“The Afghan army is useless and the police are corrupt…So what does McChrystal propose? More useless troops and corrupt police. It’s a counter-intuitive solution…It’s all fine on paper, but that doesn’t translate into success on the ground.”
-Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Counter insurgency (COIN), has largely been the method by which the American Empire has intervened in the Middle East post-2001 and spread…democracy. It pains me to hear that phrase, simply because it papers over the fact we are invading a sovereign country and represents a singular level of jingoism about America. If we spent half as much time and treasure on our own government rather than meddling in other nations’, perhaps a Clinton/Trump election and $20T in debt would not be staring us in the face. The empire always comes home, and I believe in the next six months we will see the tactics used overseas showing up on our front door.
I would suggest another look at what COIN is and during that reading, you take them and replace it with me. Ponder what a truly successful COIN operation looks like, not the failed attempts in the last decade. The Philippine-American war is rather insightful here, and perhaps you may find a few other inconvenient truths about American interventionism. I would also recommend looking at the supposedly successful COIN operation that the British ran in Kenya, and the brutality required for it to succeed. Concentration camps, starvation (quaintly known as ‘food control’), complete upending of the judicial system (special courts for terrorists…something we would never do here), forced labor and a militarization of the local law enforcement. Reading through the implementation of COIN by state actors is equal parts horrific and a word salad justifying the actions and explaining away the failure of it. As an academic exercise I was attracted to the concept, but to see its implementation in realpolitik is altogether a different matter. It is tyranny of the worst kind imposed on an indigenous population, successful only if you are willing to commit incredibly depraved acts as a state actor. The Dangerous History Podcast has an excellent discussion of irregular warfare with Bill Buppert, and I highly recommend it for a quick primer. Much credit goes to both of the gentlemen for putting a fine point on the historical roots of COIN.
The relevance of COIN to the American public is how similar it is to the business model of several of the most recognized legislation in America. It is imperative that I understand and work within the laws of economics, because my livelihood directly depends on my ability to do so. I don’t mean the dark arts of economists who largely compete with weathermen in the predictive accuracy department, but the concrete world of make money…or go out of business. Market share is a large determiner of you business plan, whether you intend to make artisanal bird feeders for $10,000 a unit or sell tacos for $1. Your market share largely determines whether you have a large or small amount of growth opportunity and the volume of your sales. Without getting into the technical aspects, it is one of the pillars of a successful business and a huge factor in determining capital expenditures and the viability of your business model. It does not take an MBA to realize any plan requiring 100% market share to succeed is only somewhat less insane than Greenspan and Yellen’s monetary policies. Obamacare is an excellent illustration of this, a key part of maintaining the financial integrity of the plan is enough net-positive contributors (young, healthy people) to offset the net-negative contributors (older, or chronically ill people). The issue is convincing the net-positive contributors to buy into the plan, when there is a financial disincentive to do so. There are ways to do so, but the government, conveniently enough, can simply frame the question in a way my employer never will be able to. Join or else. Mandatory compliance is a business model only afforded Mordor on the Potomac, and likely one of the reasons they come up with such hare-brained, ill-advised ideas that would never work in the private sector. Social Security is another prime example. Regardless of whether I am willing to sign a binding contract forever releasing myself and the SSA from any monetary obligations to each other, I am still required to pay into it for my own good. Even as part of the 1% in the educational hierarchy, I simply cannot be trusted to know what is good for me.
The moral dilemma that rises out of this situation creates an impossible choice for the state. The problem children must be brought to bear for the plan to succeed or the plan fails, hurting the very people it is intended to help. It devolves into a situation of picking which animals are ‘more equal’ than others. The squeaky wheel cannot possibly squeak enough and must be drug along against its will. I believe you see this in the operational decisions made by empires in the long and sordid history of COIN. The existing social and political order is already destroyed, presenting the occupational force with the choice of success at any price or leaving the people they intended to help in an even worse situation than when the occupational force got there. Consider the situation in Afghanistan, the destruction of cities and basic infrastructure as both sides fought over urban centers and the wholesale upheaval of the social and governmental status quo. Either the U.S. left the country in ruins with the eventual return of government by the Taliban or became the bad guy to beat the bad guy. I simply do not want to contemplate the extent we would have to go to eliminate the Taliban/AQ/IS/___ presence in Afghanistan. You cannot force someone to change their mind and as the British have so amply illustrated in their colonial adventures, you are left with the choice to liquidate the population to the point of nearly 100% compliance.
Those who read my previous post about identity politics and its destruction of the middle ground will see this article as a description of the
possible likely secondary or tertiary outcome of that mentality. That article was originally the introduction to this one, but I felt it deserved treatment as a separate topic. Both sides of the aisle view the other as an insurgency within their own country. The TEA party, at its core, was an expression of frustration by a plurality of the electorate that they did not feel their interests were being represented by the GOP. I believe it was the beginning of the schism we have seen this year, and it was suppressed or sufficiently co-opted to divert the aims of it. Once again it proved the age old fact that the more you beat down on an ideology, the more steel it puts in their spine. Middle America cannot relate or empathize with the coasts and particularly the segment dominating the media establishment and the coverage. Neither can most of the people in Hollywood or the New York/D.C media establishments comprehend how someone in Nebraska or Appalachia sees the world. I don’t think they particularly care to understand how they see the world either, and I suspect middle America has arrived at the same conclusion over the last decade if media’s trust rating is any indication. On November 9th COIN comes full swing onto American shores, and most won’t even recognize it. How far that goes is a matter of speculation, but I don’t see anyone looking to moderate the discussion.
The statists have provided a year-long commercial to those awake enough to see that a one-size-fits-all policy does not work for shoes or people. The statists continue to govern in a way that demands near-100% compliance and it will continue to force them to do increasingly extreme things. Rather than rethink the assumptions that put you into that unwinnable position in the first place, the plodding toward tyranny will continue. The word is often misunderstood, it is derived from the word illegitimate, a status rather than a method. The last time the US government was seen as illegitimate by a sizable amount of the population was in Lincoln’s time, and he also made the decision that to save America he needed to kill a sizable chunk of Americans. Six hundred and fifty thousand Southern souls later, the matter was decided. A large chunk of the country was burned, pillaged and a wound created that is still evident to this day, but he accomplished his goal. Was it really worth 11 stars on the flag? I submit by the time he realized the war would not be over in a couple months, he was already too invested to quit. Free to agree is not free. That goes for the Red Team and Blue Team. When disagreement and non-compliance is not tolerated, or liberty as it’s quaintly referred to, there will always come a point at which no amount of soft or hard power can stop it. Mrs. Clinton will likely be our next president, but I am uncertain she possesses any real grasp of the national zeitgeist, much less what the average person experiences day to day. Whether it is malevolence or simply ignorance, I believe she will alienate and marginalize a large enough number of people to create unrest of one kind or another. Given our government’s inability to see anything beyond the problem directly in front of it, I suspect an overreaction and digression into a COIN approach to American citizens. Regardless of whether it is soft or hard power, the escalation will continue. Brace for impact.