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Thread: James Madison - Greatest COIN leader in History

  1. #41
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Iron hands are very stable. These "stable" regimes keep the grass mowed very short indeed. These regimes are also the targets of AQ's UW campaign; and a tremendous source of foreign fighters.

    Historically this model has worked; and our relationships with these governments has profited the leaders of these countries, corporations, and served our national interests. My position is that in the current information environment this model is crumbling, as these governments are no longer able to control information to their populaces, and similarly non-state actors such as AQ are growing in powers that are largely immune to the powers of states, and individuals are empowered as well.

    It's time to evolve and stay in front of these trends. Currently AQ is the champion of the oppressed populaces and the US and West in general is largely the champion of the oppressive regimes. I think we can do better than that.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    My position is that in the current information environment this model is crumbling, as these governments are no longer able to control information to their populaces, and similarly non-state actors such as AQ are growing in powers that are largely immune to the powers of states, and individuals are empowered as well.
    These regimes were, for the most part, never able to maintain an information monopoly--they've always been acutely vulnerable to transnational ideological appeals, in part because most of the population shares a common (Arabic) language. In the 1950s and 1960s this took the form of radio (think of Nasser's highly subversive Sawt al-Arab radio broadcasts), as well as a whole host of transnational political organizations (the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ba'th, the Arab Nationalist Movement, etc). These movements, moreover, were far more successful at seizing power (Syria, Iraq, South Yemen, and very nearly in Jordan and Lebanon too) than AQ has been. AQ may be able to conduct mass terror attacks, but as a regime threat it has been (outside Iraq) small potatoes.

    Today, as you note, the media environment is even freer due to direct broadcast satellite TV (since the late 1990s). Yet most regimes appear more secure than they did before 1970, and the pace of political reform has stalled in all but a few. Indeed, the apparent lack of any substantial "al-Jazeera" effect on the pressure for democratization in the region has become an increasing issue of interest for scholars of the media and politics in the region.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  3. #43
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    Oppressive tactics work for keeping the symptoms of insurgency in check at the same time that they are contributing to the underlying growth of support and causation for insurgency itself. At some point, when the balance tips, it is apt to erupt, as the Balkans did.

    I see a glimmer of hope in situations like Qaddafi's son who is pressing his dad to shift from suppressing symptoms toward actually listening to and addressing valid popular grievances. I suspect there are many within the lower tiers of Saudi leadership that similarly would embrace such changes of approach.

    For the US we need to understand that what we call "terrorism" is insurgency at home. We make the danger for ourselves greater by helping these states to suppress these insurgent movements in the name of CT. Less is more. We should stop all CT support until these governments seriously open talks with their own populaces about grievances and reasonable reforms. To continue with the CT approach is to enable bad behavior in a manner that increases the likelihood of this same violence being directed against us.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  4. #44
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Our current "COIN" approach of focusing on development to buy off the populace appears to be rooted in trying to make people happy to win...

    The US Constitution and Bill of Rights provides such a construct. The current Afghan Constitution does not. I see it as a deal breaker flaw that we are ignoring in favor of doing just such efforts to try to "make people happy" instead. I am actually quite against trying to make everyone happy.
    Really neat attempt at a backflip there...

    Actually, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights purports to provide such a construct. In practice, all are not equal under the law and you should know that better than most. Congress and most Presidents diligently ignore that Constitution. What our governmental system does is sort of work for us -- I doubt it would work well in Europe and am positive it will not work at all in the ME or South Asia -- and it provides governance that allows those liberals and Tea Partiers to mumble and ask "How bad is it?"

    The answer is not that bad -- yet. The US is filled with a lot of unhappy people and more are unhappy now than they were in my youth because then, most people realized they were responsible for their own happiness. That changed as the education and political system inadvertently created two classes of people and people began to expect the government to provide for their happiness. Not going to happen but the political class is ignoring that. for now. They will not be able to do so for too much longer. Thus I'm unsure your bright shining beacon is all you continue to say it is.

