Friday, January 29

Max Boot mistakes mercenary armies for insurgents

From Max Boot's January 12, 2016 op-ed for The Los Angeles Times Obama prefers special ops to combat forces in the war on terrorism. It's not working
Alas, when it comes to the Obama administration and the war on terrorism, leadership targeting is pretty much all there is. Where is the Obama strategy to stabilize lawless lands such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, which have become a terrorist's playground? Admittedly, it is much harder to restore order out of chaos than it is to simply kill a few bad guys. But it is also necessary.
What the administration has been missing all along in the fight against Islamic extremists is a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan, one that integrates political efforts, diplomacy, information warfare, development aid and security assistance.
Was Max living in a cave when generals McChrystal and Petraeus were overseeing a very comprehensive COIN plan in Afghanistan? Doesn't he remember this?

The Afghan COIN plan contained all the elements Max recommends. But it didn't work because of one situation, athough there were three others that together made it hard to see what was really happening in Afghanistan. Here are the three situations: 

> The ISAF British command's approach to maintaining order in Helmand turned the province into the opium capital of the world. This put fortunes in the hands of Afghan crooks who used their wealth to make it impossible for central and provincial Afghan governments to function as governments are meant to function. This in turn rendered the concept of politics a national joke.

> USD billions in development and aid projects were plugged into the country but they were implemented and overseen largely by people who were stupid or crooked or both, as SIGAR audits explain in agonizing detail. 

>  The 130,000 forces of the ISAF coalition, drawn from 51 nations, was so large -- one of the largest in history -- that it had to direct diplomacy and much of its energies to hashing out how its members functioned in the country.  

Yet even if those situations had never been in force it wouldn't have made a difference because of this underlying situation:

> What passed for insurgents was largely mercenaries paid for by Al Saud and commanded by retired Pakistani military officers in the pay of the ISI and by active-duty ISI and military officers.

So the complaint that President Obama has lacked a stabilization strategy, while true, is specious.   

Somewhere in Wikipedia's article on counterinsurgency it's mentioned that virtually all long-running insurgencies receive support to one degree or another from foreign interests. But the situations in Afghanistan and Syria don't fall into the category. 

What's been happening is a land grab by foreign governments that rely on mercenaries drawn from many countries to do the fighting. (The Assad regime counts foreign fighters from 100 countries in Syria; the U.S. military counts 80.) Call it a pussyfooting ploy by governments who know the United Nations gets upset about an outright armed invasion of a nation.

So while there can be genuine insurgents in countries targeted for takeover and plunder, it would be preposterous to assume the approach to dealing with them that Max Boot recommends would halt an invasion plan.

Unless and until invaders are treated for what they are -- which I note is the Russian approach in Syria -- the COIN tactics used to deal with insurgents would amount to the parable of the man who looks outdoors for keys he lost in the house because the light for searching is better out there. 

Same, if COIN is applied to transnational outfits such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which depend heavily on various governments to facilitate their plundering and in exchange provide fighters to the governments.

It's really a matter of calling a spade a spade, as we say in the USA. In other words, first identify what you're really dealing with. 


bdoran said...

Max Boot will fight to the last American.

Then get on a plane for the Levant.


Pundita said...