• Bonehead at New York Times Completely Fails to Get Counterinsurgency

    January 11, 2013

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Military

    I grow weary of “journalists” who don’t get counterinsurgency. So I’ll try and use simple words: We kill the bad guys so that the LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT can assert its control. The key to why almost every counterinsurgency struggle fails (Vietnam and Iraq are my faves) is the absence of that legitimate government. The U.S., using massive firepower, clears a hole that is filled either by the legitimate government should one exist, or, if not, by the insurgents, or, in worse case scenarios like Libya, no one and chaos ensues.

    If you are Alissa Rubin of the New York Times, or know her, or read her dumb ass piece on Afghanistan in the Times, please re-read that opening paragraph above until it makes sense. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    Reporting from Helmand Province

    Rubin reports to us from Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the once-to-be center of Greater Georgebushistan, when the U.S. had any plans for Afghanistan other than trying to figure out the best way to just make it all go away. It seems while we’ve been at the bar waiting for a table, 21,000 Marines have been surging the heck out of Helmand, clearing naughty Taliban out left and right. Rubin is now surprised that since the Marines have cut back to about 6500 on the ground, the Taliban are “creeping back.”

    Counterinsurgency tip no. 147: Don’t fight the big guys, especially when you know they’ll only be around for a short while. Let them surge in as you surge out and then when their numbers drop off, move back in and reclaim your turf. Still not sure? Watch what cockroaches do when you flip on the kitchen light at night– do they stand on their hind legs and try to tear the insecticide can from your hands?

    Now back to that legit government. Rubin does seem to have a bit of a clue when she quotes a local:

    Afghan forces now control his district, he said, but will not be able to hold it unless “the foreigners manage to get rid of corruption in the Afghan government, in the districts and the province levels.”


    “Before the Marines launched this big offensive, Marja was the center of the opium trade,” said Ahmad Shah, the chairman of the Marja development shura, a group of elders that works with the government to try to bring change here. “Millions and millions of Pakistani rupees were being traded every day in the bazaar. People were so rich that in some years a farmer could afford to buy a car.

    “We were part of the eradication efforts by the government, and if they had provided the farmer with compensation, we could have justified our act. But the government failed to provide compensation, and unless it does so, the people will turn against us or join the insurgency and be against development, as they were during the Taliban.”


    A corrupt government that fails to ensure the livelihood of its people will not win a counterinsurgency war. The Marines can hold off the Taliban temporarily indefinitely, but they will never be an Afghan government.

    To wit from a half-wit:

    Hajji Atiqullah, the tribal leader in Nawa, says the road between his city and the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, has been life-changing. “This road will last for many years, and I think people will remember it as one of the biggest contributions of the American Marines,” he said.

    Other economic benefits, however, are dwindling as the Western troops leave. The surge brought jobs for many rural residents. There were small irrigation and construction projects, which are finished now. In Marja alone, about 1,400 people were hired to work for the informal security forces set up by the Marines at the height of the surge, according to elders in Marja. But when the Interior Ministry began to integrate these forces into the Afghan Local Police, they offered places to only 400, said Mr. Shah, the chairman of the development shura. As the rest find themselves jobless, village elders say, they will turn to whoever will protect them, even if that is the Taliban or criminals.

    Counterinsurgency tip no. 672: If the government must rely on foreign troops to protect the people, it cannot be seen by the people as legitimate.

    Looking for an Optimist

    Rubin wonders “So why, then, was it so difficult to find an optimist in Helmand Province?”

    Let’s help her figure that out by calling the Times and reading out loud to her: “Counterinsurgency will always fail without a legitimate government and Afghanistan does not have one. The Afghan government was created by the U.S. for our own domestic political purposes. It is corrupt. It cannot secure its people and cannot provide them with a way of living.”

    Let us now return to the words of the best writer on counterinsurgency, Bernard B. Fall, who covered both the French and the American defeats in Vietnam. Fall said:

    The French in Algeria learned every lesson from the French in Viet-Nam. The troop ratio there was a comfortable 11-to-1. The French very effectively sealed off the Algerian-Tunisian border, and by 1962 had whittled down the guerrillas from 65,000 to 7,000… It cost 3 million dollars a day for eight years, or $12 billion in French money. The “price” also included two mutinies of the French Army and one overthrow of the civilian government. At that price the French were winning the war in Algeria, militarily. The fact was that the military victory was totally meaningless. This is where the word “grandeur” applies to President de Gaulle: he was capable of seeing through the trees of military victory to a forest of political defeat and he chose to settle the Algerian insurgency by other means.