    Our current deeply flawed political system attempts to buy votes with 'entitlements' to keep those liberals, Tea Party animals and other aggregations happy but our current COIN efforts -- flawed and futile as they are -- do not attempt to make everyone happy, they are an attempt to buy quiescence while other things do damage and we get ready to CSMO. Disingenuous to suggest we're trying to make people happy. We do not care much if they're happy; we do care if they're complaisant.

    The Afghan Constitution does not contain those things because they're an Islamic state and they do not believe in unfettered democracy. You could put them in a new Constitution and nothing would change. I thought all you SF types were 'posed to be culturally attuned...

    It's a shell game, Bob. Virtually all governments play it. We're better than most but we're still deeply flawed -- and our government is still trying to make everyone happy. So we can play semantic games all day but in the end, you're trying to make everyone happy no matter you couch it as "just gaining their acceptance that you deserve to be there." Happy enough they won't rebel.

    Won't work -- has not worked -- in the sense that it will stop insurgencies. That attempts to do what you state will stop some insurgencies from forming is a certainty, that it will stop all is highly unlikely. There are a lot of people out there with agendas that do not concern quality of governance...

    As a really wise old Colonel once told me, "Don't get trapped by target fixation, you're likely to miss something else that's important."

    P.S.

    You might want to stop using the American Revolution in your examples. those Colonists, from the Sons of Liberty to the Regulators did some really flaky stuff and resisted every effort by Grenville to reach a compromise. The regulators did indeed object to poor governance but that government was comprised of the local political elite.

    George III and Pitt even had statues in their honor erected in several Colonies after they repealed the Stamp Act. George wasn't really the problem, North and Germaine were...
    Last edited by Ken White; 06-17-2010 at 12:00 AM. Reason: Typos

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    At the risk of challenging minor nuances of Ken's statements, I for one, appreciate the clarity of Bob's uses of actual words with definable and stated meanings---if only just as a fixed panel to shoot at.

    The problem with the words, as everybody seems to drive to is that they are nothing more than conceptual constructs, seldom the real and complete definition of any actual thing or event.

    My Commager-based history of the US Civil War is quite a bit more driven by the nuances of geomorphology (Fast rivers in the North with small farm holdings) vs. large flat plains and slow rivers in the south, all underscoring the urban/industrial vs. slave/plantation cultural and economic differentiation). Repudiation of debt to those scurillous London money lenders was a really big deal to the Virginia Planters in the Revolution. Nothing is just about one thing, but aggregations of common interests under a clear banner. Henry Ford loved the totalitarian aspects of Nazism, but because it ste well with an industrial hegemonist's mindset and goals.

    Bob's challenge of a "civil war" in Iraq is really a good point. All these folks at the national level are really just jockeying for who gets the seat, not any big revolutionary concept. The King is dead, long live the (my) King.

    It gets way complicated in Afghanistan when we start mixing up concepts of central government, which nobody but crooks ever stood for. The old "King" was consultative to regions, tribes and leaders, not federal or federalist.

    In the well-described history, there is abundant reason for lots of folks to oppose lots of things (as they do) including opposing things they support as best of very bad options (Taliban vs. having my village blown up for playing with the Americans).

    How did COIN transmute into Clear-Hold-Nag, as increasingly seems to be the definition evolved over the past two months. We nag our local clients to start to confront the Taliban, but with no paramount duty to arm or secure them (boom, boom). When key allied local leaders are threatened, we can't secure or protect them. Where is this going? Isn't it still a war, where some folks are in armed resistance to both us and Karzai?

    Are we nagging these people to place themselves and their families at substantial risks over our silly ideas? Wasn't the last definition of COIN to "protect the population?" Doesn't that imply a duty and obligation to safeguard and protect those we nag?

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post

    How did COIN transmute into Clear-Hold-Nag,
    Now that is a candidate for the SWC Quote of the Week!

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    Slap:

    Formally, it is COunter-Intuitive Nagging = COIN .04

    Steve

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    PS:

    COIN .03 was Clear-Hold-Bribe which went out of favor once discovered that "Money as a Weapon" is a sword blade without safe handle. (Delicately handled or dangerous)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Logic dictates that smart COIN be aimed at the head of the snake, and the best way to do this is to talk, make reasonable concessions, deal strongly with the unreasonable, but to make room in government for those who are willing to participate.
    But who is supposed to talk, make reasonable concessions, deal strongly, make room? Us, or the Karzai Government? If the insurgent leadership's primary beef is with the Karzai Government, isn't that who they need to talk to? And if we're doing the talking, who's governing Afghanistan?

