Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Way Forward in Afghanistan

The new commander in Afghanistan, as quoted in the WSJ

After watching the U.S. try and fail for years to put down insurgencies in both countries, Gen. McChrystal said he believes that to win in Afghanistan, "You’re going to have to convince people, not kill them.

"Since 9/11, I have watched as America tried to first put out this fire with a hammer, and it doesn’t work," he said last week at his home at Fort McNair in Washington. "Decapitation strategies don’t work."

Discussions - 4 Comments

Of course, once you have a fight, you end it with a balance of force and friendly persuasion. We initially hoped that our helping the Afghan mujahideen defeat the Soviets, and then our chasing the Taliban and al-Qaida from Afghanistan would free the Afghans to build their own democratic nation.

We hoped, just a little, that the Afghans would appreciate our unselfishness and help us finish the job by standing up for themselves. We secured Afghanistan enough to allow free elections and we funneled in billions of dollars to build new schools and highways. Then we stood back a bit, to avoid the appearance it was an American show and to let the Afghans take charge.

But we were accused (or we accused ourselves) of abandoning Afghanistan by not keeping enough troops there to chase bad guys. So now we’re back on the other side of the scale, knocking heads. There is some sense to it. You can’t convince everyone gently that democracy and freedom and tolerance are tood things, and it doesn’t take too many unconvinced suicide bombers to cause a lot of chaos.

No, decapitation by itself doesn’t work with hateful ideologues like these. But when little bands are causing big, bloody problems, a forceful response is a good idea. At the same time, we can continue doing our best to build and educate.

"Convince people" of what? To like us? Good luck! How about simply convinving people in the region not to attack us.

I think the general is on to something here. My friend, who is a Lt. Col. in the army and served in Afghanistan and does war planning, has more or less said the same. Yes, you have to kill the bad guys with guns. But, he has stated that we have to give the people a reason not to harbor al-Qaeda or the Taliban and reasons not to join. It's hard, especially since they have traditional allegiances and grow lots of poppy. But, the army has already developed ways to attempt to persuade the local populace not to support the bad guys. We may not always be successful, but to some large extent, we have been, and will continue to work on winning.

I really don't think we will ever win a PR war in the middle east after all the cold war era dirty tricks and our efforts in the current war. It is always one good thing for every two underhanded. I am happy to see that a significant part of the Iranian population has had it with this game as well. It will be interesting to see how the current mess there turns out and rather our government lays off to cement the despot or applies pressure to try to force the new guy. If we were to refuse to help now, and then attack a few years down the line: what is the message?

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