Page 4 of 5 FirstFirst ... 2345 LastLast
Results 61 to 80 of 88

Thread: What will our expedition to Afghanistan teach us?

  1. #61
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    "Turn left at Greenland." - Ringo Starr
    Posts
    965

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    1. The form of legitimacy necessery for natural stability cannot be created or bestowed by foreign power, but rather must be bestowed by culturally accepted ways across the populace.
    I think this lesson is conditional and unique to specific circumstances. What is "natural stability"? History is replete with examples of military occupations imposing culturally unacceptable systems of power without any kind of legitimacy (legal, political, cultural, or other); some episodes with less conflict than others. The Soviet Union managed to do so in a dozen countries at the end of World War II with limited resistance - why did partisans fight the Nazis but not the Soviets? Why are there no partisans in North Korea? I doubt it has to do with legitimacy. Ultimately, power (re: coercion), not legitimacy, determines outcomes in environments with little or not political constraints. The problem we have in Afghanistan is not that the US, West, or Karzai administration is illegitimate but that their opponents have the power to resist (that in turn fuels perceptions of illegtimacy). The basic power of the state is its monopoly on violence, which obviously is in serious contention by vying political factions. So we have run into the basic problem that we have neither destroyed the enemy's will or capabilities, while watching our own will erode, and thus the basis of state legitimacy - the monopoly on violence - remains in contention.

    Legitimacy as you seem to articulate it is relevant in framed political environments in which cultural and legal norms establish acceptable ends, ways, and means for action. This is where the political object constrains the military act (i.e. rules of engagement), even if not always perfectly rational, it in some way seeks to mitigate the problems you cite with legitimacy. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is mission achievement (addressed later in this post); how missions are selected, executed, and relate to one another and broader policy is another issue altogether.

    2. To maximize foreign influence one must first minimize foreign control.
    I don't think this is a lesson that can be extracted from the experience of Afghanistan -- at least not to the extent that it can be used as a hard and fast rule for future conflicts. In one sense you are correct -- committing to one course of action, in this case military intervention comes at the cost of all the other actions that could have been taken at that moment. Is influence any more desirable than control? Since ultimately we are more concerned with the ends than the means then the answer is "it depends". For Afghanistan specifically, I would argue that mission achievement cannot be attained without foreign control; the central Afghan government is virtually powerless without either support from abroad or from the regional political factions of the country. This is probably the central lesson about Afghanistan specifically. And if our interest is in imposing globalized political norms and reducing freedom of action of terrorist organization, then we must to some degree do it ourselves.

    3. Winning is not preserving some government in power or destroying some threat to the same. Winning is when the % of the population who perceive themselves as stakeholders in the solution of governance grows.
    "Winning" is achieving our established objectives, however defined. But this occurs on multiple levels - the selection of poor tactical objectives can lead to tactical victories and operational failures, and so on up the chain to the national level. At the end of the day, when it comes down to measuring competing interests, everyone else and everything else is expendable.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  2. #62
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    We'll just have to disagree.
    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)

  3. #63
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA
    Posts
    1,117

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I think this lesson is conditional and unique to specific circumstances. What is "natural stability"? History is replete with examples of military occupations imposing culturally unacceptable systems of power without any kind of legitimacy (legal, political, cultural, or other); some episodes with less conflict than others. The Soviet Union managed to do so in a dozen countries at the end of World War II with limited resistance - why did partisans fight the Nazis but not the Soviets? Why are there no partisans in North Korea? I doubt it has to do with legitimacy.
    I am going to respectfully disagree with you. Even thought you state that human nature is conditional, you seem to think that legitimacy is unconditionally monolithic. It is not. Leadership at any level, with or without a political entity, can be viewed as legitimate or illegitimate, by the population it attempts to sway. The concept of legitimacy is ubiquitous - it is not restricted to the realm of politics. A religious leader can be seen as legitimate; a professor can be seen as a legitimate authority, the actions of a judge can be seen as legitimate if she follows the proper procedure. Political legitimacy is only a small part of what legitimacy is. Legitimacy is adherence to the values of the population.

