Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Soldiers as armed Teachers

In his book The Utility of Force General Rupert Smith calls the form of conflict we seen in the twenty-first century, "War Amongst the People," to differentiate it from the interstate wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. War amongst the people is war for hearts and minds.

At its simplest it is a struggle between two groups for the loyalty and support of the population in which the groups are present. Each side presents a narrative or vision and then tries to get the population to accept their vision. This can be accomplished by positively (charity, public relations) or negatively (intimidation, extortion). The violence comes from attack the agents and infrastructure of the opposing narrative. For example, Insurgents attacking the police in Iraq are preventing the American narrative of a democratic western Iraq. Victory is rare definitive but not impossible. The Iraqi War is a good example of a hearts war. It is also a good example of how to loose one.

Western nations have a major advantage in this form of conflict that they have largely ignored. The west has a powerful narrative, that of personal prosperity. People come to the west from the rest of the world for that prosperity and a lesser degree for the civil and social liberties. The strongest force for personal prosperity in the world is education. The Taliban know this, the Jihadis know this, people in the west have said this, but people have not realized how true this is. People who are being educated have access to knew worlds and new opportunities. This means that they have options other then those presented by the jihadis.

In Afghanistan, people turn to the Taliban for economic and security reasons. They need the money the Taliban pays stay alive. We can match that money easily, pay the peasants to learn to read (and make them read our propaganda while they learn). This will cripple the supply of fighters for the Taliban and strengthen our narrative in the region.



Israel's new war

I found these two articles on the new war in the middle east. Both are from Israel, both are highly critical on the war.

The first questions the morality of Israel's incursion into Lebanon.

There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.
In the end it is a damning inditement of Israel's conduct.

The other article questions the invasion from a tactical standpoint. The author, Yoel Marcus, points out that Israel is not fighting smart and Israelis are begining to sense this as well.

Money quotes:

A country that stood up to seven Arab nations in the War of Independence, a war of the "few against the many," with an army that pulverized the invading forces of three Arab nations in the span of six days, is now facing an embarrassing role reversal: a war of the "many against the few" in which Israel is on the floorboards.

Instead of an army that is small but smart, we are catching glimpses of an army that is big, rich and dumb.



Monday, July 24, 2006


NATO in Lebanon: Danger and Opportunity

As we watch the horror in Lebanon, an idea has been put forward by the Bush administration that might not be down to their usual level of grotesque incompetence. The idea of a NATO force in Lebanon to strengthen the Lebanese state is in principle a good idea. The problem is in the implementation of this idea. The Globe and Mail has a good overview article here. The basic idea is similar to the current Afganistan campaign; an operation to strengthen a organs of a failed state so that it can serve as a guarrantor of security to the global community for its territory. Given that this is a US initiative, Israel is in favour:

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that his country would support the deployment of a NATO-led force, and he discussed the idea with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “Due to the weakness of the Lebanese army, Israel supports the possibility of deploying a multinational force with a strong mandate,” [said Peretz].
Due to America's unpopularity in, well, the world but the Middle East particular it cannot lead this campaign. Given the American military and political incompetence of recent years it is goo that America has recognized its limitations in this regard. The obvious candiate in NATO to lead is Turkey, and the Bushites has realized this:

U.S. President George W. Bush on the weekend spoke by phone with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO's only member for a majority Muslim population and a candidate to lead the proposed force in Lebanon.
This idea has one major problem. Lebanon is not as weak a state as Afganistan. It is a democracy and has just recently shook off the overt signs of foreign occuptaion that has lasted 29 years. The Lebanese are begining to coalesce into a nation from the tribes that they have been previously. Another foreign occuptation, especialty one that is ham fisted an unsubtle will not only set back this process (Which is the strongest arab democracy) but could easily result this intervention creating a counter-NATO insurgency.

The clearest solution to this conundrum is to put Turkey in military control of the intervention but place Lebanon in political control. Have NATO serve as agents of the lebanese state to bring the south of the country under the political control of the central government. The key here is not to force Lebanon to accept these forces but to freely offer assistance to Lebanon.

The second part of this intervention is a PR campaign who's goal is to undermine support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah has support because it delivers services successfully to the people of Lebanon and because of its success in driving Israel out of Lebanon. This PR campaign should be funded by Israel, USA, and the rest of NATO because this one place and one time we can win against religous extremism and it is an important outpost for liberalism and democracy in the middle east.



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