Even with half my amygdala preoccupied with Tuesday’s election, I’m unnerved by all this talk about applying the Anbar model to Afghanistan. Lest we forget, here are a few facts about the Sahwat of western Iraq:
- The Sunni Arab tribes, pampered by Saddam, saw their fortunes plummet after the toppling of the Baghdad regime in 2003 and took up arms against the Americans.
- Their fight was hijacked by Salafist radicals, their support base alienated and their smuggling operations crippled.
- Faced with a no-win situation, and with American commanders dangling wads of cash in front of their noses, the sheikhs decided to cut their losses and turn against their co-insurgents.
Now, tell me where exactly are the similarities with the war in Afghanistan?
It’s all well and good to toy with ideas, but we also need to shoot down crappy analogies when we see them. I’m no expert on Afghanistan, but I’ll hazard a guess that arming new factions is the last thing the country needs right now. You don’t bolster a national government in a failed state by handing out AKs to mobs in the provinces. All you will end up doing is making it even less likely the government will ever muster a monopoly on violence, which would be a prerequisite for a functioning state in Afghanistan.