“We Americans are spouting ‘COIN doctrinal precepts’ as if they were truth. They are not,” writes a wise commenter at Small Wars Council:
Every war is different. Mao didn’t know it all nor did Galula — or John Boyd. McChrystal’s supposed to be a smart guy; so is Petreaus. Hopefully as both of them gain more Afghan experience they’ll discover that they cannot just shift their Iraq experience and continue the march. Afghanistan is whole different mess and the people and the terrain are very different. Then maybe all the talking heads and unthinking tanks will get on board and realize the same thing. Smart people do a lot of dumb stuff because of the herd effect.
Now, it may be, as one of my visitors pointed out, that things are changing in Kabul, that “there is finally some energy in the process” and that Afghanistan is “finally being treated as a unique location”. But let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that it ain’t so — that in fact it’s not fresh thinking that is driving the planning at The Pope’s HQ but memories of that most mythical of military success stories, the Surge. Is there anything, then, anything at all, that can be learned from Iraq?
Forgive me for being harsh, but I suggest the sooner you forget the damned thing ever happened the better. And it’s not just the obvious differences between the two theatres. It’s the simple fact that the Surge never was a success. In case you still don’t get it, let me put in in italics: The Surge never accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish. Sure, it was an important contributing factor in curtailing the sectarian killing frenzy. And it opened the door for the U.S. to extricate itself from the conflict in a way that politicians in both countries can now call “responsible”. It did not, however, in any meaningful way contribute towards making Iraq a stable country, let alone a democracy, or promoting regional stability, not to mention enticing Iraq to become a U.S. ally. Hell, Iraq was probably closer to America in the 80s during Saddam’s heyday than it is now.
So here’s what I don’t get:
If the strategic goal of the U.S.-led international coalition is not just to find a way out without losing face but to create a stable, terrorism-rejecting Afghanistan that doesn’t threaten its neighbours, why are we wasting time and money on something that already has failed on all counts?