Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nagl = McNamara?

You may remember Tom Hayden (and not only because Jane Fonda married him). He was one of the 1970s anti-warriors, and like some of them whose brains were not totally fried in their youth he has enlisted in today's STOP THE WAR brigade. He has an interesting piece in the Hartford Courant--it's syndicated, so presumably appeared elsewhere as well--entitled 'McNamara's Ghosts in Afghanistan'. Apart from taking one more gratuitous kick at poor Bob McNamara's corpse, he gives us this trope on today's 'best and brightest':

Gen. David Petraeus is the product of an elite university. So is his surrogate spokesman in Washington, John Nagl, at the think tank of the best and brightest, the Center for a New American Security.

So is Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the Special Operations spook presiding over Afghanistan and Pakistan. So are Petraeus' Harvard collaborators on the new Marine and Army counterinsurgency manual. So is their top counterinsurgency guru, David Kilcullen who writes of reviving the Vietnam Phoenix program of detention and targeted killings, not only in Afghanistan, but globally.
And this, about Obama's Afghan 'surge':
None of this makes any Americans safer. If anything, more civilians will grow to hate us in both countries; some of those civilians will join the Taliban or al-Qaida, the Europeans will soon be abandoning the NATO military mission, Russia will be enjoying payback for what the Americans did to them in Afghanistan, and President Obama will be trapped like Gulliver in a Long War he cannot afford, can never win and dare not lose.
I wouldn't have given any of this a moment's reflection if I hadn't been reading Kilkullen's book. Early on, he notes that the 'Stan has more than 40,000 villages. Crikey! To put a platoon in each of them would require 1.6 million troops!

And that reminded me of something John Nagl wrote in the NYT in January (scan down to 'More Troops, and Lots of Them'), to the effect that it would require 600,000 counter-insurgents to properly police the 'Stan. To put this in perspective, the Afghan National Army amounts to 134,000 men and the police to 60,000. Perhaps we could beef them up to 200,000 men (I think we can safely assume that they are all men). That leaves a shortfall of 400,000. That's more than the total combat strength of the US Army (10 divisions) and the US Marines (3 divisions). Blue skies! -- Dan Ford


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