I recently asked Anonim, a regular poster here at PYY, to write a guest post when he felt the inspiration. (He is a very intelligent man that is originally from Turkey and now makes his home, here in the United States.)
Well he did. And he posted it on my previous Light Blog Alert post. (And it comes at a time where I am down for holiday visits and activities.) As a result, I want to to highlight it and open the discussion by giving it a full post for any and all that care to reply. So, without further rambling from me, here it is, in its entirety:
KNOWING THE ENEMY
Can social scientists redefine the 'war on terror'?" by George Packer, The New Yorker, December 18.
An important and insightful article relevant to some discussions we have had here at PYY. It points to the fundamental shortcoming or fallacy of the current rhetoric and policies. The basic question tackled is, how you conduct a successful counterinsurgency operation on a global scale. And the simple answer is, you first define the enemy as narrowly as possible. This naturally means "enemies" of various stripes with mundane fears and concerns rather than an "enemy" animated by a grand ideology; people are not pushed to insurgency by ideology, but rather pulled into it by social ties (family, friends, associates). You then engage each "enemy" group separately. Here engagement is to be understood expansively: it is quite different than making "nice" with 'em. It is sometimes that, but more often, it is about showing to the target populace that they can gain by cooperating with you and lose by doing the opposite. And, some elements among the "enemy" ranks are going to be too hardened and beyond reach, and they are to be defeated by all means but with caution not to create more enemies.
All this essentially suggests an information war superstructure overriding or guiding wars that may be fought using bullets and missiles, and PYY readers may ask "what's new here?" Well, maybe nothing; it sound pretty much like common sense. But, despite my deliberately generic summary above, the article does name names, steps on toes if you will (in a non-partisan way, mind you), and draws from concrete historical examples. For example, it starts off with a comparison of two counterinsurgency operations in Indonesia: the first one is little known but successfully fought in the fifties against a Muslim Darul Islam insurgency in West Java; and the second is the unsuccessful campaign against the Christian insurgency in East Timor. Also, the whole cold war saga and lessons from it are not forgotten in the article. At one point, the article points to a possible likening of Bush to Truman, who was reviled towards the end of his term but was later vindicated by history. But, it also likens Bush's uplifting speeches for freedom and democracy against forces of dark and evil to the "last paragraph" of Churchill's speeches. Whereas the latter's last paragraph was preceded by 19 pages of substance, the former's speeches lack such substantiation.
Also argued is the fact that the mindset is starting to change in the US administration along the lines discussed in the article (in the State and Defense Departments, if not yet in the White House). In the end, someone is quoted as comparing our situation vis-a-vis the global terror threat today to where our comprehension of the cold war was back in 1953. So, what lies ahead is a long, long struggle, which is in apparent contradiction by the impatience prevalent in the society today, says the article.
May make a good New Year's eve reading? No?
Happy New Year to all.