    I am pretty sure that most North Korean's see Kim as the legitimate leader in the same way as most surfs saw their King as the legitimate leader. His legitimacy is based in a different set of values, values tied to in-group survival similar to those of any clan or tribal group. Do you think the people of Kenya really wanted a War Criminal as their president over other, more liberal leaders, or do you think that the Uhuru Kenyatta's methods of suppressing outsiders fit more with the population's views on how different groups should be treated. Don't think it is all that unusual. George Wallace was elected governor on a segregationist platform in a first world country. in-group/out-group dynamics are very powerful under the right conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Ultimately, power (re: coercion), not legitimacy, determines outcomes in environments with little or not political constraints. The problem we have in Afghanistan is not that the US, West, or Karzai administration is illegitimate but that their opponents have the power to resist (that in turn fuels perceptions of illegtimacy).
    Not true. It is this misunderstanding that has caused us to believe that legitimacy can be imposed. Control can be imposed on the people - Legitimacy is granted by the people.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    The basic power of the state is its monopoly on violence, which obviously is in serious contention by vying political factions. So we have run into the basic problem that we have neither destroyed the enemy's will or capabilities, while watching our own will erode, and thus the basis of state legitimacy - the monopoly on violence - remains in contention.
    Again, I disagree. The monopoly on violence is a benefit of legitimacy. Violence can be legitimate, as when a police officer uses necessary force to apprehend a murder and the state, after all proper procedures are followed, execute that murderer. The people see that act as legitimate. The original act of the murder is not seen as legitimate. The murder can intimidate the population into refusing to testify, but that does not make the act legitimate (or make him the legitimate authority in the community, although it may make him the unopposed power in the community).

    Likewise, when a political entity continually acts in a manner that part of the population views as illegitimate that part of the population may no longer feel compelled to obey the political entity and may take up arms to enforce what it sees as legitimate authority - as in the case of religious fighters taking up arms to defend a religious state against a secular invader. In their minds they are committing no crime - they are not acting illegitimately. They are acting as a legitimate authority should act. You can suppress this urge with force or bribery, but it is still there, just below the surface.

    Think of legitimacy as a weak force, like gravity. It is always there, but it can be overcome by a stronger force, like the lift produced by the wings of an airplane. Think of coercion as the lift. With enough propulsion the plane can ascend into the air but it requires constant thrust to maintain speed and overcome gravity. If that thrust is lost gravity will pull it back to the ground. Coercion can overcome legitimacy, but it requires a constant effort to continually suppress it.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Legitimacy as you seem to articulate it is relevant in framed political environments in which cultural and legal norms establish acceptable ends, ways, and means for action. This is where the political object constrains the military act (i.e. rules of engagement), even if not always perfectly rational, it in some way seeks to mitigate the problems you cite with legitimacy. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is mission achievement (addressed later in this post); how missions are selected, executed, and relate to one another and broader policy is another issue altogether.
    The problem in Afghanistan and Iraq is that mission objectives were tied to political results. The mission was not complete when we took control of the country. The mission was complete when we created a democratic state. Our mistake was to define a military objective in terms of a political result. I don't think that is a mistake that we can avoid. If one assumes that war is the extension of policy, and our policy is to spread democracy, then it is a mistake we are bound to continue to make.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 05-15-2013 at 12:13 AM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  4. #64
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    "Turn left at Greenland." - Ringo Starr
    Posts
    965

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon
    The problem in Afghanistan and Iraq is that mission objectives were tied to political results. The mission was not complete when we took control of the country. The mission was complete when we created a democratic state. Our mistake was to define a military objective in terms of a political result. I don't think that is a mistake that we can avoid. If one assumes that war is the extension of policy, and our policy is to spread democracy, then it is a mistake we are bound to continue to make.
    I partially agree. I agree that specifically it was a mistake top define "our policy... to spread democracy" insofar there are numerous conditional variables which make such an ambitious project mostly unreachable and it's questionable whether it is in our material interest to do so. However I disagree that it is a mistake to "define a military objective in terms of a political result." Ultimately, the desired "political results" should determine the shape of the military operations, even if not perfectly rationalized or connected, and the military objectives must eventually produce favorable political results to be justified. Now of course there any number of reasons why the selection or execution of political and military objectives may not pan out in the desired way.

    As for the discussion on legitimacy, I think we are speaking past one another to some extent. I think that legitimacy is conditional and thus not always relevant (this depends on the selection of the desired political results and the chosen military objectives). My point is that I do not think legitimacy is a fundamental component of our problems in Afghanistan -- it's a second-order effect from our desired political results and selected military objectives. Legitimacy is conditionallly based upon the frame we have constructed around the conflict and our approach to it. This plays out on multiple levels (faction infighting, media satuation, cultural norms, etc); and its importance is not because it is inherently valuable but because these things have been made important by actors with the ability to make them important. What x% of the population thinks is legitimate vis-a-vis military operations in Afghanistan is not inherently relevant to our conduct and our performance unless; there must be a material consequence for their views one way or another and to the extent that it affects our performance.

