Monday, December 27, 2004

Non-Anonymous Prescriptions

Michael Scheuer (the artist formerly known as Anonymous) has a piece worth reading in today's Washington Times. He starts off by praising the Bush Administration for not taking Pakistan's President Pervez Musharaff to task during the latter's recent visit to Washington, but then admonishes the Administration for relying too much upon surrogates, such as the Pakistanis, to achieve objectives for the Unites States. In particular:

So before Musharraf critics find their voices, it is worth recalling that America's dependence on Pakistan is part necessity and part Cold-War leftover. Necessity because of geography — Pakistan abuts Afghanistan — and leftover because we are asking Pakistan and many other countries to do our dirty work. The Cold War era was pre-eminently one in which America and the Soviet Union had others do their dirty work: We backed the Contras, Moscow backed the brothers Ortega; we backed the South Vietnamese, Moscow and Beijing backed the north; we supported Jonas Savimbi, the Afghan mujahedin and a collection of Cambodian groups, while Moscow backed their opponents. We committed money and political support, our surrogates contributed blood.

This arrangement suited the Cold War era because it keptnuclearswords sheathed. Today it is a recipe for disaster. The pressures and realities of the Cold War are gone, and with them the acceptedparametersin which armed conflict occurs. Cursed with an abject fear of losing the lives of U.S. soldiers, Washington since 1988 has continued to depend on others to do our dirty work. First, Iraqi Shias and U.N. sanctions were to defeat Saddam after we failed to finish the firstGulfwar (1991-2003); then the Saudis were going to capture bin Laden so we did not have to risk CIA officers (1998); and then Afghan warlords were going to capture bin Laden for us at Tora Bora (2001). Next, Hamid Karzai and the Northern Alliance were to win the war and install an Afghan democracy (2003-present); then Mr. Musharraf's Pakistan was going to capture bin Laden for us (2001-04); and, in the future, a rebuilt Iraqi army is to win the insurgency in Iraq (2003-?).

Simply put, the thinking that expects others to do our dirty — and very bloody — work should have died with the fall of the Berlin Wall. If America is to win its worldwide battle with Islamist insurgents and terrorists, it will have to do its own dirty work whenever it has a chance to do so, even at the cost of heavier human casualties than we have suffered to date. This is not to say we do not need allies, for we surely do. What we need, however, is a consistently commonsense perspective that sees that no two nations have identical national interests; that no country will ever do all we want; and that to survive we must act with U.S. military and CIA assets whenever a chance arises, even if supporting intelligence is not perfect. This modus operandi will take a steady application of moral courage at a level unseen in Washington for 15 years.

In weighing the foregoing, readers might ask themselves two questions: 1) How can it be that Pakistan's military has suffered far more casualties than U.S. forces in the war on bin Laden?; and 2) Whatever happened to the "Major 2004 Afghan Spring Offensive" that the Pentagon's multi-starred general-bureaucrats leaked news of to the media back in January 2004? At least one answer to each question is that our governing elites are still desperate to find others to do our dirty work.

This is an important discussion to be having. During the run-up to the 2004 Presidential Election here in the States much was made about the reliance upon proxies at Tora Bora. I have said before in print that the U.S. should rely more upon its own organic punitive strike capabilities, but a case such as Pakistan raises questions. For instance, is it better to use only U.S. means to achieve presumably, but not necessarily, better tactical/operational/strategic outcomes on the ground in Pakistan, but in doing so massively de-stabilize Musharaff's leadership in Peshawar? Or, is it better to have a partner who is willing to show political courage in the face of massive domestic opposition, but have to deal with sub-optimized tactical/operational/strategic performance as a tradeoff? When one factors in Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons, the possibility of a major theatre war with New Delhi, and the fragility of Karzai's hold on the reigns of government in Kabul, my thinking tends towards favoring sub-optimized performance from a genuine partner.
The global war on terrorism ensures that there is, and will continue to be, plenty of "dirty work" to go around. Depending on U.S. strategic interests there will certainly be times when we must do the dirty work ourselves, other times when our interests dictate that we farm it out, and still other times where we divide the tasks between ourselves and others.


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