even if Obama claims that he has kept his campaign promise not to raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $250,000 per year, this bill will force states to spend more money on the formerly uninsured which will force the states to cut services or raise fees and taxes in other areas to make up the difference.

From Obama's perspective, this is a bill is ok because the tax increases will have to come long after he has run for reelection and because the tax increases will be at the state, rather than the Federal, level so must people will blame their governors and state legislators.

But from the perspective of the American people, this is horrible bill. It is ultimately a wholesale effort to buy political points in the near term by leveraging future earnings. The cheaper health care gets, the more people will consume. And bringing 30 million uninsured onto the insurance roles will just cause those people to consume more healthcare, thus raising the cost, and it will also create a permanent bi-partisan constituency that will reliably support increasing the amount of money spent on public healthcare at every opportunity. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Moral Warfare in Southwest Asia: A Brief in 3 Sections

I've recently completed an 8,000 word paper on the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan for a Security Studies Class I took this semester. The paper was entitled "Moral Warfare in Southwest Asia". I'm posting the paper below in 3 sections:

Section 1:Introduction
Section 2: 3 Crises
Section 3: Obama's War

Moral Warfare in Southwest Asia Pt1: Introduction

            Why has the United States been at war with a loose-knit collection of lightly armed guerillas in Afghanistan for the last 8 years? What are some of the factors that have made victory or at least security so difficult to achieve? In this paper I review the challenges posed by the insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan and make several policy recommendations that may allow the U.S. to ease the crises of security, legitimacy and trust that currently plague Southwest Asia.    
Why We Fight: A Brief History of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jihad
            For the better part of the 20th Century Afghanistan existed as an undeveloped yet peaceful monarchy in Southwest Asia. At the time, Afghanistan sat at a crossroads between two radical ideologies, one on the upswing and the other in the final throes of a failed global revolution. On one hand Afghanistan is geographically, culturally, and theologically close to the Muslim world, sharing a Western border and language (Dari) with Shiite Iran and an Eastern border and tribal identity with Sunni Pakistan. So during the late 60’s and early 70’s many of Afghanistan’s college students were swept up in the wave of Islamic radicalism that was affecting much of the Middle East. At the same time, Afghanistan’s proximity to two communist nations, China and the Soviet Union, infected other Afghani college students with a belief in Maoism and especially Soviet style Marxist-Leninism (Coll, 2004).
            And so it was that in 1978 fighting over the line of secession for the Afghan king opened the door for a communist revolution. The Soviets, who had had designs on Afghanistan going back the time of the Czar, took a strong interest in supporting Kabul’s new Marxists rulers and in the fervor of 1979 – the year the Iranian Revolution set off Islamic radicals throughout the region – the Soviets invaded to support their Marxist comrades. The details of the Soviet Union’s defeat are beyond the scope of this paper, but what are important are the story two groups of Mujahedeen who fought the Soviets, and each other. The first group was made up of ethnic Tajiks, funded partially by the CIA and British Intelligence, and led by Shah Ahmad Massoud. The second group was made up of ethnic Pashtun’s, backed by the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an anti-American radical. Afghanistan became one of the largest covert operations in history and the CIA poured hundreds of millions into the coffers of Hekmatyar and his holy warriors each year, with the Saudis offering matching funds at a ratio of 1:1 (Crile, 2003).  The CIA also arranged for Hekmatyar’s men to be equipped with some of the most sophisticated weapons in America’s arsenal.
While both Massoud and Hekmatyar opposed the communists, there were key differences between their two insurgent groups. First, Massoud received at best token support from the CIA, including just 8 out of 2,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that had been supplied to the Mujahedeen, whereas Hekmatyar’s group received billions and the full support of Pakistan and CIA (Coll, 2004).  Also, Massoud’s group was made up mostly of pious Muslims but also deeply rooted in Afghan traditions of tribal government that predate Islam. Hekmatyar’s group was based on a new, radical and globalized vision of Islam and his fighters were not only Afghan but also Arab volunteers. Even before the war with the Soviets was finished, Massoud and Hekmatyar’s differing views on religion and the future of Afghanistan led to infighting between their respective insurgent groups and eventually some of Hekmatyar’s (and by extension Pakistan’s) men would form the basis of the Quetta Shura Taliban (Coll, 2004; Crile, 2003).
            The United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all bear some responsibility for what followed in Afghanistan. Instead of joining together to try to help rebuild Afghanistan, the U.S. turned its attention elsewhere after the Russians left in 1989 but kept surreptitiously sending money and guns to the Mujahedeen until 1993. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan continued to offer finical and logistical support to Hekmatyar and the QST, even though Hekmatyar’s brand of radicalism considered both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to be apostate regimes.  Then in the mid 1990s, the Taliban, a group of Afghans and Arabs who subscribed to radical beliefs but were by then no longer aligned with Hekmatyar, invited a wealthy Saudi exile named Osama Bin Laden, who had played a minor role in the war against the Soviets, to take refuge in Afghanistan and build his own jihad organization, Al Qaeda. Together the Taliban and Bin Laden took over Kabul and created a narrative that they – not the CIA, not the Pakistani government – had defeated and caused the disillusion of the Soviet Union. And having defeated one super power they proclaimed they would soon defeat another as Bin Laden unleashed a serious of attacks across the late 1990s designed to weaken American resolve to remain allied with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel (Bin Laden, 2002). By 1999 one of Bin Laden’s top lieutenants, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, came to him with an audacious plan called simply “the planes operation”(The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks , 2004; Crile, 2003; Coll, 2004).
            Since 9/11 the U.S. has taken a very different approach towards both Afghanistan and non-state actors in general. That is why, after overthrowing the Taliban in a few weeks after 9/11, the U.S. has remained involved in a long-term mission to attempt to build a stable state in Afghanistan, which would no longer provide a safe haven to terrorism. Since 2005, the Taliban has been resurgent, and coalition causalities have been increasing. Today, the coalition faces three overall crises in Afghanistan: security, legitimacy and trust.           
U.S. KIAs in Afghanistan 2001-08

