Wednesday, December 24, 2008

tactical import

i realize that they're just trying to recreate iraq's "sunni awakening" in afghanistan, but isn't relying on local militias exactly what rumsfeld did when the u.s. forces first entered afghanistan? i thought the prevailing wisdom was that osama bin laden managed to escape tora bora because the u.s. relied upon local militias (i.e. the northern alliance) rather than its own troops. isn't the whole idea behind obama's surge-for-afghanistan plan to make up for the bush administration's earlier mistake of relying too much on locals?

i think the real problem is that the u.s. keeps believing its own initial hype about the success of a tactic in one conflict and then importing it into the other before all of the ramifications of that tactic become clear. thus, the harsh interrogation techniques that were viewed as a success in afghanistan were imported into iraq leading to messes like abu ghraib. and rumsfeld's perceived success in taking afghanistan with only a small number of u.s. troops was used as a justification to overrule the generals who said a half million troops were needed for the invasion of iraq. in retrospect neither of those tactics really worked, either in aghanistan or iraq. but that wasn't clear until the u.s. had already committed itself to the same mistake in a second country.

now that this year's fad is to proclaim iraq a "success", the flow of tactics is reversing directions. they want to recreate the "sunni awakening" in afghanistan, even though using local forces as a proxy has already been tried and failed there. and obama wants to use the "surge" concept from iraq (even though he originally opposed it), to ramp up the military commitment in afghanistan. there doesn't seem to be any consideration of the down side of each of those tactical decisions, down sides that are already apparent in iraq. one of the major problems in iraq right now is figuring out how to incorporate the sunni members of the awakening councils into the mostly shia and kurdish iraqi army. and the challenge of the surge in iraq is how to get those forces safely out. can't we have a rule that no new tactic will be tried until someone considers the problems it raises and not just the ones it is supposed to solve?