It’s time to relegate the bankrupt counterinsurgency doctrine into the “dustbin of history.”
By and ,
Foreign Policy in Focus, 3 October 2013
This September marked a potential turning point in America’s long and seemingly bottomless appetite for war. The Obama administration made a pitch for U.S. military intervention against Syria, and the American public didn’t buy it. Across the country, people demonstrated and wrote and prodded their congressional representatives to vote against air strikes, forcing the president to backtrack and agree to pursue a Russian plan to have Syria’s president Bashir al-Assad turn over his chemical weapons stockpiles. This turn of events came just days before the 12th anniversary of 9/11 and may mark the end of an era in which the U.S. public gives carte blanche support to foreign military intervention.
The United States could take this critical moment to learn from the mistakes of its recent past. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the two full-scale wars of the era, the course of intervention followed a similar path. First came the military strikes. These were followed by the military-backed regime changes that installed Hamid Karzai and Nouri Al-Maliki. And then came the massive counterinsurgency campaigns that were launched after these governments failed to gain the full support of their people. As George Ball, undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, warned of Vietnam, “Once on the tiger’s back, we cannot be sure of picking the place to dismount.” In other words, once the path of intervention begins, it’s difficult to stop.
There is also a pattern of counterinsurgency in the larger course of history. The moment of the supposedly limited strike tends to be one of relative war fatigue, which incrementally erodes as U.S. involvement deepens and the war escalates. War fatigue then returns after the cost in dollars and American lives becomes intolerable. A generation later, the cycle begins again.
Taking COIN Out of Circulation
Phi Beta Iota: COIN is pus on the donkey’s ass. The military — and the very good people trapped in a very bad system — is HELPLESS in the absence of holistic thinking, whole of government planning, programming, and budgeting, and a deep grasp of ground truth. For 50 years the US military has been a means of transferring wealth from the individual taxpayer to the banking families, while enabling looting on a scale inconceivable to most minds. People are the center of gravity. People cannot be repressed. Howard Zinn and so many others have made this so clear, but our loosely-educated and morally challenged elites have no interest in getting it right, just in “getting theirs.”
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