Figure 2[1]
Southwest Asia Today: Moral Warfare
            In 2009 the United States finds itself part of an international coalition, which includes 41 nations including American, French, Australian, Canadian and British troops operating under the aegis of the International Security Assistance Force in cooperation with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in a battle with the Quetta Shura Taliban for the primary loyalty of the Afghan people. This type of war was described by the late John Boyd as moral warfare, and is distinguished from more traditional attrition (think WWI) and maneuver (think Blitzkrieg) warfare by its heavy emphasis on intra-societal relations between individuals and groups and low emphasis on seizing and ground and moving troops. In this form of warfare the metrics used for measuring societal welfare – collectively known as ideology (Bobbitt, 2002) – become a weapon. A fighter in a moral war fights using a vanguard of enlightened warriors to exploit some sort of intra-societal crisis (Boyd, 2007). The crisis is typically some sort of crisis of governance; i.e., in some way the government is unable to provide one or more basic public goods, such as security. The vanguard is then quick to point out the government’s failings and offer an alternative. The vanguard might also use both violent and non-violent disruptive techniques to exasperate the crisis. Moral warfare is generally used by the weaker of two opponents in a fight and generally is used in fights within, rather than between, societies. 
            Today moral warfare has become very popular among those who study warfare and national security. Thomas Hammes, in his book The Sling and the Stone (2006) theorizes that his version of moral warfare, known as 4GW, is set to become the dominant form of warfare in the 21st century. Retired Colonel John Nagal has also explored modern moral warfare, and, in his book Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife (2002) suggests that the U.S. Army and Marines – having mastered attrition and maneuver warfare – must get better at counter insurgency, which is also a form of moral warfare. Perhaps no researchers is quit as ambitious as Thomas Barnett, who suggest in his book The Pentagon’s New Map (2004) that the U.S. should build a cabinet level agency known as the Systems Administration force, which would focus on fixing that crises that fuel moral warriors. While each of these men has a slightly different definition of what Boyd called moral warfare, all of these men are concerned with two broad, interconnected problems; first, there is a war going on within traditional societies between those who support and those who oppose modernity and the U.S. will be a target in this moral war; two, that the U.S. has a poor track record when it comes to defeating guerillas, terrorists and other opponents who use moral warfare. Ultimately, this dissonance between threats and capability creates a space within which groups such as Al Qaeda are able to operate.
The Vanguard: The Greater Taliban
            The term most often used to refer to the insurgents in Afghanistan is the Taliban but I think it is important to take a moment to understand that the Afghan insurgents are drawn from a complex web of sources and are motivated by a combination of factors including religious, economic and cultural motivations. Because of this mix of motivations and beliefs, the term that best fits all Afghan insurgents is the Greater Taliban, which acknowledges the role played by a core group of true believers known as the Quetta Shura Taliban but also captures the more disparate individuals and groups who may act in opposition to coalition forces but not share the true Taliban ideology. It is important to understand that while the QST form the true vanguard of the overall insurgency, all of the fighters who make up the Greater Taliban make the coalition’s job significantly more difficult.
            The Quetta Shura Taliban is a group of militant, Sunni, Islamic fundamentalists who are primarily ethnic Pashtuns and based in both Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Northwest Pakistan. The QST are takfiri, meaning they believe it is their duty to wage war against anyone who dose not subscribes to their strict interpretation of Islam. It is important to note that takfiri is an Arabic word that best translates into English as “heretic” (Kilcullen, 2009). The QST’s belief in holy war against non-believers is heretical in the eyes of most scholars of the Koran and is not shared by the overwhelming majority of the world’s 1 billion Muslims. The QST’s most immediate goal is to reestablish a Caliphate-state in Afghanistan where the entire population would be ruled according to strict adherence to religious law.
            The QST’s fellows travelers in Afghanistan is Al Qaeda – literally ‘the base’- a group primarily composed of Sunni Arabs who also subscribe to a takfiri ideology but whose goals are global. Al Qaeda leaders consider themselves the al talia al ummah or “the vanguard of the ummah” (Kilcullen, 2009) which means they seek to inspire active resistance against Western governments, globalization and apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Al Qaeda’s base of operations in Afghanistan was the reason the U.S. invaded in 2001, and although they have been weakened by 8 years of intense pressure AQ remains a serious threat capable of attacks both inside and outside of Afghanistan.
            AQ and QST form a vanguard of hardcore true believers but the Greater Taliban is made up both of takfiri and of what David Kilcullen calls “Accidental Guerrillas” (2009), a mix of mercenaries, drug dealers and adventure seekers who may work with the Taliban for just one battle but who have little sympathy for QST or AQ’s ideology. QST are able to pay mercenaries more than twice the salary of a police officer or soldiers in Afghanistan (Moyar, 2009), so QST do not have a shortage of hired gunman. Even without money, if QST can position itself near the right village at the right time of day they can recruit local boys who will shoot at coalition forces for sport, even if those boys nominally like American troops and support the goals of the coalition (Kilcullen, 2009).
            From an operational standpoint, the Greater Taliban is loose collection of light infantry troops armed with an assortment of small arms, improvised explosive devices, RPGs and small mortars. They travel mainly on foot or in light vehicles such as pickup trucks and wear no uniforms, which allows them to easily hide among civilian populations. Because of their ability to pickup accidental guerillas, QST can move in very small groups and add manpower on an as needed basis. QST is also a mobile state apparatus, traveling with their own justice system (sharia law) religious police to enforce their rule-sets and courts to settle disputes. The QST also have intelligence operatives known as “dickers” who may slip into a village before the larger group arrives or remain in a village after the larger group leaves to survey the area, asses threats, and inform on anyone who may be cooperating with the coalition (West, 2009).

