Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hybrid strategy

I pulled the following two paragraphs from today.

"According to the senior U.S. official, one alternative being discussed inside the administration is to continue current military operations for the next year, but also to accelerate reconciliation with Taliban leaders and warlords. In addition, it would involve getting an agreement to base a significant U.S. military intelligence-gathering operation inside Afghanistan to keep watch for any re-emergence of al Qaeda."

"The official described this proposal as a "hybrid" strategy. It would be somewhat short of the pure counterinsurgency that would involve a large number of troops focused on fighting the Taliban, plus efforts to rebuild the country and its economic system. But it would have more capability than a counterterrorism strategy, in which a limited number of troops would target only al Qaeda."

It looks as if the Obama administration is struggling to devise a 'new' strategy. I am guessing that he expected to devise an effective one quickly and is beginning to find out that the problem is a little more than he expected.

Throughout history, weapons have been designed with multiple functional capability. In many cases, these weapons failed in that they could not do either function really well. A classic example is the hybrid battleship/carrier ISE that Japan built in World War II. A major problem with compromise on this level is that the two considerations can cancel each other out to a large degree. This can be true of strategy as well. If the major components are not very compatible, the effort to merge them into one will degrade the effectiveness of both to a point where it is probably better to just make a different effort. I find it difficult to believe that our intelligence-gathering effectiveness will be enhanced by less direct involvement of our fighting men at the side of our allies in the area. This appears at first glance to resemble the ‘pacification’ strategy that the U.S. adopted when we began to re-think our troop commitments in Vietnam in the early 1970’s.

Not that I am in favor of massive troop reinforcements in Afghanistan. As I have stated in the past, the U.S. will not win, nor will we lose the war against terrorism by our winning or losing in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is part of the overall symptom, but it is NOT the basic cause of the war.

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