Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dissolving insurgencies

I don't envy the job of any commander, at any level from section to task force, in Afghanistan. They are caught trying to manage an impossible mess, following orders from the suit wearing cowards who keep them there. That said, these commanders are not above saying really stupid things. Brigadier General Vance:

...said Afghanistan could find itself co-existing with a small, ineffective insurgent element as other countries do while still being able to deliver public services and security to its people.

"It is absolutely not an effort that will have a cataclysmic effect on the insurgency," Vance said of NATO's operations.

"The insurgency will succumb to this over time. Insurgencies are rarely broken. They dissolve."

This could be the new talking point. If we stay long enough and do enough development the insurgency will eventually dissolve. Sure, it might. It might dissolve in Afghanistan because the insurgents decide there is nothing to gain there and everything to gain in Pakistan. It might dissolve long enough to let NATO think it's won, withdraw, then flare up again, least of all because the regime we leave will have an institutionalised predilection for using its secret police and armed forces against its citizenry. That is the the nature puppet governments, and a great means of sparking insurgencies.

It's hard to find examples of insurgencies that actually dissolved in the way Vance suggests. In Northern Ireland, the insurgency maintained the fight for decades, and the insurgents never went away, they became politicians and thus powerbrokers in the province. In the Malay Emergency, the Maoists never acheived the critical mass needed to sustain themselves, and their cause partly lost resonance because the colonial power was leaving anyway. In Vietnam, the insurgency in the south was backed by a state in the North, and a bigger state further North. There and in places like Algeria, the foreign power was evicted. Contextually, there is virtually no evidence that the this theory of insurgencies is valid in any way shape or form. Does Vance even believe it himself?

I mean it could be inferred that because NATO/the West does want to leave that this might have an effect of reducing insurgent motivations. But NATO also wants to defeat the insurgency enough to allow development (whatever the hell they think that word means) to proceed, something it hasn't been able to do in almost a decade. In fact, the dominant trend in that period remains the growing entrenchment and spread of the insurgency, despite or even because of our best efforts.

I wonder whether if in the gist of his comments suggesting that an endgame in Afghanistan means the country will have to tolerate a low level insurgency, Vance reveals current high level thinking about the mission. If so, this is also misguided. In effect a low tempo insurgency, if the movement dissolved to such a level, likely means a permanent state of emergency across Afghanistan. Think check points, bombings, assasinations, massacres and the like. It will be brutal, and locals will be caught in the middle, fueling insurgency. Much like the present. Afghanistan is not a developed, relatively wealthy state like Colombia and Spain, with strong enough social, political, economic and military cohesion to prevent FARC or the Basques from metasticizing.They do not have long histories of invasion, war, extreme poverty, and feudal social structures like Afghanistan.

Discussion of dissolution is meaningless rhetoric and not grounded in reality. Like the BP catastrophe there are only attempts, not solutions. And no one really knows what they're doing.

No comments: