Monday, June 6

How U.S. can win the Afghan War, in eight steps

1. Set aside all talk of an 'insurgency' in Afghanistan. Proceed on the forest-thinning principle; i.e., first clear out all the Taliban fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan on behalf of Pakistan's military, then see how much of a genuine insurgency is left to deal with.

2. Recognize that the greatest obstacle to winning the war isn't the Taliban or even Pakistan's regime; the obstacle is that Washington has reasoned itself into a false dilemma regarding Pakistan's sheltering of Taliban that wreak murder and mayhem in Afghanistan.

3. State the dilemma in plain English to see how silly it is: EITHER start a war with Pakistan OR continue to put up with the protection its military affords Taliban groups it finds useful.

4. Reflect on how the Taliban came into being, and how certain among them became useful to Pakistan's military, to understand that Washington has made a mountain out of a molehill and called this a dilemma.

5. Admit the dilemma is an illusion after considering this simple example:

Say I provide much of your material support, then I see you engaging in behavior I consider not only destructive but also an attack on me. I repeatedly warn you to stop the behavior but each time I do so, I give you $1,000.

How, then, how would you read my words? As a warning to stop the behavior? Or as encouragement to continue the behavior -- encouragement that for some reason I don't wish to clearly articulate?

6. So much for the dilemma. As to why official Washington ignores the obvious, I think there's more than one reason. But Washington continues to find support for its refusal to confront the obvious by taking refuge in the pronouncements of opinion experts it consults on Pakistan. This is an old story, by the way, not limited to Pakistan and the Afghan War.

The same old story is that Washington decides that people in X country are from another planet and thus, it will take experts with very specialized knowledge to explain how the aliens think; e.g., Christine "I can translate Urdu into English" Fair.

From listening to these experts, who have no moorings whatsoever in common sense, Washington gets so confused that the next thing the world knows Americans are once again wrestling with a huge dilemma. Recognize that this approach to problem-solving has created chaos in Afghanistan.

7. To wrest order from chaos recall that human nature is the same for all, including Pakistanis; ergo, Washington should try something new and act human in its relations with Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Do this first, then see how much of threat remains from Pakistan.

Acting human includes not repeatedly sending mixed signals and not grandstanding for the press; conveying seriousness to Pakistan's leaders is best done behind closed doors.

I should add that always sending mixed signals greatly angers not only humans but every kind of mammalian creature that must endure the mixed signals; that's because mixed signals are perceived as a ploy to establish complete control by sowing constant confusion.

8. The catch is that even after Pakistan's military sets to work rolling up the Taliban, it's waited so long to do so that a veritable army of Frankensteins has spawned in Pakistan and many of these aren't Taliban.

However, there is a workaround. The military can explain to Pakistan's media that it's now their job to explain to the Pakistani public that it's a new day, which means among other things that the military is inviting the USA to work under their direction in helping them clean up Dodge City.

If you tell me it can't be that simple -- only if Pakistanis are from another planet is it not that simple. But I didn't say it was easy because Washington finds it very hard to be consistent for more than 15 minutes in a row. Consistency is what's needed to convey to Pakistan's military that the USA is deadly serious about no longer supporting a government that supports the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But then if it is that simple, things would resolve themselves so quickly in Afghanistan that NATO would have little excuse to remain there in force for decades on end. This means NATO couldn't continue to use Afghans as experimental subjects for every development idea that legions of contractors and subcontractors can think up and bill for.

From that point of view some might argue it's better for Washington to go on seeing Pakistanis -- and Afghans, for that matter -- as aliens. That tack certainly keeps legions of opinion experts gainfully employed, but a better tack for the United States is to pull off a decisive victory in Afghanistan.


Madhu said...

Bless you for stating the obvious.

Saw your comments at Registan. Phenomenal. Imagine not everyone wants to live under Taliban rule and gets cranky about it and "throws temper tantrums."

Surprised at young Mr. Foust. He's usually quite good.

William said...

Plain spoken common sense...and not a single use of the word "nuanced". This was great.