What to Read on Osama bin Laden’s Death

Yes, Bin Laden’s Death Will Help Obama, but for How Long? — Nate Silver

In 1991, the top 8 or 10 Democratic candidates skipped the presidential race because George H.W. Bush seemed unbeatable in the wake of the popular Gulf War. But by November 1992, Mr. Bush’s approval ratings were in the 30s, and Bill Clinton defeated him easily — as most any Democratic candidate would have.

Qaddafi Is Not Osama bin Laden — Robert Dreyfuss
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In the case of Libya, it’s an illegal assassination effort, not sanctioned by any UN resolution, to force regime change in a state that has never attacked the United States and poses no national security threat.

Taliban Commander Vows to Avenge Bin Laden’s Death — Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

Local jihadi wars will continue, al-Qaida in Yemen will continue to attempt to bomb targets in the west, and the Taliban will not stop fighting in Afghanistan.

US Strategy Misconceived, Says Hamid Karzai — Jon Boone

“Year after year, day after day, we have said the fighting against terrorism is not in the villages of Afghanistan, not among the poor people of Afghanistan,” he said. “The fight against terrorism is in safe havens…”

The Rewards of Revenge — Jonah Lehrer

[It] turns out that the most effective basic strategy is an approach known as “tit for tat.” The rules of tit for tat are incredibly simple: Unless provoked, the prisoners will cooperate (and not confess). However, one they are provoked, they will seek out revenge, Old Testament style. This help ensures that defection is discouraged, that people know their cheating has consequences. And this is why the brain, at least in young men, takes so much delight in the pain of bad people. An eye for an eye feels great.

As Gandhi famously said, “An eye for eye, and soon the whole world is blind.”

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What to Read on Afghanistan

How the Afghan Counterinsurgency Threatens Pakistan — Anatol Lieven

It is this ethno-religious solidarity, more than continuing support by the Pakistani state, that is providing the Afghan Taliban with their bases inside Pakistan. This support from large elements of the Pakistani population will continue as long as Western soldiers are present in Afghanistan. Their presence, as well as US drone strikes on targets in Pakistan, also helps legitimize the campaign of the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani state. Since the survival of that state is a US interest that vastly outweighs anything that might happen in Afghanistan, it follows that the US goal should be to reduce that presence as soon as this can be managed, not to follow a strategy that risks prolonging it indefinitely.

The Way Out of Afghanistan — Ahmed Rashid

The main question, of course, will be how soon the White House and the Pentagon decide that it is time to talk to the Taliban. Victory on the battlefield is not possible but peace cannot be achieved without US participation in negotiations.

Imperial by Design — John J. Mearsheimer

What makes the enterprise so difficult is that victory usually requires more than just defeating the insurgents in firefights. It usually demands nation building as well because it is essential to fix the political and social problems that caused the insurgency in the first place; otherwise, it is likely to spring back to life. So even if it was a sure bet that the United States could succeed at counterinsurgency with the right people and doctrine, it would still take many years to achieve decisive results.

Top Ten Myths About Afghanistan, 2010 — Juan Cole

Fact: In Helmand and Qandahar Provinces, a poll found that 92% of male residents had never heard of 9/11.

Yea, We Get It Already. Afghanistan = Vietnam. Now Can We Do Something About It?

In the umpteenth attempt to drain some forgotten lesson out of Vietnam and apply it to Afghanistan, the New York Times publishes an op-ed from retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Sorley. To Sorley’s credit, his analysis is carefully reasoned and more specific than most such comparisons. But Sorley suffers from the crucial leap of logic that Boston University military historian and former Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich keeps harping on: mistaking tactics for strategy.   Continue reading “Yea, We Get It Already. Afghanistan = Vietnam. Now Can We Do Something About It?”

The Somalia Syndrome Continues to Go Untreated

Jason McLure had a good article in Newsweek last week giving the history and latest sad news on Somalia:

An estimated 3.8 million need humanitarian aid (fully half the population), according to the U.N.’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia, which calls the crisis the worst since 1991–92. In the past six months alone, the number of people forced from their homes by fighting—between the country’s barely functional transitional government and Islamist insurgents—has grown by 40 percent, to 1.4 million. Most live in squalid camps that a new report from Oxfam calls “barely fit for humans.”

It is, however, easy to miss the bigger picture in McLure’s story. I call it “the Somalia Syndrome.” Here is how I explained it in the Hazleton Standard-Speaker in January:   Continue reading “The Somalia Syndrome Continues to Go Untreated”