Next Section: 3 Crises 


Moral Warfare in Southwest Asia Pt 2: 3 Crises

The First Crisis: Security
            Providing basic security is a fundamental function of government. Political philosophers going back at least as far as Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century have recognized that society is founded on a social contract whereby citizens exchange their natural rights to live in a state of nature for peace and security (Hobbes, 1904). Psychologist Abraham Maslow also recognized that security is a very basic human need, seconded only by the need to food, water and air (University of Honolulu , 2009). The findings of both political philosophers and psychologists help us recognize that security is the soft underbelly of a society, and anyone who wishes to delegitimize a society would do well to first undermine the security of its citizens whereas anyone who wishes to strengthen a society must first provide security.
             Exploiting the crisis of security in Afghanistan is one of the QST’s main tactics to weaken the legitimacy of the Afghan government and the coalition forces. The QST creates a state of menace both through spectacular attacks, such as suicide bombings or raids on public buildings and through subtle intimidation. Dr. Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official who coordinated Iraq and Afghan policy for the Bush Administration, reports that undermining security often involves a handful of letters left on the doors of prominent local elites in rural villages (Marine Corps University , 2009). These letters will warn locals not to cooperate with coalition forces and may be reinforced with the targeted assassination of a prominent local resident. It is in this way that the QST reinforces its narrative: The Americans cannot protect you. The government in Kabul cannot protect you. Only the QST can protect you.
            The QST have historically used the promise of greater security to get populations to acquiesce to their rule. In the mid 1990s when the QST first took over many Afghans looked forward to QST promises of a return to the peace and stability that existed prior to the Soviet invasion. And today the QST makes the same argument when they arrive in a village. Amin Tarzi, who was born in Afghanistan and now teaches classes on Middle Eastern and Central Asian cultures at the Marine Corps University, feels that it is critical for coalition forces to realize that, however strange the system of government practiced by the QST may seem to Westerners, the QST do offer a basic system of security and a recognizable form of justice through Sharia law, and in a society where there is no justice and little security the QST’s offer can seem very tempting to many people (Marine Corps University , 2009).
            So why do coalition forces have such a hard time maintaining security? Perhaps Bing West articulated the most basic reason when he pointed out that Afghanistan is nation of valleys and “…every valley has a mountain. And every mountain is controlled by the Taliban and the watchers are everywhere”(Marine Corps University , 2009).  This leads to a situation where no coalition convoy leaves its base without Greater Taliban watchers knowing that the coalition troops are on their way. The mountains also provide the insurgents with a great deal of tactical mobility. American troops travel heavy; body armor and heavy vehicles such as up-armored Humvees and MRAPS (mine resistant ambush protected vehicle) are standard equipment whereas the Greater Taliban travel on foot with light weapons and are able to hit American forces and either run away or simply toss their weapons and disappear into a crowd of civilians. In previous years Americans soldiers made up for their lack of speed by using airstrikes and artillery barrages, but General McChrystal has ordered his commanders to use less indirect fire – thus reducing civilian casualties – but also increasing the chances the Greater Taliban can hit an American convoy and suffer few consequences. As a result of the coalition’s immobility, the GT are in complete control of most engagements, they get to make contact at times and places of their choosing and they can break contact when the Americans get too close. While it’s an oft-repeated maxim that counter insurgency is 80% non-kinetic, Colonel David Furness points out that soldiers and marines are only able to provide security if they can destroy the enemy when needed, “No one gets a free shot,” was Furness’s standing order to his men in Iraq (Marine Corps University , 2009). In the current situation in Afghanistan the GT is getting free shots all the time, and that makes it very difficult for the U.S. to demonstrate to the Afghan people that the coalition can provide security.