    I'm not at all sure the insurgent leadership has any interest in talking, to us or the Karzai Government. That kind of negotiation needs to be conducted from a position of strength, and neither we nor the Karzai Government are in such a position.

    I'm also not convinced that "logic dictates that smart COIN be aimed at the head of the snake". In some cases it may be so, in some cases it may not be so. If the followers see that their grievances are being addressed and have some reasonable prospect of resolution, they may cease to follow, and a head without a body is no threat. I think the allegation that "as the head is in place there will always be a tail" is not necessarily true. As long as the followers are angry and disaffected they will always find new leaders, but if the populace is not angry and disaffected the would-be leaders have nothing to work with. If we address the concerns of the follower the leader can be rendered irrelevant, and in cases where the leader's desires are fundamentally incompatible with our interests - and where the leaders have no interest in negotiating with us - this may be a more practical step.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This is where the Afghan Constitution is such a problem. It excludes huge segments of society from participation simply because one man deems it so. This is a recipe for insurgency.
    Doubtless true, and certainly the Afghan constitution is deeply flawed. It is by no means certain that a different document will have better results: societies shape structures more than structures shape societies. In any event the search for a structure that suits Afghanistan is something that has to be managed by Afghans.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    D. It definitely must be not only Karzai-led, but the US must stay out of the picture as far as possible. As I was reading the Kabul newpaper as I flew out on leave, it was full of articles discussing the Peace Jirga. There was some very positive articles. Karzai's efforts are the key to success, and the key for the US is to resist any and all urges to shape or control the same. If this works, then our efforts with the remainder of the insurgency have a hope of taking hold as well, allowing a drawdown to begin next year as planned.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    D. It definitely must be not only Karzai-led, but the US must stay out of the picture as far as possible. As I was reading the Kabul newpaper as I flew out on leave, it was full of articles discussing the Peace Jirga. There was some very positive articles. Karzai's efforts are the key to success, and the key for the US is to resist any and all urges to shape or control the same. If this works, then our efforts with the remainder of the insurgency have a hope of taking hold as well, allowing a drawdown to begin next year as planned.
    Do you think the Taliban have any interest in any outcome short of their return to power? Certainly they have an incentive to put on a show of negotiation if that produces a US drawdown... but would that be a serious effort to reach an accommodation or a strategic move aimed at eventually muscling Karzai out of the picture? What chance does the Karzai regime have of surviving without a continued US presence?

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Personally, I think the Taliban see greater opportunity in working with Karzai than in working with Pakistan. Time will tell.

    By taking the Karzai deal they have a chance to work toward a solution that is a just them (who knows, the world has changed, they will need to reform as well to a stance more acceptable for their populace as a whole, after all, we are in the mix now and enaged in this); where as to continue the fight is to always be beholding to Pakistan.

    So yeah, I think they might take the deal.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    who knows, the world has changed, they will need to reform as well to a stance more acceptable for their populace as a whole, after all, we are in the mix now and enaged in this
    I'm not sure that our presence in the mix is much of an incentive for the Taliban to reform, especially if they see us backing out of the mix.

    Time will indeed tell. Not that any of us can predict what the Taliban or any portion thereof might do, but I suspect that the Taliban might take the deal and then change the deal down the line, or just not take the deal. If they believe that they hold the upper hand, why should they deal?

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    Default Ok, I will try this one more time.

    Col. Jones, I have two main problems with your thesis:

    To begin - a question: How do you reconcile the irreconcilable? How do you address, through governance, populations with mutually exclusive and irreconcilable desires? This is an issue I've brought up several times that you haven't yet addressed.

