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Redefining The War On Terror

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President Bush created the amorphous concept of the War On Terror partly as a semantic device for domestic consumption (them v us is a great seller in the heartland) and partly as a doctrinal approach to foreign affairs. But while neoconservatism is clearly discredited, there is one element of the broad sweep approach to Middle Eastern affairs that might be worth preserving – at least in military terms.

World War Two was massive and highly fluid conflict where troops were sent to where they were needed to achieve strategic goals. If we pursue this model a little further, we might be able to revise the dialogue that we’re currently having on how to deal with the Iraq and Afghan conflicts, both of which are in very different states of play right now.

General Petraeus is easily the most influential officer in the US military today. He has expressed his flexibility and realism since his arrival in Iraq. He knew full well that negotiating with the enemy, and using the power of the dollar was far more important in Iraq than another few US brigades on the ground. The “surge” was a neat political slogan, but it was not the decisive factor on the ground. Now – in his capacity as head of US Central Command, he represents the political cover that Obama needs to redefine the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our relations with Iran and Pakistan.

Instead of seeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tensions with Iran and Pakistan as separate conflicts, we need to see them as part of the same push for stability in the region. Quick response US forces should be able to move from one hotspot to another without political consideration. This concept has numerous political advantages for Obama, as well as being sound military strategy. Republicans are just waiting for Obama to pull out troops from Iraq only to witness a massive flare up of violence. The cries of ‘surrender’ will soon follow. But that can be prevented.

Firstly, we need to redeploy active duty forces from Europe to the Middle East Theatre, so that we never have to experience a dangerous shortfall in Iraq. Secondly, we need to focus on quick-response brigades, and fast moving Special Forces units to achieve our goals. Thirdly, we need to stop deluding ourselves that the Iraqi and Afghan forces will be able to handle their own security. That will only happen once the politics of the region are completely normalized (think Vietnam in the Nineties). Fourthly, we have to utilize technology to its fullest to tackle the enemy. More Predator Drones please. Fifthly, and most importantly, we have to use the power of the dollar. Every dollar spent on the ground buying off some warlord is worth way more than paying for another round of ammo that some poor grunt is going to spray around the empty streets.

Religion and tribal loyalties are always trumped by the dollar. It’s the reason why the Sunni Awakening worked in Anbar. It’s the reason why we can win in Afghanistan. As long as we stop looking at that war as modern – rather than what it really is – medieval, we can achieve stability. The warring factions can be bought. We have the money to buy them.

By coordinating our efforts on a command-wide basis, Petraeus and President Obama can begin to bring the various problems of the region under control. From the West, it goes like this.

  • Syria. It’s role is small. We need to encourage its entry into full negotiations with Israel, and promise economic support and removal from the terror list in return for serious progress in that regard.
  • The Iraqis want us gone, and Obama is inclined to agree. But what they really want is Americans off the streets. Which is fine, because that’s where they incur casualties. Keep US bases going outside Baghdad and in key strategic areas, and just watch. If there’s trouble – we act. It’s cheaper in lives and money, it’s politically more acceptable, and it frees up troops.
  • Iran. We need to change our whole approach here. Complete post to come on this, but on the military front recognizing that we cannot win a war there is key. It’s a highly nationalistic nation of 65m. Forget it. However, we should covertly try to locate their centrifuges any way we can. Useful bargaining tool for the future.
  • Afghanistan. Boost troop levels there by 2-3 full divisions. Use Afghan forces in Kabul and garrison US forces in the South at the sharp end. They should engage the Taliban without exposing themselves by getting too deep into their terrain. Rely on Special Forces to dole out the money and spread havoc in Taliban recruitment deep in their territory. Combine that with a nationwide program to pay farmers not to plant poppies and we choke off Taliban financial supplies. This should go hand in hand with cutting off their Arms and Volunteer routes.
  • Pakistan. Let’s recognize that the Islamists are just not that strong there. The support for Al Qaeda is far softer than we fear. We need to discredit and undermine the ISS, Pakistani Intelligence Services, marrying that to support for the democratically elected President and economic support. We should continue to range freely with Special Forces in the North West Territories but admit nothing to the Pakistani authorities. We know Bin Laden is in the hills. It’s really time we captured him as a propaganda coup.

The key to this process is seeing the various parts of the theatre as fluid. When there is a chance for decisive improvement in our strategic position on one front we move troops there. When we are weak in another area we channel forces there instead. It’s how wars are run.

Oh, and one more thing. We need a goal. Forget Demorcracy. We’re looking for Stability. That only comes with Security – both military and economic. We must provide both hand in hand. We can’t rely on indigenous forces and expect to leave. I hate to say it, but McCain was right – we might be there for decades to come. And it might be money and time well spent.


Written by coolrebel

November 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm

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