            Another cause of the crisis of security is a lack of coalition presence in populated areas. When General Petraeus arrived in Iraq, one of his first standing orders was “Don’t commute to work,” (West, 2008), meaning that soldiers and marines needed to be constantly stationed near the areas they were assigned to patrol. In Iraq this was accomplished by establishing a network of small outposts in the heart of communities that were under constant attack from insurgents and the result was both a drop in insurgent attacks and an increase in cooperation and trust between the locals and American troops. In Afghanistan troops are still stationed in large forward operating bases far from the Afghan population centers. Troops often drive up to 90 minutes to ‘work’ and when they get there they spend an average of about 30 minutes a day on patrol (Marine Corps University , 2009). When this statistic is considered in light of Dr. Cohen’s story about letters pinned to doors in the night, it’s easy to understand why the Afghans feel the coalition cannot protect them. Protecting the population is a 24-hour a day job and the coalition has a presence among the population just 30 minutes a day.
            Long commutes also leave coalition forces exposed to roadside bombs. Just as in Iraq, the insurgents have learned that it is often more cost effective to plant an improvised explosive device on a roadway frequented by coalition troops than to actually meet and engage in combat with them. The chart below shows the increase in the use if IEDs in Afghanistan since 2001:

Figure 3[1]
            Another aspect of the crisis of security is the lack of local security forces. On paper, Afghanistan has a national army, the ANA and a national police force, the ANP. In practice, lack of training, lack of discipline, and lack leadership make the Afghan security forces far less effective than they need to be. One serious problem is that the Afghan Army is being built in America’s image, meaning they are being trained in attrition and maneuver warfare (Marine Corps University , 2009) and outfitted with armor and heavy equipment as opposed to being equipped lightly to move as quickly as the Taliban and trained for more relevant population security missions. 
            There is also a serious lack of leadership in the Afghan military. Historian Mark Moyar interviewed 250 American troops who had served as advisors to the Afghan military and discovered the American advisors rated over 65% of Afghan battalions as having ineffective leaders (Marine Corps University , 2009). Efforts to partner American forces with their Afghan counterparts have met with decidedly mixed results. One major problem is that U.S. commanders are afraid of embedding American commanders with Afghan forces – a time tested means of training foreign forces – because American commanders fear that will put American officers in danger. This risk aversion is taken to its logical conclusion when American forces are pulled out of an area where they operate jointly with Afghan forces if that area is deemed ‘too dangerous’ (Marine Corps University , 2009).
            Another problem with building local security forces is the poor overall quality of recruits. After 7 years of intensive effort, the Afghan Army’s true strength is still only about 50,000 men (Johnson & Mason, 2009) and high desertion and injury rates make it unlikely Afghanistan’s army will ever grow to more than 100,000 men. While poor leadership and high attrition rates combine to make the Afghan army less than effective in many areas, it’s important to note that Colonel Jeff Hayes, who commanded a battalion of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan in 2008, felt that the Afghan army was still more popular with the population than the Afghan police (Marine Corps University , 2009), and that observation begins to shed some light on the second major crisis in Afghanistan: the crisis of legitimacy.

