Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unknown Unknowns

This from Fred Kaplan over at Slate:
"At an otherwise uneventful hearing before the House Armed Services Committee this morning, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said something that should confirm and heighten most people's apprehensions about the war's escalation."
And goes on to comment that it was Savior-General McChrystal saying he had a lot to learn about the 'Stan.Umm, actually, Fred, no. That's just the way generals work. I'd be surprised if Ike knew all the details of the conditions inside the German infantry divisions defending the beach at Normandy. His G-3 and G-2 knew, though, and used that knowledge to make Ike's invasion plan work. McChrystal has staff, and his subordinate units' commanders and staff, who know their AOs better than he ever will.

No, what I heard on the radio yesterday morning that made me shiver was our modern day Little Mac tell the congresscritters something to the effect of; "You'll see, by 2011 the Afghan people will see the results of our success and see the benefits of siding with their government."

Now THAT is scary. First of all, it assumes that we're going to lick this ice cream cone in 18 months. That's lightning speed for a domestic rebellion. The Sri Lankan and Indian troops took, what, 30 years to clean out the LTTE?

Second, and most frightening, is the bland assumption that all this military goodness will drive Abdul and Miriam Lunchpail into the lovin' arms of the government in Kabul. THAT'S real crack smoking. The average Afghan is loyal to family first, clan second, tribe third, probably some sort of weak regional feeling last and Kabul every third leap year, if ever. No amount of force yet applied has changed that, and is unlikely to.If McChrystal really believes that - and is not just blowing smoke up the Congresscritters' collective butts - then he really DOES have a lot to learn about the 'Stan and we really ARE in trouble.


  1. Green Shoots Everywhere.

  2. This part is what caught my eye...

    "McChrystal understands the central importance of this dimension. He and Petraeus (who is now U.S. commander of the entire region) have talked a great deal about exploiting divisions within the Taliban, splitting off its nonideological factions from the fundamentalists, and luring local or tribal leaders to join us in battling the insurgents.

    Okay, Minnie Mac understands sh*t is my take home message here.
    Any plan that involves shifting alliances from one group to another makes them all ideological faction players.
    Whether the ideology is religion, money, political power, women, lil'girls, lil'boys, opium, food, whatever the ideology itself becomes the currency of purchasing the loyalty.

    And from what I can see...the only currency we're offering the shortsighted, and self-serving warlords is, "oh hai, joins us, we haz Karzai kookies! MmmmmMmmmm, they'z zo guds, u can haz karzai kookie 2's"

    Yeah, my first inclination is is this: The first warlord who joins us should be shot because no one who has lived in that region is going to accept our proposal unless they were gaming it for themselves somehow...and they will unass the bandwagon as soon as they see they're not getting what they wanted which is Minnie Mac isn't saying because he knows exactly what he's offering these guys...bait and switch.

    Overall, I would say Minnie Mac's presentation is confirmation that we are totally, and irrepairably hosed in Afghanistan.
    What plan we do have blows chunks, the operation level of the command structure has proven themselves incompetent (using SF as mainline troops in an up hill battle against entrenched insurgents, stuffing mainline forces right into the maw of a strong insurgent force while ignoring warnings from neutrals saying that a strong insurgent force was incoming...Jesus H. Christ what more evidence do we need that the idiots are in charge over there!!!!), and the worst part of it all is that without a doubt...Minnie Mac's wishful thinking is not going to be accomplished in the time span he was hoping.

    Why didn't one of the congress critters grow a pair and say, "Mr. Minne Mac, indulge me this opportunity to say this to someone who should know better...just because it worked in Iraq doesn't mean it's going to work in the grave yard of empires! Come back to us when you know what you are talking about."

  3. I really don't get this "exploiting divisions in the Taliban" thing that seems to popular lately. We did that with some limited success back in 2002-2003 and there is still an amnesty program. There are conservative political parties who are closely aligned with the Taliban that have won seats in the Afghan parliament. Most of the mechanisms for "splitting" people from the Taliban are in place, though I supposed we could throw more money at it. And can someone explain to me exactly what a "nonideological" Taliban is vs. a "fundamentalist" Taliban. Use of those terms in the context of Afghanistan in 2009 is, frankly, ignorant.

  4. Andy,
    It's all about words. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance then you must dazzle them with--------.
    The fact is that we are the interlopers, and nothing can change that facxt.

  5. Jim: I'd argue that Afghanistan's history has been FULL of interlopers; it's the crossroads between the Asian heartland, the Middle East and the subcontinent. Every gomer since Alexander has tramped through it.

    BUT...there's a smart way to be the interloper and the dumb way. Standing out in the middle of the unfruited Afghan plain building roads, killing tribesmen and waiting for the survivors to come to you on their knees begging to embrace the puppet you've set up in Kabul is about the dumbest way I can think of.

    Andy: I think it's supposed to be a 21st Century version of "divide et impera". The problem is that we've backed the wrong horse; the Karzaites were picked by their warlord partners for the very reason that they were a hapless gang of venal stooges.

    What I see as the BIG problem is that the war of all against all that's been going on there since 1980 has pretty much eliminated any real contender for a passable strongman that we can rely on. We have no Akbar Khan, no Zahir Shah in the hustings we can rely on to pull the strings for us. Short of Obama marrying some Pashtun Roxana and settling the entire 10th ID around Kabul with their Afghan brides I can't see any of the classic elements in place that have enabled outsiders to keep a handle on the place...

  6. Chief,

    A lot of the "ideas" floating around in the last year, like this split-the-Taliban thing, are recycled and have been tried before, but the people advocating for them don't seem to realize it. These people haven't botherered to reseach the last seven years of Afghan history much less the last 700. Most of this stuff was tried in 2002-2007 when the Kagans and most of the rest of the world were looking at Iraq. Since the Kagans can't be bothered to do actual research, the only difference between them and some random dude blogging naked from his livingroom is access. That counts for something but is only going to result in bias confirmation without a greater understanding of recent-ancient history.

    There was this "scholar" on NPR two days ago who went into some detail about this idea to talk to "moderate" elements of the Taliban. This guy is a Yale World Fellow yet doesn't know that his "idea" was implemented back in 2002.

    I don't claim to be any kind of expert on Afghanistan though I probably know more than most people. What I do know, however, is that one should do some fucking research before writing an op-ed in the LA times on your "new" great idea for Afghanistan. It's very frustrating....

    BTW, the copy-paste function only works about 10% of the time I'm on this site which is pretty annoying. Blogger needs to fix its friggin comments.

    Anyway, agree with your last paragraph Chief. I would add that historically the Pashtuns have dominated the other ethnic groups but really isn't possible anymore.

  7. Andy: Tho I would bet even money on the eventual strongman coming out of the Pashtun. They have always been the big dog in the Afghan fight.

    Sadly, probably the most sensible thing to do would be to erase the Durand Line, create something called "Pashtunistan" from southern and eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan and let the Pashtuns do what they do best: fight amonst each other.

    Then the Pakistanis could revert to being mostly Sikhs, Rajputs and Kashmiris and the rump of Afghanistan could be mostly Tajiks and Hazaras.

    The resulting mess would probably be just as chaotic and tribal, but at least without the brutal business of trying to integrate half the Pashtuns into Afghanistan and the other half into Pakistan...

  8. "First of all, it assumes that we're going to lick this ice cream cone in 18 months."

    I'm not sure I would read it that. I would say, using your analogy, that he said that the Afghani people will see that there is a Maggie Moo's store in their neighborhood and not just a grocery store with vanilla Turkey Hill ice cream. Of course, doesn't mean they're coming into the store.

    I think I confused myself with the analogy.

  9. Chief, these people aren't on crack. They're just a bunch of liars. Their biggest challenge lies in keeping their stories straight.

    It's pretty clear to me that McChrystal's reference to 2011 is meant to coincide with the prez's lie, er, promise, that there will be an 18-month surge followed by withdrawal of troops. You know, the promise that, as "clarified" by Gates and other unelected officials, clearly means nothing? That promise that Obama made, but that he clearly does not intend to honor? Yeah, that's the one.

    That's why, IMO, McChrystal chose the words he did to show his ass to the world, to demonstrate that he doesn't have a clue as to what he's doing. He's not alone in this. Ain't a one of them—from Obama on down—that knows what he or she (yes, Hillary) is doing. They're just making it up as they go along. And they don't even care how apparent it all is. They're so used to being surrounded with stupid people or by courtiers who, if not stupid, dare not tell the truth, that they now believe their own horseshit.

    McChrystal and the rest of the generals don't give a shit. They'll retire and go to work for defense contractors or as network "experts." Gates is already rich and he'll go back wherever he came from. There will a lot of Democratic congressmen looking for jobs after the elections next November. But that's OK. They're rich, too. And if they aren't, if they haven't managed to steal enough during their time in office, shame on them. They weren't good enough for the USofA.

    An ever-increasing chance that Obama is kind of guaranteeing that he'll be a one-termer. Given how volatile the nation is, that's not at all out of the realm of possibility. But he won't care. He got his Nobel Prize; he's a statesman. He's also rich and he'll get even richer. The only problem he'll have is the Clinton/Bush problem: what do relatively young healthy dudes do after the presidency? Well, actually, you can rule Bush out of the "problem." I forgot he doesn't do work. Obama will likely follow the Clinton lead; also, don't be surprised to see Michelle in politics.

    So if it isn't the prez, the politicians or the generals who ultimately takes it up the old tail pipe, who is it?

    You know who.

  10. Today I filed a new PEGC amicus brief in Kiyemba v. Obama, S. Ct. No. 08-1234:

    CBG Amicus

    All of the merits briefs for Petitioners and amici are here:">Kiyemba Merits

    I'm too tired to write more, but read it, and for the big piucture see the Petitioners brief.

  11. Publius,
    Yes it's all a lie , but imo these idiots do believe the spewings that they offer as truth or policy.
    How did it come to this? What's the next step?
    I really expect the worse and that is not a good place to be.
    I appreciate your sharing with us. It helps my thinking.

  12. "An ever-increasing chance that Obama is kind of guaranteeing that he'll be a one-termer."

    I'm messing in another country's domestic politics, but my gut feeling still disagrees with you.

    My best guess is this:

    The fringe right will mobilise enough followers to win the Rep primaries for 2010, but will need to compromise by accepting a true conservative as VP candidate.
    They'll fail badly in the 2012 election by completely missing all topics that the vast majority cares about.

    The failed, conservative VP candidate will become relevant in a Republican shift to sanity during Obama II and finally the Republicans will have good odds in 2016.

    Here, I wrote it. I'll point at this in late 2012n if I was right and I expect all of you to forget this comment if I was wrong.

  13. My opinion is that President Obama's chances for a second term will hinge on the economy and, barring some spectacular event, Afghanistan will have minimal impact.

    Thanks for the kind words Jim.

  14. I think Obama's chances for a second term are pretty solid simply based on there is not Rep front runner of any interest. I don't feel that the GOP will give Palin another chance, which as scary as it is, she is the GOP's only real "interesting" candidate. And so she will probably pick up the 3rd party and conservative voters will be split.