Tuesday, October 6, 2009

COIN Critics Circle

So the Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece about how Obama's civilian leaders and his top military people are reading different Vietnam books. Obama et al are reading Lessons In Disaster, about the terrible and tragic decision-making that led to the escalation of troops in Vietnam in 1965. The military brass are reading "A Better War," which claims the US had finally figured out how to win the war in 1972 and should have stayed.

There are many things that bother me about this article, but the biggest is that it likens the military brass's decision to the rationale behind the surge in Iraq. But in fact, it's the opposite. The reason violence went down in Iraq was because the US bought off the Sunnis, who were the backbone of the insurgency, and turned them against al Qaeda in Iraq in exchange for guns and money. That's pretty much what the Biden camp is proposing for Afghanistan, to separate the Pashtun footsoldiers of the Taliban from the extremist elements of al Qaeda. But the Sunnis had two reasons for coming around to the US side.

1. They didn't like the foreigners in AQI running things and inflicting massive collateral damage on Sunnis.
2. More importantly, the Shiites were slaughtering them. 2006 was a civil war in Iraq, and the Sunnis lost. They faced annihilation and political oblivion if the US hadn't stepped in and agreed to keep the sides at arms' length in exchange for an ending of the insurgency.

Never mind that Iraq is a far cry from a stable, functioning democratic government and probably will be for decades. If we even want Afghanistan to be at the point Iraq is today, the only real lesson of Iraq is to let the Northern Alliance tribes begin slaughtering Pashtuns indiscriminately... and then try to buy off the Taliban when they're desperate.

All in favor of that plan, raise your hands. No hands? Thought not.

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