The Second Crisis: Legitimacy
            Writing in the fall 2009 edition of Military Review, Thomas Johnson and M. Chris Mason estimate that the Karzai administration is accepted as legitimate by as little as 30% of the Afghan population (Johnson & Mason, 2009). This number does not reflect a popularity rating; it reflects the number of Afghans who believe that the Karzai administration represents a legitimate governing body. This would be the equivalent of 70% of American declaring, not that they disagreed with president Obama, not that they wanted to vote for another candidate in 2012, but that they did not believe he was the legitimate head of the U.S. government. These numbers were from a survey taken prior to the ill-fated elections in August (Johnson & Mason, 2009).
            It’s easy to say that corruption and mismanagement are behind this lack of legitimacy, and there is certainly a good deal of corruption in Afghanistan. Colonel Hayes mentioned that national police in his sector were removed for theft (Marine Corps University , 2009), Bing West reports that local police often purposely ignore insurgent activity (West, 2009), high ranking members of the Afghan government have been accused of being involved in drug trafficking (Filikin, Mazzetti, & Risen, 2009) and government jobs and promotions – including those in the military – are often based on ethnic loyalty and personal contacts rather than professional expertise (Moyar, 2009). And all of this corruption led Transparency International to rank Afghanistan as the second most corrupt country in the world in 2009 (Transparency International , 2009).
            It’s easy to blame corruption for Afghanistan’s legitimacy problem, but it may be inaccurate. It is entirely possible that the Afghan government dose not have a legitimacy problem because they are corrupt, but instead they have a corruption problem because they are illegitimate. Consider that there are three types of legitimate authority in a society: legal, traditional and charismatic, which includes religious (Weber & Wittich, 1978). In Afghanistan, authority has typically been traditional, specifically tribal (Johnson & Mason, 2009), and every attempt to replace tribal authority with a more modern type has failed. Three times in the last 30 years outside powers have attempted to supplant traditional authority with few positive results.  Two outside powers tried religious authority, for example, and both times they failed miserably. In 1979 the Soviets attempted to graft a secular religion, Marxist-Leninism, onto Afghan society and were rewarded with thousands of KIAs and an ignoble defeat. And then in the 1990s the QST attempted to supplant tribal authority with their takfiri ideology and they were rewarded with an armed resistance known as the Northern Alliance that controlled almost a third of the country for most of the QST’s reign in Kabul. Finally, in 2002 the U.S. and our NATO allies decided that Afghans were ready to recognize legal authority, specifically a democracy with a parliamentary system.
             It’s ironic that the U.S. and QST may represent, to the average Afghan, two sides of the same coin. On one hand, the QST wants to replace the Afghan’s primary loyalty to their tribes with a loyalty to the Caliphate. On the other hand, the U.S. wants to replace the Afghan’s tribal loyalty with allegiance to Westphalian style nation-state. And while only 30% of Afghan’s recognize our favored system as legitimate, only 15% would prefer the Taliban (Johnson & Mason, 2009), so its clear that neither the coalition nor the QST have yet made the Afghan people an appealing offer.
The Third Crisis: Trust
            Underlying all problems the U.S. has in Afghanistan is the issue of trust. Lt. General David Barno, who commanded troops in Afghanistan and has recently been working as an advisor to both the Pakistani and Afghan militaries, reports that the most common question he is asked by his foreign counterparts is “Are you going to abandon us again?” (Marine Corps University , 2009). Both countries remember that the U.S. beat a path for the door in the early 1990s after the Soviet defeat and elites in both societies have serious doubts that the U.S. has the wherewithal to remain engaged in Afghanistan much longer. And when is comes to the Afghan people, Colonel Dale Alford said, “They’ve learned to survive 30 years of war by hedging their bets” (Marine Corps University , 2009). And right now the Afghan people are hedging their bets with us. The QST will reinforce this narrative; they will tell the people that the Americans will soon leave and then they will do anything they can to reinforce to pound that point home. And every time an Afghan considers whether or not to provide support to the coalition they think about that letter on a door in the night or a person who had their throat slit for collaborating and that Afghan is going to hedge their bets between the U.S. and QST. This ambivalence could be seen in a recent Frontline documentary entitled Obama’s War (2009), which documented a group of young marines trying to get Afghan village elders to help them locate the local QST cell. The elders were very polite with the marines, invited them to tribal meeting and had a nice discussion, but at the end of the day were reticent to make commitments “What can we do?” they asked, inferring that it was the marine’s job to fight the militants, and the civilians would watch and wait to see how the situation turned out. Yet with a 15% approval rate (Johnson & Mason, 2009), the civilian reluctance is unlikely to be a sign support for the QST objectives and is more likely a reflection of the civilian’s desire to not be branded as collaborators when the Americans go home. Overcoming this crisis of trust depends on the ability of the U.S. to change the narrative from “Don’t worry, we’re leaving,” to “Don’t worry, we’re staying”(Marine Corps University , 2009).
