Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All-out Attack on Counterinsurgency Strategy

Ralph Peters has been writing provocative articles about Afghanistan for quite awhile, and his latest, "Blood for nothing," is an all-out attack on the counterinsurgency strategy advocated by General McChrystal and others.  Here are some key excerpts,
Our soldiers are dying for a fad, not for a strategy. Our vaunted counterinsurgency doctrine is the military equivalent of hula hoops, pet rocks and Beanie Babies: an oddity that caught the Zeitgeist.
He argues that we are "throwing away soldiers' lives for theories that just don't work." Peters blasts the proponents of counterinsurgency,
Our counterinsurgency (COIN) theory -- hatched by military pseudo-intellectuals and opportunists -- has no serious historical basis. It ignores the uncomfortable lessons of 3,000 years of fighting insurgencies and terrorists. Its authors claim Vietnam and Algeria as success stories.
But what about the success in Iraq you ask?
As for the claim that COIN worked in Iraq, it's nonsense. First, Iraq ain't exactly out of the woods. Second, what turned the tide against al Qaeda was . . . al Qaeda. The troop surge helped, but wasn't decisive. We were blessed with enemies so monstrous they alienated the Iraqis they claimed to champion -- and the Iraqis turned against the foreign terrorists.
So what does Peters recommend?
This time around, Vice President Joe Biden happens to be right: We have to focus on destroying our true enemies -- al Qaeda -- and not on naive efforts to turn Afghanistan into Montclair, NJ. Republicans need to stop and smell the ruins of 9/11.
He concludes by asking for top generals to speak out,
Killing our nation's enemies always makes sense. Sacrificing our troops for the Pentagon's equivalent of Beanie Babies is despicable. Won't a single four-star general stand up and be counted?
Read the whole article. One thing I love about Peters is that he pulls no punches. I wish Colonel David Hackworth were still alive. I would love to hear his take on the debate over Afghanistan strategy.


  1. I think the British in Malaysia would argue with Peters as would most of the commanders in Iraq. The same argument that Peters makes about Iraq also works for Afghanistan, unless you believe that people like being stoned for not having a long enough beard or having their hands cut-off for voting. The point of a COIN strategy is to provide security while instituting other changes that will neutralize the enemy by befriending the population. Peters doesn't seem to understand that.

  2. I think Peters understands COIN as well as anyone, he just doesn't accept its validity. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but I think he has some legitimate criticism.

    Personally I think COIN had more to do with success in Iraq than he thinks, but I'm skeptical of its application in Afghanistan, because of the very different conditions, and the almost complete absence of any effective central government. As corrupt and ineffective as the Iraqi government may be, and however shaky the Iraqi military & security forces, they are still light-years ahead of Afghanistan.