    EDIT: Political actors can act with or without legitimacy, however defined. The monopoly of violence originates from an asymmetric material advantage in capabilities and organization over potential competitors. Legitimacy is not necessary for it to exist or to function. The apperance of legitimacy can emerge under any circumstance; it can be as much a function of support as well as of hopelessness. When that monopoly fails, it invites contention -- weakness begets weakness.
    Last edited by AmericanPride; 05-15-2013 at 05:20 PM.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  5. #65
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA
    Posts
    1,117

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I partially agree. I agree that specifically it was a mistake top define "our policy... to spread democracy" insofar there are numerous conditional variables which make such an ambitious project mostly unreachable and it's questionable whether it is in our material interest to do so. However I disagree that it is a mistake to "define a military objective in terms of a political result." Ultimately, the desired "political results" should determine the shape of the military operations, even if not perfectly rationalized or connected, and the military objectives must eventually produce favorable political results to be justified.
    I agree with you that the military objectives must produce the conditions favorable for the political result, but military objectives can only go so far to do that. The Army is fantastic at defeating any other comperable ground force. Less good at acting as a occupying force. Horrible as acting as a police force, particularly with the language and cultural barriers. And woefully unprepared to act as a democratic civilian governing agency. Unfortunately, that is what they have been asked to do, with some notible successes. Force only gets you so close to a political objective like a stable, democratic Afghanistan.


    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    As for the discussion on legitimacy, I think we are speaking past one another to some extent. I think that legitimacy is conditional and thus not always relevant (this depends on the selection of the desired political results and the chosen military objectives)..
    I agree. For most of history legitimacy on the level I am refering to rarely mattered. A king replaced another king, and the local lord was either killed or he pledged allegance to the new king. In this case there is no question of legitimacy. But when you are replacing traditional legitimacy with democratic legitimacy it is a different story. This has really only become an issue in the last hundred years or so.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    My point is that I do not think legitimacy is a fundamental component of our problems in Afghanistan .
    Here I disagree. If the political objective is a stable, democratic Afghanistan, legitimacy is the only issue. It does not matter how many Taliban you kill, or how many roads you build, or schools, or hospitals -- if the people still want an autocratic state built on patron-client (warloard) relationships, then you have failed.

    And if you are simply replacing one coercive power with a more effective coercive power, you have still failed, even if you are the undisputed power in the country. That is not democracy, that is a military state.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 05-15-2013 at 08:11 PM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  6. #66
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    "Turn left at Greenland." - Ringo Starr
    Posts
    965

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Here I disagree. If the political objective is a stable, democratic Afghanistan, legitimacy is the only issue. It does not matter how many Taliban you kill, or how many roads you build, or schools, or hospitals -- if the people still want an autocratic state built on patron-client (warloard) relationships, then you have failed.

    And if you are simply replacing one coercive power with a more effective coercive power, you have still failed, even if you are the undisputed power in the country. That is not democracy, that is a military state.
    So, we have two questions: (1) is "the political objective a stable, democratic Afghanistan" and (2) if so, is "legitimacy the only issue" (emphasis added)?

    The first question has a number of related questions: is it the only objective? Is it the most important objective? Does it contradict other objectives?

    In 2003, the objectives in Afghanistan were stated as the following:

    1.Eliminate the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan.
    2.Convince or compel the Afghan Taliban to end its support for Al Qaeda.
    3.Demonstrate that the United States is not at war with the Afghan people or Islam.
    4.Demonstrate U. S. resolve in the war on terrorism.
    5.Build international support for the war in Afghanistan.
    6.Stabilize Afghanistan following the fighting.

    None of these explicitly mention democratic government. Of course, there is significant domestic and international pressure for democratization through politics, think tanks, media, legal systems, and political expectations and norms. The narrative that eventually emerged could be summed up in the democratic peace theory: democracies don't war with one another, therefore, if Afghanistan was a democracy, it would not sponsor terrorism against the United States. A component of this argument included the line of thought that freedom would diminish radicalization.