            When it comes to Pakistan the crisis of trust becomes even more acute and goes in both directions because both the U.S. and Pakistan have reasons to distrust one another. America is right to be somewhat suspicious of Pakistan because the ISI supported the takfiri in the 1980s because they were fellow Sunni Muslims, and because the Pakistani military and intelligence services thought Islamic militants would be highly unlikely to side with the Soviets in a hypothetical war between the Soviet Union and Pakistan, something that could be said about neither Pakistan’s traditional enemy India nor its occasional ally China. Pakistan’s then leader, Zia-ul-Huq, also used the takfiri to help him ride a wave a populist religious fervor that swept many Muslim countries in the Mid East and South Asia in the wake of the 1973 Israeli/Egyptian war and Iranian revolution (Coll, 2004).
            Pakistan’s dealings with Islamic militants have not been without blowback; in recent years the QST has trained its fire on the Pakistani government (Wilkinson, 2009) with nearly as much ferocity as it attacks American and Afghan troops in Afghanistan. And in November of 2008 the world got a glimpse of a worse case scenario involving Pakistan and its relationship with Islamic militants when gunmen attacked several hotels in Mumbai, India, killing 195 people. The gunmen were members of a group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba – the Army of Pure – and planned their attack from bases in Pakistan (Hasan, 2008).  While no links have yet been discovered between the QST and LET, an October 2009 QST attack by gunmen in Kabul showed a strong resemblance to the Mumbai attacks (Constable, 2009) and a true nightmare scenario in South Asia could begin if the LET, QST or other non-state actors was able to cause enough chaos in India to force India and Pakistan into a war.
            Pakistan’s occasionally accommodating relationship with takfiri is one of two reasons the U.S. is reluctant to trust Pakistan. The second is perhaps more serious, because a Pakistani nuclear scientist named A.Q. Khan bears a great deal of the responsibility for countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Libya getting access to nuclear material between the 1980s and 2003 (Bobbitt, 2008). While the Pakistani government placed Khan under house arrest in 2003, many in Pakistan still regard him as a national hero for helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons and there remain a number of unanswered questions about exactly how much the Pakistani’s knew about Khan’s activities.
            Pakistan’s nuclear program also led to a situation that left Pakistan untrusting of the United States. Pakistan had been developing a nuclear weapon since the mid 1970s and U.S. intelligence agencies were aware that they had acquired enough uranium to make a bomb in 1982 (Smith & Warrick, 2009). But in 1982 the U.S. needed Pakistan as a staging area for the CIA to support the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, so the U.S. quietly ignored Pakistan’s quest for the bomb and kept urging Zia’s government to give more support to the any Afghan (or Arab) willing to fight the Soviets. It was not until 1993, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the U.S. no longer needed Pakistan as a staging area, that the Clinton administration ‘discovered’ that the Pakistanis were building a nuclear weapon and slapped them with economic sanctions (Crile, 2003).
Crisis on the Home front: Moral Warfare in New England
            There is also a crisis in the U.S. that could potentially hamper America’s efforts in Southwest Asia. Moral war fighters do not have to commit acts of violence; indeed moral warriors such as Martin Luther King and Gandhi disciplined their troops specifically to be non-violent and these men often exploited crises caused by state authorities responding to peaceful protests with violence. So non-violence can be a weapon in moral warfare and it can be used as weapon both by advocates of passive resistance, such as MLK, and by otherwise violent groups such as the Viet Cong or PLO. During Vietnam this concept was taken to its logical conclusion when the North Vietnamese tailored their public pronouncements to match the rhetoric of American anti-war protestors (Hammes, 2006) even going so far as to meet with radical anti-war activists such as Jane Fonda.
            So far in the war in Southwest Asia, the U.S. has avoided moral warfare on the home front as happened in the 1960s and 70s but there are long held beliefs and cultural habits that must be minded. Historian Michael Lind wrote a short history of American anti-war movements in his book about Vietnam, entitled Vietnam: A Necessary War (1999), and he documented that there is a culture in America, which Lind calls ‘greater New England’ but that geographically exists from the Northeast through the upper Midwest and West Coast, which has historically been opposed to American interventions overseas, including WWI, the war with Spain and even WWII – before Pearl Harbor – but after Germany has seized most of Europe and Japan had annexed large swaths of China. This cultural opposition to war is well-documented using records of congressional votes and debates and seems to exist at various times among both Republicans and Democrats and self described liberals and conservatives (Lind, 1999).
            Today this culture can be seen on op-ed pages of major newspapers. In recent weeks there has been a bipartisan consensus among moderates, liberals and conservatives on the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post that it is, in the words of Eugene Robinson “Time to head home”, (Robinson, 2009). Robinson is a liberal, but his beliefs are shared by conservative George Will (Will, 2009) and moderate – and Iraq War supporter – Thomas Friedman (Friedman, 2009). What this rebellion of the elites indicates about the future of wider public support is uncertain, but President Obama should be mindful of the existence of a vocal, nonpartisan, anti-war minority among the American political and cultural elites in New York and D.C.
Next Section: Obama's War 