    Some of these wars, of course, can be won, as in the Philippines, for example. The war was won there not through military action (there wasn’t a single special rifle invented for the Philippines, let alone more sophisticated ordnance) but through an extremely well-conceived civic action program and, of course, a good leader–[Ramon] Magsaysay.

    Civic action is not the construction of privies or the distribution of antimalaria sprays. One can’t fight an ideology; one can’t fight a militant doctrine with better privies. Yet this is done constantly. One side says, “land reform,” and the other side says, “better culverts.” One side says, “We are going to kill all those nasty village chiefs and landlords.” The other side says, “Yes, but look, we want to give you prize pigs to improve your strain.” These arguments just do not match. Simple but adequate appeals will have to be found sooner or later.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...



      Why are you still reading the NY Times? I thought Judy Miller proved being a bonehead was a job requirement to work at the Times.

      01/11/13 1:23 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      01/11/13 1:43 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      If I’ve not yet been put on the DHS/TSA “no fly list”, I probably will be on it after posting this. But no matter, I emigrated some years ago and now am a passport holding citizen of another great Anglophone democracy. COME AND GET ME, ye Yankee bastards!

      Anyway. Well, although when it comes to WW II my sympathies are mostly with Britain and its democratic allies, mutatis mutandis that’s why I think THIS little clip from the shameful state of Vichy (Nazi-collaborating) France is apposite to PVB’s above post. BECAUSE…

      …(let me spell it out for the FBI, CIA, DSS et al who are monitoring this), BECAUSE it OUGHT to be bloody ALARMING that the conventions of “war” of today’s USA bear any resemblance to what the bloody Nazis accused them of in WW II! Do you get it, you bloody hubristic willful idiots of the American Empire?

      In other words, what was MARGINALLY true about the USA in WW II, has become STANDARD PRACTICE for the USA today! But at least during WW II, the US Armed Forces did NOT target individual enemies (perceived or otherwise) for PERSONAL ASSASSINATION!

      Thus, for the French victims in this old video from WW II, now we can substitute “Pakistanis” PLUS the NEW fact that they are targeted PERSONALLY!

      All gets confusing after a while, doesn’t it? And the confusion stems from the arrogant presumption that “might makes right”, and the related presumption that the powerful are innocent.


      01/11/13 2:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      01/11/13 3:02 PM | Comment Link

    • jo6pac said...


      A corrupt government that fails to ensure the livelihood of its people will not win a counterinsurgency war.

      Sounds like the country I live in to, Amerika.

      01/11/13 3:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “A corrupt government that fails to ensure the livelihood of its people will not win a counterinsurgency war. Sounds like the country I live in to, Amerika.”

      Why would you think a corrupt “Amerika” government cares to ensure the livelihood of its people?


      01/13/13 1:43 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote:” Do you get it, you bloody hubristic willful idiots of the American Empire?”unquote..

      ummm, do I hear an echo?

      Of course they DON’T..ahem.. “get it”. It takes at least TWO neurons to make an imbecile, morons notwithstanding.

      01/13/13 7:23 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      on a laterally connected note..

      Ya know, the older I get, the more I appreciate
      not being a member of the BIG CLUB

      And as much as I despise FOX “news”, I have to admit, once in a while a little common sense pokes it’s beautiful head out of the MSM cesspool..and here I thought I was the only one to see it…thankyou very much.


      Given the inevitableness of death, current Amerikan ethos kinda makes you appreciate it.

      01/13/13 7:36 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Stuff has happened in the last month which signals a turning point. Yes, I know Bush was always talking about a pivotal point but wouldn’t it be interesting if Susan Rice was up in the projection booth at the Obama inauguration. You get the point. Check out Parallax View for more details. She was being groomed to replace Hag Hillary and blew it because she automatically (being an arrogant asshole) spoke in first person singular.
      But! for her introduction to the main stream media she couldn’t speak in third person team player for that would have meant she was just another apparatchik in the system. She may end up slashing Obama’s tires in the White House parking lot.

      01/14/13 12:18 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Pitch, I teach (part time) the types denoted in the Fox News clip.
      I feel for these kids. Many will not make it into adulthood. Amerika has decided to write off the current teenage generation. And, of course the music industry with their vile misogynistic rap and hip hop is on board. Say goodbye to the black race!

      01/14/13 12:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Lynn said...


      Please discuss the book ‘Web of Debt’ by Ellen Brown. Also, please discuss the You Tube videos, ‘The Secret of Oz’ and ‘The Money Masters’ by Bill Still. You Tube has a speech by 12 year-old Canadian Victoria Grant about all the above, definitely worth discussing. As long as the private banks, including the Federal Reserve, make billions off the military-industrial-media complex, America will be in a permanent state of war. America would be better off without the Federal Reserve.

      01/14/13 4:21 AM | Comment Link

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