    The Balkans is a case that illustrates the this point well. I would submit that keeping Yugoslavia together without oppressive force was not possible. Only the gun worked and you're right in the sense that the gun will usually only work for a relatively short period of time. I submit that there was no "good governance" that could have accommodated everyone and kept Yugoslavia whole. Tito opening a dialog with his people to improve governance would only have hastened collapse. Yugoslavia isn't an isolated case - there are certainly other "nations" that are only kept whole through the threat of force. That is a problem that I don't believe "good governance" can solve unless good governance includes dissolving governance altogether and restructuring political boundaries.

    Your call for oppressive governments to hold talks on grievances with the populace might work in some cases, but would fail in states where internal irreconcilable differences exist.

    Secondly, the most important aspect of governance is the ability to actually govern. The ability to govern requires the power to implement and enforce governance, whatever it is, and prevent competitors from implementing theirs. Without that power there can be no governance, much less "good" governance. "OK" governance backed by credible power to actually govern is going to beat "good" governance backed by weak power.

    While I agree there is a lot of bad governance out of Kabul (strongly abetted by the constitution), the government, more fundamentally, lacks the capability to govern at all. The Kabul government couldn't become an oppressive regime even if it wanted to. It's complete dependency on the the US and other foreign powers is only the most glaring sign of its weakness. Weakness = bad governance, even when a government is trying to do good.

    More on a deal with the Taliban tomorrow....
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  15. #55
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Some State constructs are unsustainable

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    Col. Jones, I have two main problems with your thesis:

    To begin - a question: How do you reconcile the irreconcilable? How do you address, through governance, populations with mutually exclusive and irreconcilable desires? This is an issue I've brought up several times that you haven't yet addressed.

    The Balkans is a case that illustrates the this point well. I would submit that keeping Yugoslavia together without oppressive force was not possible. Only the gun worked and you're right in the sense that the gun will usually only work for a relatively short period of time. I submit that there was no "good governance" that could have accommodated everyone and kept Yugoslavia whole. Tito opening a dialog with his people to improve governance would only have hastened collapse. Yugoslavia isn't an isolated case - there are certainly other "nations" that are only kept whole through the threat of force. That is a problem that I don't believe "good governance" can solve unless good governance includes dissolving governance altogether and restructuring political boundaries.

    Your call for oppressive governments to hold talks on grievances with the populace might work in some cases, but would fail in states where internal irreconcilable differences exist.

    Secondly, the most important aspect of governance is the ability to actually govern. The ability to govern requires the power to implement and enforce governance, whatever it is, and prevent competitors from implementing theirs. Without that power there can be no governance, much less "good" governance. "OK" governance backed by credible power to actually govern is going to beat "good" governance backed by weak power.

    While I agree there is a lot of bad governance out of Kabul (strongly abetted by the constitution), the government, more fundamentally, lacks the capability to govern at all. The Kabul government couldn't become an oppressive regime even if it wanted to. It's complete dependency on the the US and other foreign powers is only the most glaring sign of its weakness. Weakness = bad governance, even when a government is trying to do good.

    More on a deal with the Taliban tomorrow....
    Bottom line is that one can't make sustaining any particular status quo a non-negotiable going in position.

    The Balkans naturally broke into to sustainable parts based on the critical criteria of religion that shaped the "teams" when the violence there first erupted. Perhaps someday those states may come back together for reasons of security or economics as issues evolve and change. To have attempted to force a unified solution may have been impossible 10 years ago.

    Forcing a unified solution in Iraq probably complicated things there, and is probably complicating things in Afghanistan as well. We get too wrapped around the axle on how we define a sovereign, functioning state and try to create conditions that meet a model that in truth, (controlled borders) we can't even meet ourselves.

    Even in the US we had to begin with articles of Confederation for creation, and then evolve to a Constitution for growth and survival, and even that was severely tested in Civil War. It was all self-imposed, so we worked through it. Imagine if France would have forced a model on us as the price for their assistance against England? Anything forced by an stronger outside power would have lacked legitimacy and also damaged the legitimacy of our own leaders and we probably would not have made it.

    So I would be cautious as to how we define "irreconcilable"; as we may just mean someone who refuses to share our vision for their country.