[1] Numbers from

Moral Warfare in Southwest Asia Pt 3: Obama's War

A Way Forward: Obama’s War
            On December 1st, 2009 President Barack Obama recommitted the United States to winning the fight over the primary loyalties of the Afghan people. The most publicly debated piece of Obama’s decision involved whether or not send additional troops and how many to send. But the crises that exist and are exploited by the QST today in Afghanistan are as much a problem of strategy as resources. So while the 30,000 additional troops promised by the President at West Point this week could play a critical role securing Afghanistan, it will be the implementation, more than their raw numbers, that will determine success or failure. To that end here is my assessment of what must be done to tackle each of the Afghan crises and in so doing undermine the Taliban’s abilities to exploit weaknesses in Afghan society.
Fixing the security crisis: At the COIN conference hosted by the Marine Corps University nearly every military officer, active duty or retired, pointed to a lack of joint-ness both between civilian and military agencies and between the U.S. and our Afghan counterparts as a serious source of concern. So the first step in any strategy that will improve security must be an increased emphasis on unity of effort between civilian and military operations and Afghan and American operations.
            The first obstacle to this sort of joint effort is to put aside the causality aversion that prevents American officers and NCOs from being embedded in Afghan National Army units. Partnering with local forces – really partnering – putting American and foreign forces in the same barracks with the same weapons eating the same chow and facing the same threats (Marine Corps University , 2009) – was one of the cornerstones of the success of the “surge” in Iraq (West, 2008; Kilcullen, 2009) and will be equally important in Afghanistan. This is the best way to train the officers and NCOs that will someday form the backbone of an independent Afghan army and having Afghan partners nearby is always helpful when conducting operations in populated areas.
            Getting into populated areas must be another part of any successful strategy to improve security. 80% of the Afghan population lives in rural areas, but currently the coalition has their biggest presence in urban areas that are both geographically and culturally separate from the Afghan population (Johnson & Mason, 2009). It’s important to keep in mind that it was in urban areas such as Kabul that young students became convinced that Afghanistan – an agrarian, tribal society with a literacy rate in the low double digits – was ripe for conversion to Marxism. This offers a clue to how far removed from Afghanistan the urban areas can be. In short, we cannot protect the Afghan people nor help them fight back against the QST unless we are out where they are, in the rural areas.
            The model for joint-ness suggested by Thomas Johnson and M. Chris Mason might offer the best hope for success. They propose the creation of 200 District Reconstruction Teams, which may seem like a large number but probably would have been possible even without the surge of troops. The DRTs would be composed of both civilian and military personal and partnered with Afghan forces and stationed throughout the country in rural areas. These DRTs would allow the Afghan forces to focus on patrolling the populated areas 24 hours a day while freeing up American forces to take offensive action against GT groups in the area and provide backup to the Afghans on patrol. Taking offensive action against the GT, ending the ‘free shots’ that the GT has been enjoying for too long must be a top priority (West, 2009). At the same time, USAID and State Department officials embedded with the DRTs can focus on local economic development and on finding jobs for some of the accidental guerillas that could otherwise find jobs with the QST (Johnson & Mason, 2009). The idea of buying off accidental guerillas is already being experimented with in Jalalabad, and early results appear hopeful (Filkins, Afghans Offer Jobs to Taliban Rank and File if They Defect, 2009 ).
            When it comes to non-military police forces, the current national police force has many of the same problems as the military in terms of lack of training and discipline and is also considered extremely corrupt, to the point that most Afghans do not even want the police in their village (Marine Corps University , 2009; Moyar, 2009). Perhaps the best solution to this problem is to accept that there is unlikely to be much of a national police force for some time and turn focus to training local tribal militias to fight back against the QST. These militias provide both employment and honor for local residents and could reduce the temptation to become and accidental guerilla. As with the plan to buy off local fighters, the training and support of local militias is already being experimented with in select regions and is seeing positive results (Filkins, Afghan Militias Battle Taliban With Aid of U.S. , 2009).
Solving the crisis of legitimacy: Focusing on the district, versus nation-state or provincial level, aids the coalition in overcoming another crisis; the crisis of legitimacy. It may be time to accept that the Afghan people are going to find a primary identity with their tribe and in the local district for the foreseeable future, so America’s historical focus on the nation-state (read Karzai and his administration) will ultimately be for naught. As Steven Coll has recently observed in Foreign Policy Magazine, Afghanistan has been most successful with a weak central government and diverse regional power centers (Coll, 2009). The focus on the local level allows the U.S. to work with long held tribal traditions in Afghan society and could allow us to make progress without having to completely reboot Afghan identity, a task which neither the Red Army or the QST could accomplish with far harsher tactics than we would be willing to use.
Solving the crisis of trust, at home and abroad: President Obama probably did little to assuage fears of our eminent departure when he promised to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months (Gall, 2009). On the other hand, the president left himself plenty of wiggle room by phrasing July 2011 as the date the U.S. will “begin to transition out,” (Obama, 2009) rather than as a date certain to leave. In choosing his phrasing carefully, the President seems to understand both the crisis of trust in Southwest Asia and the potential political crisis at home. Already, members of the President’s party in the House are starting to turn against the war in Afghanistan (Karl, 2009). Mitigating the domestic political damage will be tricky, but the President must be prepared to define his mission clearly, forcefully and publicly – as he did in his December 1st speech – when other politicians question his intentions in Afghanistan. It’s worth noting that the President’s December 1st speech appears to have had the desired effect, because a recent CNN poll that 62% of Americans now favor the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan (CNN, 2009).
            When it comes to mitigating the crisis of trust in Pakistan, the U.S. would do well to focus on more than just the relationship between American and Pakistani security interests. Earlier this year Pakistan asked the President for greater economic connectivity between our two nations (Simon Denyer, 2009) and the President would do well to pursue that path. One of the great sources of mistrust between Pakistan and the U.S. results from Pakistan’s recognition that, in a hypothetical war between India and Pakistan, the U.S. would take India’s side because India and the U.S. enjoy hundreds of billions in trade and economic connectivity whereas trade between Pakistan and the U.S. is minuscule. So the President can promise to send x number of troops to Afghanistan and leave them there indefinitely as often as he likes, but until Pakistan becomes more integrated into the global economy they will continue to focus myopically on their unstable relationship with India and continue to hedge their relationship with America and their relationship with militants on their border with Afghanistan.

