Stanley McChrystal’s Long War – Dexter Filkins excellent profile of America’s top commander in Afghanistan clearly showcases the challenges of going ‘all-in’ and ‘getting out’. McChrystal comes off as vibrant, smart, and worthy General, but the task ahead of him is depicted as likely insurmountable. Here are some choice bits…
McChrystal on counterinsurgency:
“The insurgency has to have access to the people,” McChrystal told me. “So we literally want to go in there and squat among the people. We want to make the insurgents come to us. Make them be the aggressors. What I want to do is get on the inside, looking out — instead of being on the outside looking in.”
McChrystal on negotiating with parts of the Taliban:
“Pashtun culture adjudicates disagreements in a way that mitigates blood feuds. The Pashtun people go out of their way not to do things that cause permanent feuds. They have always been willing to change positions, change sides. I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven; I think they are practically driven. I’m not sure they wouldn’t flip to our side.”
Filkins felt that McChrystal had undervalued the importance of Karzai’s legitimacy:
But increasingly, McChrystal, as well as President Obama and the American people, are being forced to confront the possibility that they will be stuck fighting and dying and paying for a government that is widely viewed as illegitimate.
When I asked McChrystal about this, it was the one issue that he seemed not to have thought through. What if the Afghan people see their own government as illegitimate? How would you fight for something like that?
“Then we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy,” the general said. “That is the key thing.”
Filkins does a fair job in showing both sides of the debate facing the Obama administration right now, more troops to fight the Taliban or a more Al Qaeda-focused counterterrorism strategy, but the aspects that stayed with me the most were the words of Afghans in the Taliban controlled south who voiced their concern that the US could not be trusted because there was no telling how long they would be there. On the other hand, the Taliban weren’t going anywhere. This factor alone affects nearly all other strategic inputs and outputs.
Think Again: God – Vaunted religious historian Karen Armstrong tackles conventional wisdom on the role and importance of religion in today’s Western world. Armstrong tackles such topics and ‘truths’ as ‘God is Dead’, ‘God and Politics Don’t Mix’, and ‘God Breeds Violence and Intolerance’. Armstrong reminds us that religion continues to be a major factor in US culture and politics and international relations.
The Next 100 Years – Stratfor lead analyst George Friedman takes a stab at predicting the next century’s major geopolitical shifts and events. Here’s his eye-grabbing introduction: “Japan and Turkey form an alliance to attack the US. Poland becomes America’s closest ally. Mexico makes a bid for global supremacy, and a third world war takes place in space….”
US Arms Sales – This is more a bit of news than an analysis, but the facts here tell an astounding story. American arms sales lead the world and its not even close. The US sold nearly 70% of all global arms with total sales reaching nearly $38 billion. Second place? Italy with $3.7. Now that’s a gap!
Assassination: A Brief History – This one’s pretty self explanatory. Like all policies or strategies, assassination has its benefits and drawbacks.
Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan Op-chart – A simple, but telling story of the progress in Iraq, and degradation of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last few years. Short and sweet geopolitical info!
The CIA in Double Jeopardy – Another good reason why the Obama administration should drop their prosecution of CIA agents.
That’s it. Well, almost….