    As to capacity for governance, that will come with time. Good Governance is not about effective governance. Like parenting, a young couple that starts off with Good Parenting will make mistakes, learn, and grow into effective parenting. We are too quick to over-value effectiveness of governance. Plenty of populaces around the world do very well and are very satisfied with ineffective governance. Our own model designed by the COIN-master Madison is designed to be ineffective on purpose to facilitate "Goodness."
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    So I would be cautious as to how we define "irreconcilable"; as we may just mean someone who refuses to share our vision for their country.
    I am not limiting things to us vs them or the government vs the governed or even competing visions. In fact, I'm specifically talking about irreconcilable differences between populations themselves. Yugoslavia, again, is a useful example. It wasn't, in my view, a governance problem, but one in which various populations were so at odds with each other that they were willing to resort to murder and ethnically cleansing. They weren't merely revolting against an established government.

    Now it's likely the instruments of government may be dominated or controlled by one of those factions, but one shouldn't, in my view, perceive that as a governance problem since the root cause is the conflict between the populations.

    Which brings me to:

    OK, not sure if that is helpful. Frankly I have admit that I am typically a bit baffled when pundits have thrown on the table with no real explanation as to what they mean that the conflict is Iraq/Afghanistan "is no longer an insurgency, its a civil war."

    Ok, I'll bite. WTF? What do you base this assessment on (asking no one in particular), and how does the making of this assessment help you resolve the problem? I mean, if you can clearly define that situation A. is an insurgency, and therefore is cured with process A.; and that situation B. is a civil war, and is therefore cured with process B.; fine. That is helpful.
    To begin, I've never said that Afghanistan "is no longer" an insurgency. My position is that it's been in a civil war all along. The conflict in Afghanistan before the US invasion wasn't between an established government and "insurgents." There was no established government and so the conflict was a clearly a civil war. We may like to believe our invasion settled that conflict, but I don't think that's the case. Someone has to explain to me how a foreign power's intervention and taking sides in a civil war magically transforms the conflict into an insurgency. Similarly, our intervention supporting the separatists in Kosovo did not settle the conflict and we should expect violence to return there at some point in the future.

    So, our Afghan invasion did not deal with the underlying causes of the civil war. We established what we believe to be a legitimate government and then labeled any opposition to that government "insurgents" and defined the conflict as "insurgency." Our strategy flows from that mindset - that this is, first and foremost, an insurgency and therefore counterinsurgency is the proper remedy. That we hold this view does not make it reality and blinds us from other strategies that might better serve our interests.

    For an illustration, look at our experience in the Korengal and Nuristan. These are areas and peoples that have never been under any kind of significant central control. Yet because they didn't recognize the authority of our client in Kabul, we called them "insurgents" and sent men with guns to convince them that they should cede their sovereignty to our client. We were shocked and dismayed when they continually and violently rejected our proposals which confirmed our mindset that they were insurgents and therefore were an enemy who must be forced or enticed into compliance and loyalty to Kabul's authority. Take off the "insurgency" blinders, examine some history, and the alternative explanation becomes clear - these people are independent, self-governing entities that violently oppose any attempts by outsiders to control or diminish that independence.

    As I was reading the Kabul newpaper as I flew out on leave, it was full of articles discussing the Peace Jirga. There was some very positive articles. Karzai's efforts are the key to success, and the key for the US is to resist any and all urges to shape or control the same. If this works, then our efforts with the remainder of the insurgency have a hope of taking hold as well, allowing a drawdown to begin next year as planned.
    I'm surprised to hear you say this. A newspaper in Kabul represents a very narrow slice of Afghanistan. Do not place too much importance on what Afghan's elites believe. Don't assume what they say is really what they believe either. I'm also not sure how we can resist urges to shape and control when the purpose of all the extra forces we've put into theater is ostensibly to shape and control events.
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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    "There was no established government and so the conflict was a clearly a civil war. "

    I'm not sure how accurate your assessment is, or how universal this definition of Civil War vice Insurgency is.

    What makes a government "established"? A vote? Foreign recognition?

    Afghanistan is unique in that there always tends to be about half of society excluded from full participation in governance and opportunity at any given time; thus making this what I assess as the easiest country in the world to conduct UW in. There is alway a ready, orgainized team in the wings waiting for ANYONE to come along and help them turn the tables one more time.