    What does this have to do with legitimacy? And what kind of legitimacy is necessary? In entering Afghanistan, the US had legal, political, and moral legitimacy, at least according to the norms of the globalized West, in retailation for terrorist attacks on its soil. And if the principles behind the maxims of "you break it, you own it" and "to the victor goes the spoils" is not any US action "legitimate" in some regard? My point is that defining legitimacy is nebulous, and achieving it is impossible; nor do I think from any material perspective, does it enable, justify, or complete the exercise of power. It's certainly a component of politics because legitimacy becomes an aspect of influence in the absence of power (e.g. one's inability to compel another to do one's will).

    This is especially more difficult in the context of conflict, given that trust is notably absent and that numerous actors have sufficient power to act independently; why would anyone obey if they didn't have to? So what comes first, power or legitimacy?

    State cohesion relies on coercive power (military capabilities, law enforcement, etc) to compel citizens and/or subjects to comply with desired practices; this is true regardless of the type of government in place. Even citizen participation in government (i.e. democracy) can also be compelled, and this is true for countries with weak and strong democratic institutions. This is the case because power is ultimately expressed materially.

    There is no inherent contradiction between achieving all of the objectives highlighted above in addition to having a "democratic" Afghanistan, while simultaeneously not having "legitimacy".
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  7. #67
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA
    Posts
    1,117

    Default Apples and Oranges

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    So, we have two questions: (1) is "the political objective a stable, democratic Afghanistan" and (2) if so, is "legitimacy the only issue" (emphasis added)?".
    I agree with your questions. I also agree with the first part of your argument in regards to the original objectives as well as your basic arguments regarding why, from a foriegn policy perspective, the US would be interested in exporting democracy (the democratic peace theory). Where you and I fundamentally disagree is what you might call a "the Chicken and the Egg" argument, and I would call an "Apples and Oranges" argument.


    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    This is especially more difficult in the context of conflict, given that trust is notably absent and that numerous actors have sufficient power to act independently; why would anyone obey if they didn't have to? So what comes first, power or legitimacy?
    Your Chicken and Egg argument: which comes first power or legitimacy. You say power, with legitimacy following at some later date as the population comes to accept their submissive roles.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    State cohesion relies on coercive power (military capabilities, law enforcement, etc) to compel citizens and/or subjects to comply with desired practices; this is true regardless of the type of government in place.
    I would argue that these are apples and oranges. Coercion and Legitimacy are two completely separate things: one is not derived from the other.

    Coercion, which I would define as including both force and bribery, is based on an external pressure. Legitimacy, founded in the values a person holds true, is in internal motivator. The external pressure of fear (force) or the desire for goodies (bribery) can overcome what a person holds as right and true, but it does not change what they believe it right and true. It can only suppress it.

    The use of force and coercion are not the same thing. The use of force by any entity can be either coercive or legitimate depending on how the population percieve the act. You and I disagree on this fundimental point as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    There is no inherent contradiction between achieving all of the objectives highlighted above in addition to having a "democratic" Afghanistan, while simultaneously not having "legitimacy".
    Here I think you are confusing the US military's legitimacy to act, the Karzai government's legitimacy to rule the country, and the distinction between systematic political legitimacy at the national level. I am referring to systematic legitimacy - what is the source of political entities legitimacy. In a theocracy it is God; Monarchy is the King (usually via a grant from God); Democracy it is the individual citizen (We the People,...). You would argue that if we could just gain total control of the country we could impose the type of systematic legitimacy we desire (When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow). I believe that our experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan prove that this is not possible.

    As long as we maintain pressure and offer material support the Afghan government will maintain the illusion of democracy. Once that pressure is gone it will return to what others have called "natural stability" - a homeostasis where the legitimacy the people prefer and the legitimacy of the government will more closely align.

    As for how we moved from stability to democracy, I will refer you to an article from the Military Review, Policy, COIN Doctrine, and Political Legitimacy , for a more complete description of that process.

    I don't believe that you and I are going to agree, but we don't have to.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 05-17-2013 at 01:36 PM.

  8. #68
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    American Pride, you may want to consider a nuanced change of that handle to American Hubris.

    What does this have to do with legitimacy? And what kind of legitimacy is necessary? In entering Afghanistan, the US had legal, political, and moral legitimacy, at least according to the norms of the globalized West, in retailation for terrorist attacks on its soil.
    You seem to believe that what is legal is also proper. You also are assessing "legitimacy" from the wrong perspective. What is perceived anywhere outside of Afghanistan is totally irrelevant for purposes of the stability of governance there inside of Afghanistan.

