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Must Read – Pillar vs Nagl on Afghanistan
Posted by on February 23rd, 2010

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By Steve Hynd

Today's "must read" is from The National Interest. Former spook Paul R. Pillar absoluetely pwns CNAS head and Petraeus-buddy John Nagl. The COINdinista is reduced to sputtering "but…we're at war!" and making vague allusions to the threat of Al Qaeda getting its hands on Pakistan's nukes – even though any scenario where that might occur is firmly in Tom Clancy country.

A Pillar snippet:

BASED ON accepted counterinsurgency doctrine, there are ample reasons to be skeptical that the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will succeed. One is the corruption and illegitimacy of the central government. Another is the possible insufficiency of counterinsurgent forces, given the size of the task at hand. Yet another is the lack of time, given the Obama administration’s schedule (politically necessary to reassure Americans the war will not continue indefinitely), by which the U.S. presence will begin to ramp down barely a year after it ramps up.

Whether the counterinsurgency succeeds or fails, however, is not even the main issue in judging whether the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting. The focus on counterinsurgency is a classic case of goal substitution—of dwelling on an intermediate objective while losing sight of why we are pursuing it in the first place. Even if General Stanley McChrystal and the brave and resourceful troops under his command work enough magic to stabilize most of the country and the Karzai government that is supposed to be running it, the large expenditure of blood and treasure will have bought Americans little or nothing in increased safety from terrorist attacks. A successful counterinsurgency would not eliminate the terrorist haven in Pakistan (or even preclude one in unsecured portions of Afghanistan). And it would not address the radicalizing influences and operational preparations in Yemen, Europe, the United States and elsewhere that have far more to do with how many Americans will fall victim to terrorism.

…NAGL IS to be commended for acknowledging that the cost of the war will be “high,” and his reference to five years for building a viable Afghan government and army is more realistic than the Obama administration’s timetable. The next appropriate step would be to acknowledge that the high cost in lives, limbs and money would do little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism.

Good stuff.

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