    The dynamics at work though, are those of insurgency rather than warfare, so I find the insurgency construct to be far more helpful than adopting a civil war construct. If the Northern alliance vs the Taliban was Civil War (and a miltary victory forced the change, so there is some merit to that assessment) it quickly morphed into an insurgency led by the Taliban vs the Karzai government that continues today.

    Its complicated. That's why Karzai's reconciliation efforts are so key, in that he has to bring the excluded half in from the cold to turn the corner on stability.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default English Bill of Rights, 1689

    Far be it from me to cast doubt on the genius and statesmanship of James Madison, but the U.S. Bill of Rights owes its inspiration to an earlier document, the English Bill of Rights of 1689. By enumerating the rights of Englishmen it paved the way for William of Orange's ascent to the English throne. Indeed, like the American Bill of Rights it forbids excessive bails and cruel and unusual punishment. A different light is cast on the meaning of the Second Amendment when compared to the equivalent clause in the English Bill of Rights: "That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law ... " The text of the English Bill of Rights can be read by clicking here.
    Last edited by Pete; 06-17-2010 at 05:50 PM.

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    If factions fighting for control of a country after the collapse of the previous government is not a civil war, then I don't know what is.

    Additionally, the Taliban predates the insurgency. The Taliban didn't rise up against Karzai's government because of injustice or because Pashtuns and their affiliates are being repressed or because the interests of their people could not be represented in goverment. Their agenda (and that of HiG and Haqqani) isn't explicitly tied to poor governance - they have other goals.

    Sure Afghanistan is complicated, and I don't mean to imply there's no insurgency at all there, but if you limit yourself to an insurgency mindset, then you're missing a lot of the picture. For example:

    Afghanistan is unique in that there always tends to be about half of society excluded from full participation in governance and opportunity at any given time; thus making this what I assess as the easiest country in the world to conduct UW in. There is alway a ready, orgainized team in the wings waiting for ANYONE to come along and help them turn the tables one more time.
    Half the population excluded from governance? Most Afghans have always had governance at the local level. Exclusion from national-level governance is just as likely to be by choice as not and that's also an effect of Afghanistan's factionalism, internal division and lack of national consensus. Consider again the example of the Korengalis, Nuristanis and many others. They have governance. The don't need or want anything from Kabul or anyone else unless it's on their terms and in their interest. Others want something from a central government, but only under conditions anathema to someone else. In short, in a complex, multicultural society with a history of violence, asking for centralized governance is probably asking for too much.

    The insurgency mindset pushes us to see things in terms of national-level governance, hence we get the "government in a box" for Marjeh, the long and failed efforts in Kunar and Nuristan to sell governance to those didn't want it, and what looks to be a similar strategy for the upcoming operation in Kandahar. Always the assumption is that solutions and governance must be provided and Kabul/Karzai must be seen to be the providers. I understand your theory is much more nuanced, but the effect of an insurgency mindset on actual Afghanistan strategy is clear.

    Finally, it's good to see that some people are beginning to question long-held assumptions (see here and here with h/t to Bernard Finel).
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  20. #60
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    What makes a government "established"? A vote? Foreign recognition?
    That's the key question, isn't it?

    We've recently shown a tendency to assume that any government we install is "the government" and anyone opposing it is "an insurgent". Those definitions are debatable.

    In Iraq we faced an armed competition to fill the vacuum left by the removal of Saddam. To us that was insurgency, because we had already proclaimed one of the competing factions as "the government". To those who had never acknowledged that faction as the government, this wouldn't have made much sense.

    A definition of what makes a government a government will likely be complex, but for starters I'd say it needs to be acknowledged as a government by its populace, and it has to govern. The situation in Somalia, for example, can't be reasonably called an insurgency because there is no government.

    In Afghanistan, I'm not convinced that the paradigm we hold up - Taliban vs GIROA, US "doing FID" in support of GIROA's COIN - accurately reflects either popular perception or the reality on the ground. Possibly I'm wrong; I hope so.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 06-17-2010 at 11:01 PM.

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