Monday, January 11, 2010

Acting With Intelligence Versus Acting On Intelligence

The most recent proof that "Military Intelligence" is an oxymoron would be comical if it hadn't been so tragic. It's the the story of the double agent, trusted by his handlers, who blew away himself and seven CIA agents recently.

Here's a Boston Globe column which raises an interesting point of view regarding what Afghans might and might not be capable of in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. I think H.D.S. Greenway might be on to something here.

Since it's been observed several times recently that if our goal is to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age, the problem is that it's been done already, and we're just reorganizing the rubble.

On top of that, counting on getting uneducated and illiterate people, with little and no experience in forming effective hierarchical, top down, command and control organizations, is a fool's errand. Such institutions assume the existence and participation of trained, disciplined and motivated military and/or security personnel who accept being a part of such organizations.

These peoples' vast experience over hundreds of years is of a tribal nature, a far different cultural animal than we are asking them to accept, embrace and believe in.

As usual, our tunnel vision, black and white, keep it simple bureaucrats and military commanders, could benefit greatly by immersing themselves in the study of cultural anthropology, focused on backward, to our way of thinking, people. They need to understand that because a geographical area on the planet has been given a name, Afghanistan for example, it doesn't follow that such an area is a successful nation state in our sense of the term. At best the successful cultural and political unit is the tribe.

The disconnect, as in trust and respect, between the tribes and the Kabul government is obvious. The only thing they seem to have in common is the assumption that corruption is a part of, and way of living.

As we get more involved in Yemen, as it seems we are, we will find this true in that inhospitable land as well. Al Qaeda needs sanctuaries that tribal cultures can provide; locals they can woo and bribe, who will, as tribes do, protect them as their own. There are many such cultures available to them; those in the lands called Pakistan and Afghanistan are clear examples, and they see Yemen and Somalia as other lands, nations in name only, in which to thrive, thanks to the sanctuaries of inhospitable, to outsiders like ourselves, terrain and indigent peoples.

One of the great ironies in history, as I see it, is that America exists today because tribal like units in the colonies, used guerrilla tactics to defeat the disciplined, trained, hierarchical, top down command and control, British Army, but since then we've reverted to that same top down, command and control strategic model our revolutionary, guerrilla colonists fended off.

It seems to me that, historically, the usual outcome of such conflicts, those pitting close to the land defenders against regimented would be colonial occupiers, could more accurately be described not as defeating the enemy so much as denying it victory.

The psychological, perhaps spiritual, advantage which defenders have over offenders of their lands and cultures is at least two fold, which on first blush might seem to be inconsistent in terms of human nature. One is passion and the other is patience. Passion without patience can be vulnerable to destruction and defeat. Passion with patience is likely to prevail in most conflicts in which humanity is prone to engage.

You heard it here first. I want my epitaph, carved into my headstone, to read, "When Will We Ever Learn?"

Lighthouse Keeper

No comments:

Site Meter