Conclusion: Known Unknowns and Hope Without Guarantees
            When considering Southwest Asia and America’s future there it’s important to consider what Donald Rumsfeld used to call “known unknowns,” meaning situations which we think could happen but do not know where or when. These situations represent tremendous variables to everything I have written about the war in this paper, and they include a successful attack by QST forces upon Pakistani nuclear bases, a QST or AQ attack on the scale of 9/11 on India or China, an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and, perhaps most important, a major terrorist attack inside the U.S. Any one of these situations could significantly change both the stakes and the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and would require a readjustment of American strategy in the region. That being said, there are five main points American policy makers must consider if they wish to leave Afghanistan a stable country within the next half a decade or so:
1.     Security efforts must be joint efforts, meaning they must involve both American and Afghan forces and both civilian and military personnel of both countries.
2.     Securing the population is essential and that means the coalition must locate the labor near the problem, security forces must be permanently stationed in rural areas and as close to the population as possible.
3.     The coalition must recognize traditional sources of authority in Afghan culture and work within these traditional boundaries as much as possible. Building an Afghanistan that does not respect the traditional tribal district or woleswali level of organization will prove as futile to the coalition as turning Afghanistan into a socialist utopia proved for the Soviets.
4.     The coalition must make every effort to cleave the “accidental guerillas” from the true takfiri believers. To this end, payoffs, amnesties, and standing up local security militias should all be experimented with on a district level.
5.     Security is 90% of the problem until it isn’t, and then it becomes 10% of the problem. So while security is an immediate and urgent problem putting Afghanistan on a sustainable pathway to stability will involve more than just killing bad guys and posting guards. To this end, the U.S. must include China in any plan that hopes to succeed, because the Chinese are already sinking billions in Afghanistan’s mining industry and even taking token steps to help with security force assistance (Page, 2009; MacWilliam, 2007).
      In closing, I believe that Afghanistan remains a salvageable situation, but one which could still turn out very badly for the United States. In Lewis Sorley’s A Better War (1999) the author recounts a number of victories the U.S. experienced in Southeast Asia between 1968 and 1975, including the virtual destruction of Viet Cong and the repeated defeats of attempted North Vietnamese invasions of the South. But at the end, the U.S. simply could not maintain a domestic political consensus strong enough to continue to support the South. Vietnam is a powerful lesson of the need for a leader to remain focused on maintaining public support for operations overseas. And in understanding that sometimes we can do many things right and still wind up with a bad outcome.

Continue to Works Cited Page

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