Thursday, April 02, 2009

Regarding American force and the escalation in Afghanistan 

In a nice post on the war in Afghanistan, Richard Fernandez reminds us that the United States concentrates its enemies merely by acting:

American involvement in a foreign political and military struggle creates effects in two directions. On the one hand it empowers the the side which it assists with training, financial aid, intelligence support and a variety of force multipliers, up to an including direct military action. On the other hand, US presence can also pull in geopolitical enemies, serve as a rallying point to unite nationalist forces and mobilize the not-inconsiderable anti-American forces of the Left. American involvement is an accelerant of violence. It is also the primary force against the same violence. Effects in the positive direction flow directly from the application of real physical resources. The negative effects largely stem from the symbolism of American involvement. Since downsides to American involvement are a “fixed” cost, the net effect of US intervention is a function of how many real resources are committed to the fight. A large symbolic American commitment without a correspondingly substantial effort of force is the worst of all possible worlds. If the US goes into this fight, it should make up its mind to see it through. In this case, Napoleon’s advice still rings true. “If you’re going to take Vienna, take Vienna.”

Doves are right when they say that American intervention causes the enemy to "recruit" more soldiers, but that does not mean, ipso facto, that America should not intervene in a particular situation. Combatants always increase their manpower as a war progresses until one side settles into strategic decline; Germany had more soldiers under arms in the summer of 1943 (after American intervention and the defeats in North Africa, Sicily, Stalingrad and Kursk) than in 1941, but that does not mean that its strategic position had improved. Quite the contrary.

The trick, of course, is to know that your actions will concentrate the enemy and to prepare for that eventuality in advance. The first four years of the war in Iraq were perhaps more difficult than they needed to be because our civilian and military leadership did not pay sufficient attention to this problem in their planning.


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By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Apr 02, 09:35:00 AM:

Things change. AP reports today that 20 insurgents were killed in Afghanistan!! On Tuesday 31 militants were killed!!! Now that W is gone there are no civilians, women and children being killed, just insurgents and militants!!

Hope and Change. Peace.  

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By Anonymous Hangtown Bob, at Thu Apr 02, 10:37:00 AM:

Drawing in and concentrating the enemy also allows one to focus his offensive actions on them. The old flypaper strategy.  

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