Questioning COIN Assumptions in Afghanistan

Recently, Gen. David Petraeus issued new guidance for the members of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) operating in Afghanistan. This guidance differed little from the direction offered by his fired predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Petraeus’s memorandum states, “Secure and serve the population. The decisive terrain is the human terrain. The people are the … Continue reading “Questioning COIN Assumptions in Afghanistan”

Exum’s Challenge: Game On!

As the dust was settling on what has been glibly called the “Rolling Stan” affair, it became apparent that the biggest damage that reporter Michael Hastings wrought was not in exposing Gen. Stan McChrystal and his staff for their impolitic grumblings, but in challenging the very strategy of the war itself. More specifically, he raised … Continue reading “Exum’s Challenge: Game On!”

King David and His Howling Commandos

As Renaissance political scientist Niccolo Machiavelli noted, the fall of Rome came about when its military elite, known as the Praetorian Guard, gained control over the emperor and the Senate. Had irony survived the Bush Jr. administration, it would relish that America’s empire is crumbling under the undue influence of its military elite, the United … Continue reading “King David and His Howling Commandos”

Richard Holbrooke: Bulldozer Stuck in the Mud

Strobe Talbott once called Richard Holbrooke the "diplomatic equivalent of a hydrogen bomb." Oh, the many ways we could interpret that today. When Talbott, Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state and a friend of Holbrooke, made that comment to the New York Times in February 2009, Holbrooke was riding a wave of fairly breathless publicity … Continue reading “Richard Holbrooke: Bulldozer Stuck in the Mud”

The Forty-Year Drone War

There’s something viral about the wondrous new weaponry an industrial war system churns out. In World War I, for instance, when that system was first gearing up to plan and produce new weapons by the generation, such creations – poison gas, the early airplane, the tank – barely hit the battlefield before the enemy had … Continue reading “The Forty-Year Drone War”

The COIN Myth, Part II

Part I noted that two key requirements of our counterinsurgency doctrine – a legitimate host-nation government and a competent, trustworthy host-nation security force – will never be accomplished in Iraq or Afghanistan. Part II will illustrate the lack of reliable intelligence in our woebegone wars. The counterintelligence field manual that Gen. David Petraeus supposedly wrote … Continue reading “The COIN Myth, Part II”

What to Watch for in 2010

According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. We don’t name our years, but if we did, this one might prospectively be called the Year of the Assassin. We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom. After all, the shock of Sept. 11, 2001, was that "war" … Continue reading “What to Watch for in 2010”

Vagina Monologues

(Scene: The Bizarro Universe, January 1942. Bizarro Adm. William Leahy, chief of staff to Bizarro President Franklin Roosevelt and de facto first chairman of the Bizarro Joint Chiefs of Staff, enters the oval office of the Bizarro White House.) Bizarro Leahy: Mr. President, your national security team has just adjourned after agreeing on what we … Continue reading “Vagina Monologues”