Perceiving Reality

Abu Muqawama speaks blasphemously of 4GW and suggests Clausewitz still holds a place in modern conflict. Here are some of the key passages AM highlights from Sara Chayes’ WaPo article on the Tabiban:

What had in fact transpired, in my view, was a deft, successful psychological operations action by the Taliban. Their attack on Arghandab was designed to communicate, and it did — eloquently. It said that they are here. It said that, despite the likelihood that they would attack after the death of Mullah Naqib, no obstacle was thrown up to oppose them, and they were able to walk into the district. The targeting of the mullah’s house was a deliberate affront. It said: "You see, o men of no honor? You can’t even protect his house. You are nothing now." The sum of these messages was aimed at the ordinary people who are the prize in any insurgency: Our encroachment is inevitable, the Taliban said. You should align yourselves with the inevitable.

Bless. Sarah Chayes understands Clausewitz better than 90% of the officers in the U.S. Army. It’s not about destroying the enemy — it’s about achieving your desired political aim, whether that means your act of violence kills 100 men or none. She also knows what it will take to "win" in Afghanistan:

The only reason Pakistan’s invasion-by-proxy has morphed into something even vaguely resembling an insurgency is that the Afghan people are at the limit of their endurance with a government that pillages and brutalizes them and lies to them barefaced. Judges demand fortunes for positive verdicts. Customs agents expect kickbacks for every transaction. Police officers shake people down or kidnap them for ransom. Six years of depredations by the government have led to its rejection — and to resentment of the international community that installed it and then refused to supervise it. From those feelings of anger have spread pools of collaboration with the Taliban. … [P]roper conduct of government is the best antidote to the Taliban. Provided with accountable, responsive leadership, the Afghan people wouldn’t give that lot a second glance.

Yup. It’s good, and sadly surprising, to see such smart analysis in the mainstream media. My questions: where is our IO on this? Where’s State on this?

2 Replies to “Perceiving Reality”

  1. IO? State? Hahahahahahahaha!I’m not sure that Clausewitz and 4GW are necessarily at odds. My two cents is that there are Clausewitz advocates who think that it is the bedrock for any state v. state conflicts, and that’s the end of the discussion. I think a more liberal interpretation of Clausewitz (mind you, I am not a CGSC graduate) would show that the ways and ends of 4G and Clausewitz advocates are very similar. It’s the means that are different, i.e., the Clausewitz principles of war vice the “global guerilla” approach of 4GW.

  2. I let my antigonism towards 4GW slip through. I don’t think the dead Prussian and 4GW are at odds, and have said as much many times. I agree with your comment, but would argue it doesn’t require a “liberal” reading of Clausewitz as much as a correct reading. Clausewitz didn’t live in the 20th Century with 20th Century institutions… the rules of war were still being formed, the state looked and acted differently (it was, afterall, an adolescent, being born out of nationalism not by some agreement in 1648). Anyways, more on that here.

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