f_0018905_16166 - Michael A. Cohen writes on politics and...

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75 We learn from history that we learn nothing from history. —George Bernard Shaw Shortly after he assumed command of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal provided his sol- diers with operational guidance for fighting insurgent Taliban forces. McChrystal’s words directly reflect the Pentagon’s new model of U.S. warfare and inform the philosophy behind the current U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan: “The ongoing insurgency must be met with a counterinsurgency cam- paign adapted to the unique conditions in each area that: protects the Afghan people, allowing them to choose a future they can be proud of; provides a secure environment allowing good government and economic development to undercut the causes and advocates of insurgency.” According to McChrystal, the “Afghan people are at the center of our mission. ..in reality they are the mission.” These senti- ments are reflective of what has become the new way of American war—population- centric counter-insurgency ( COIN ). The focus on COIN doctrine was enshrined by Gen. David Petraeus and the 2006 publica- tion of the Army and Marine counter-insur- gency manual, FM 3-24, which calls for a military approach that seeks to convince the population that counter-insurgents, acting on behalf of a sovereign government, can be trusted and are worthy of popular support. With its seemingly progressive and hu- manistic approach, FM 3-24, and counter- insurgency in general, offer a seductive ideal for the future of American war-fighting. But the veneration of COIN conceals a brutal reality. The history of counter-insurgency in the twentieth century is not a story of warm and fuzzy war, of benevolent soldiers providing essential government services to grateful natives, of armed social work, or of the gentleman soldier’s antidote to the Shermanesque notion of Total War.Instead, counter-insurgency is a repeated tale of coercion and violence directed largely against unarmed civilians. And this defines both those COIN efforts that have been successful—and those that have failed. Yet counter-insurgency is often de- scribed today in misleading terms. Accord- ing to Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War , COIN “em- braces distinctly liberal, humanistic values like protecting civilians, cultural sensitivity, and rigid adherence to ethical standards and the law.” Others such as Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Michael A. Cohen writes on politics and national security and was previously a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation. He is a regular contributor to the blog www.democracyarsenal.org. The Myth of a Kinder, Gentler War
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course POLS 494 taught by Professor Garymoncrief during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.

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f_0018905_16166 - Michael A. Cohen writes on politics and...

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