    Did we have legal legitimacy? Certainly, but then we are in charge of what is legal or illegal for these types of activities, so that is a bit of a false flag to operate under. I suspect if the Chinese or the Russians would have done the same thing for the same reasons we would have found their activities to be illegal.

    It can be good to control the law, but never confuse operating within laws one controls with also making ones operations under those laws proper.

    We never, however, had "political legitimacy." Perhaps with the American populace, but again, the perspective of the American populace is only important for purposes of stability in America. Did the Northern Alliance /GIRoA patron populace recognize the legitmacy of our actions to lift and sustain them in power? Probably, though even their patience is wearing thin as we ignore what they think is important to pursue and focus on what we think is important.

    But we never had, and never will have, political legitimacy with the other half of Afghan society that we deposed from patronage power through our actions. And that is the half of society where the insurgency is coming from.

    Just like your assessment of the nature of governance in North Korea in an earlier post. Certainly it looks pretty bad in the DPRK from what we know here in America, and as assessed through the lens of what an American thinks the standards for good or legitimate or effective governance are. But truthfully, we have no real idea how the people of the DPRK perceive or feel about their government. Surely some are not happy, but we don't know who, how many, what groups they might represent, or how significant those perceptions are. To me DPRK looks like a classic case of artifical stability, much like what exists in the KSA; but the reality is that DPRK may very well have fairly natural stability. It is much easier to operate at a lower standard when people don't know any better. The more informed the people are, the higher the standard is that governments must strive for in order to either maintain order through an artifical system (where security forces have the primary mission of protecting the government from the people), or naturally stable systems (where security forces have the primary mission of proctecting the people from each other in the day to day purusit of life, liberty and happiness as defined by that culture).

    Cheers,

    Bob
    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)

  9. #69
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    "Turn left at Greenland." - Ringo Starr
    Posts
    965

    Default

    @Curmudgeon: I accept your definition of legitimacy ("founded in the values a person holds true, is in internal motivator"). And I agree with you about coercion, force, suppression, etc.

    But I don't see how the acceptance of whatever form of established governance by an arbitrary percentage of the population's version of "legitimacy" is necessary or relevant to achieve the definied military objectives and political outcomes. If anything, the lesson from Afghanistan is that clear and achieveable aims are necessary, must be communicated to every level of government, and should avoid mission creep (i.e. how stability become democratization). Is it an "illusion" of democracy? Or a "military state"? Does it matter?

    If it's true, as Bob states, that "what is perceived anywhere outside of Afghanistan is totally irrelevant for purposes of the stability of governance there inside of Afghanistan", then we should not be concerned with legitimacy at all. Our focus should be exclusively on the fulfillment of our own interests, legitimated by Afghans or not. And if the Afghans get something out of it, good for them.

    You would argue that if we could just gain total control of the country we could impose the type of systematic legitimacy we desire
    To some extent I would argue that; but as I've stated, I'm less concerned about "legitimacy" than I am about outcome. Can the objectives be achieved without "legitimacy"? If so, then why are we concerned about it? And if the "legitimacy" of the local population is unattainable, why is it an objective?

    As Bob stated:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World
    But we never had, and never will have, political legitimacy with the other half of Afghan society that we deposed from patronage power through our actions. And that is the half of society where the insurgency is coming from.
    If both of these statements are true, then what other recourse is there other than the use of force? When there is a collision between two equal forces, who or what decides the outcome? There are no common frameworks for US and opposition actions (i.e. legal structures, norms and values, etc); so who is legitimate and who is illegitimate? So, really, it comes down to who gains the material advantage and who suspends his actions because the material cost is not worth the gain of continued conflict -- legitimation for either party will not aid in the conflict unless there is a direct material advantage cultivated from having "legitimacy" (however measured). And if we're going to investigate the meaning of "legitimacy" why do we assume that the occupants of any defined area of land have any more legitimate right to deciding political outcomes than anyone else? If "what is perceived anywhere outside of Afghanistan is totally irrelevant" then we must also dispose of any Western metrics that measure the organization, values, and behavior of Afghan political actors; up to and including the idea that any "tribe" or "nation" within Afghanistan is at all relevant to the formulation and achievement of our political goals outside of their impact on our own interests. That is, if "legitimacy" and the things that constitute it are transitory, then they are disposable, and if they are disposable, why are we concerned with preserving them if that comes at the costs of our own interests?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World
    American Pride, you may want to consider a nuanced change of that handle to American Hubris.
    @Bob:It's not hubris. I don't think America has any special rights or dispensations. I think every government has interests, and every government will pursue its interests while it has the power and freedom to do so. That America, with its power and freedom, failed to articulate and achieve any meaningful objectives in Afghanistan over 12 years is a strong signal that America should beware of hubris.
    Last edited by AmericanPride; 05-21-2013 at 06:53 PM.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  10. #70
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA
    Posts
    1,117

