Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swallowing the fly in Afghanistan

A moment of illumination in George Packer's profile (subscription required for whole) of Richard Holbrooke and the conundrum he's trying to manage in "AfPak":
James Dobbins, now with the RAND Corporation, couches the problem this way: "There is a gap between the reason we're there and what we're doing. The rational is counterterrorism. the strategy is counter-insurgency."
I'm reminded of the old song:
She swallowed the cat, to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider...,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly...
The problem is that the "fly" does need to be swallowed, and there may be no viable direct path, in an environment that breeds flies.

Then too, this conundrum is really always true of counterinsurgency, or rather of an outside power's support/control of a counterinsurgency. You're not there out of benevolence, but to check the empowerment of a force you perceive as malign and a threat to your own security.

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