    Default The How and Why of war

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    So, really, it comes down to who gains the material advantage and who suspends his actions because the material cost is not worth the gain of continued conflict -- legitimation for either party will not aid in the conflict unless there is a direct material advantage cultivated from having "legitimacy" (however measured).
    Here you have distilled the fundamental problem with the United States Army on the macro level. We are all about the how, we don't think about the why. Let me explain.

    The US Army's mission is to fight and win America's wars. It defines winning on a military level - destroying the enemy's ability to continue to fight by destroying his material war-making ability: how an enemy fights. We design tactics and strategies to destroy his planes, tanks, and weapons and eliminate his fuel and industry so he can no longer support his war machine. The logical result is surrender. It is a material based strategy, and one we have perfected though our wealth, industry, and technology.

    But it is not designed to look at why an enemy fights. It is designed to take and hold land, not win over the population. This is perfectly reasonable since the outcome of major wars since the industrial revolution have been largely centered on material advantage, as almost any foreign policy realist will remind you. But recently that changed. In the last hundred years or so there have been instances where the big industrialized power could not defeat a materially lessor enemy. That is because we were not fighting to win the why.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    And if we're going to investigate the meaning of "legitimacy" why do we assume that the occupants of any defined area of land have any more legitimate right to deciding political outcomes than anyone else?
    No, we don't have to. We did not with the American Indians, we just killed them off and then re-educated them more in line with what we thought were the proper morals and values - what we believed made a government legitimate. The English did the same in the Boar war. It was a common tactic, until it no longer became politically viable at home. Historically speaking, Mai Lai should have been the way things got done in Vietnam and that tactic probably would have worked in the long term. Remove those who think you are wrong and all that is left in the population are those who think you are right or who are to scared to get involved. But it was not an acceptable way for a democracy to act at home. It is not that we can't win, it is that we no longer feel that winning using these methods is an acceptable way for a modern Army to act.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    If "what is perceived anywhere outside of Afghanistan is totally irrelevant" then we must also dispose of any Western metrics that measure the organization, values, and behavior of Afghan political actors; up to and including the idea that any "tribe" or "nation" within Afghanistan is at all relevant to the formulation and achievement of our political goals outside of their impact on our own interests.
    Yes, and no. Certain western ideas, like the nation, are primarily western ideas and we have imposed them on the rest of the world. We are now suffering the revenge of the map makers as the lines we drew for convenience turn out to be inaccurate in terms of reality. But a Tribe is a Tribe everywhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    That is, if "legitimacy" and the things that constitute it are transitory, then they are disposable, and if they are disposable, why are we concerned with preserving them if that comes at the costs of our own interests?
    Legitimacy, like the values you hold dear, is not disposable. Would you walk away from all you believe is right and good tomorrow because someone asked you too? Are your beliefs in right and wrong transitory? Would you be willing to fight with an army that believed that rape was an acceptable tactical technique, and participate in the rape of women as part of your duties as a Soldier? Or would you fight against those who felt that tactic was acceptable. Don't discount the power of simply being human.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  11. #71
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    861

    Default

    Zaid Hamid explains the Paknationalist viewpoint about Afghanistan

    http://www.brownpundits.com/2013/05/...medium=twitter

    The US expedition to Afghanistan has been awful in many ways. The Pakistan expedition even worse (for Pakistan and Afghanistan), both in its US supported and financed phase and in its more ambiguous recent phase. But is it possible that both Pakistan and the US (or enough influential people in both..obviously they are not unities) can still learn enough to make the next phase less of a disaster?

  12. #72
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default

    I wrote out a big long reply to this, but then my computer crashed so I'm going to keep this one short. I think the definition of legitimacy needs revisiting in terms of its importance to counterinsurgency. I am working on a thesis attempting to create a model of insurgent conflict that incorporates the population and both repressive and soft government approaches.

    Legitimacy can have the value-laden meaning put forward in this debate so far, but more important is legitimacy derived from being able to back up your words with actions. This lends itself to understanding legitimacy from a political economy perspective rather than a normative one.

    The oppressive government that chooses to obliterate population centres associated with insurgent groups needs to convince the population that it will do so if it has to have the desired effect, namely force the population to stop supporting the insurgent group.

    The same still applies to governments who attempt to use the softer 'carrot' approach. Socioeconomic improvements and good governance are only going to have the desired effect if the government can legitimately claim to be able to keep providing them in the long term. Upon doing that the population will change its behaviour in order to maintain access to these incentives - one aspect of which will be the provision of security (the military aspect of the ops).

    In Afghanistan the first option was, for good reason, not available to us. So we had to pursue to softer approach. We lost legitimacy not because we held fundamentally different beliefs to the Afghan people but because we did not provide the positive changes we promised. Largely because we placed in power a whole load of people who had no incentive to alter their behaviour to make those changes.

    Democracy to this end does not create legitimacy because it idealises freedom, but because it creates a mechanism for the people to hold the government to account for failed promises. This makes the government more likely to adhere to promised improvements, knowing it will be removed if it does not. This makes long-term promises more legitimate. In Afghanistan they are rejecting democracy not because it does not sit right with their beliefs, but because democracy to them has just seen the same old people returned to power and made them powerless to resist - other than through the insurgency, which is only attractive to a few. Perhaps this is our big mistake in the West, being single minded in that democracy is the only way to create this mechanism - without understanding how more traditional systems of government create the same effect and better incorporate these into the system of government in Afghanistan.

  13. #73
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA
    Posts
    1,117

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mustardobardo View Post
    Democracy to this end does not create legitimacy because it idealises freedom, but because it creates a mechanism for the people to hold the government to account for failed promises.
    Not really, that is a common misconception. Democracies are designed to allow the general population the ability to have input in the political process, but it really does not hold anyone responsible for anything. It is too slow. In the American Federal system people are elected for two to six years. Once elected, it is very difficult to get someone out. If it was really designed to hold people accountable it would have a recall process that would be on a regular basis. I can only think of one recent instance of that happening, and it was a state governor, not a federal Senator, Representative, or President.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 05-22-2013 at 11:04 PM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  14. #74
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SOCAL
    Posts
    2,152

    Default

    Gents,

    Talk of democracy, legitimacy, chicken and eggs, is fascinating and deep stuff, but I am going to prune it off into its own thread shortly.

    Please take a tactical time out and reserve this thread for discussions of more concrete Afghanistan issues.

  15. #75
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Not really, that is a common misconception. Democracies are designed to allow the general population the ability to have input in the political process, but it really does not hold anyone responsible for anything. It is too slow. In the American Federal system people are elected for two to six years. Once elected, it is very difficult to get someone out. If it was really designed to hold people accountable it would have a recall process that would be on a regular basis. I can only think of one recent instance of that happening, and it was a state governor, not a federal Senator, Representative, or President.
    Before we get canned - you are confusing practice and theory. First, two to six years is very regular in political terms. Moreover, democracy is 100% designed to allow the general population to hold politicians to account - do individuals find ways to subvert that mechanism, absolutely. And it is to the detriment of our systems that we have not updated them over the years to iron out these kinks. When that happens though the system is no longer democratic. However, because that happens so often in practice it does not take away from the fact that democracy's principle purpose is to create a responsive and accountable government.

    In terms of Afghanistan I think this is a fundamental question. In Afghanistan we were too quick to equate democracy/elections with good governance, and that led to rushing through a poorly designed constitution that did not in anyway reflect the structure of society in Afghanistan. This led to 'democracy' being coopted by vicious powerbrokers rather than having a pacifiying effect on them as we would hope, essentially making the government as undemocratic as ever. Good governance is the absolute key to defeating an insurgency through the methods we espouse. If you make improvements in that area everything else falls into place because you create a bottom-up pressure on the insurgency to use political means to support those it claims to represent. The biggest lesson we need to learn is that you cannot take short cuts on making sure that the system of government reflects and mitigates potential cleavages in society. We have suffered every minute of this campaign and are still suffering today from our failure to do this in 2002, and one way or another the highly centralised formal system of government we currently see in Afghanistan cannot last.

  16. #76
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    In the most fundamental terms, free from the spin of any institutional or nationally promoted definitions of any of these terms, I think it is important to never lose sight of the fact that "Insurgency" - "Democracy" - "Tyranny" are all stops on the same line, separated only by ""Legality."

    Democracy allows for legal, internal, populace-based, challenges to governance. When the legality of such effective challenge is denied to some part or whole of the affected populace one has illegal challenge. That is insurgency. When the incumbent acts illegally to stay in power one has tyranny.

    So, even in the United States where we have a form of democracy, if a political challenger resorts to illegal means to attempt to gain office, it is insurgency. If an incumbent politician violates the law in an effort to stay in office it is tyranny. Sadly we often have a good bit of both.

    These are not absolutes, where there can only be insurgency or democracy or tyranny - these conditions typically co-exist, separated by shades of grey and weighted based upon the dynamics of any particular point in time.

    Now take that to Afghanistan: Democracy dedicated to the formal exclusion of the Taliban is Tryanny. Democracy that allows no legal vehicle to challenge the Northern Alliance-based GIRoA established by the US and NATO provokes insurgency. When we set out by design to create a "Democracy" that foments both Tyranny and Insurgency, it is not really democracy at all.

    It is popular to believe one can resolve such things from "the bottom up." I have yet to see where that has been true, and frankly struggle to visualize how one could make it work. But certainly one can create these problems from "the top down" - after all, that is what we did in Afghanistan.
    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)

  17. #77
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Northern New Jersey
    Posts
    40

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Not really, that is a common misconception. Democracies are designed to allow the general population the ability to have input in the political process, but it really does not hold anyone responsible for anything. It is too slow. In the American Federal system people are elected for two to six years. Once elected, it is very difficult to get someone out. If it was really designed to hold people accountable it would have a recall process that would be on a regular basis. I can only think of one recent instance of that happening, and it was a state governor, not a federal Senator, Representative, or President.
    I would disagree with you, to a point. Gross abuses (like say, former representative Weiner, former Governor Spitzer, etc- I'm offering these examples because they're on my mind and somewhat familiar to me) can be called to account in a representative system by putting pressure on their associates who are up for reelection soon. If Elliot Spitzer was Saddam Hussein's brother in law, I have no doubt he would have been left in his position.

  18. #78
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Berkshire County, Mass.
    Posts
    896

    Default

    I was looking over the Afghanistan-related articles on my laptop and found an article from 2000 which seems to have aged well. The concluding paragraph:
    The disintegration of the state paradoxically opens such possibilities, though the criminalized economy has created interests that will resist it. Peacemaking also has dangers: attempts to exercise economic pressure on Pakistan risk precipitating a worse crisis there. Attempts to weaken or replace the Taliban could easily lead to the return of anarchy and predation and a yet more bloody civil war. But unless peacemaking can transform powerful economic actors into agents of peace, it will be limited at best to halting fighting in one place before social and economic forces provoke it once again elsewhere in this dangerous region. Without such an effort, spread of both conflict and the regional war economy remain the most likely prospect.
    If you donít read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. Ė Mark Twain (attributed)

  19. #79
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    13,352

    Default A veteran adds

    There are no new lessons here, only one rather important old precept: before you engage in a war, understand the environment you are going into, precisely and realistically what it is you are trying to achieve and will it be worth the cost? In other words have a strategy.
    A pithy comment by a former UK civil & military veteran of recent conflicts, Frank Ledwidge, whose views are not "on message" for officialdom. It comes from pre-publication publicity for his new book - so a fuller post on The UK in Afg thread.

    Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013...tain-37bn-book
    davidbfpo

  20. #80
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    861

    Default

    Why the doom and gloom? it was an unnecessary, costly, mismanaged boondoggle, but its not like the US has lost the war. In fact, NATO is on the verge of victory.
    From an American citizen's perspective, the war (and other expensive adventures undertaken in the name of the war on terror) are/were loaded with incompetence, corruption, honest mistakes, dishonest mistakes etc. But that does not necessarily mean its ended in historic defeat (it could, but it doesnt NECESSARILY mean that). In this case, NATO may yet "win".
    It wont be pretty, but it wont be the straightforward defeat that, say, Vietnam was.
    Overoptimistic?

Similar Threads

  1. Defending Hamdan
    By jmm99 in forum Law Enforcement
    Replies: 35
    Last Post: 05-22-2011, 06:36 AM
  2. NATO's Afghanistan Challenge
    By Ray in forum OEF - Afghanistan
    Replies: 74
    Last Post: 05-13-2011, 04:11 AM
  3. Afghanistan: A Silk Road Strategy
    By gbramlet in forum Blog Watch
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 03-15-2011, 06:17 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •