ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


Taliban say: best to be feared and loved by mattsteinglass
May 18, 2009, 8:09 am
Filed under: Afghanistan, Islam, Terrorism

This point by Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen (via Robert Farley and Matthew Yglesias), about the weakness of targeted airstrikes in combatting insurgency, is a very good one. The one quibble I’d have is over this:

Governments typically make several mistakes when attempting to separate violent extremists from populations in which they hide. First, they often overestimate the degree to which a population harboring an armed actor can influence that actor’s behavior. People don’t tolerate extremists in their midst because they like them, but rather because the extremists intimidate them. Breaking the power of extremists means removing their power to intimidate — something that strikes cannot do.

I think it’s creating a false dichotomy to say that people tolerate extremists not because they like them, but because they’re intimidated. The success of a revolutionary movement, be it Maoist or Islamicist, rests on a mix of popular appeal and coercion. Like the Taliban, the Viet Cong were respected by the local population for their patriotism (or, in the Taliban case, their piety) and for their capacity to dispense rough but honest justice; they were also feared for their capacity to assassinate political enemies. For that matter, successful governance by any government involves elements of popularity (elections) and intimidation (prison).

By all accounts, and according to my one Pakistani friend in the tribal areas, the Taliban are strikingly unsuccessful at sustaining popularity in areas they take control over, so in their case the scale leans towards intimidation. This, it seems to me, may be a good reason to leave them alone, restrict ourselves to a minimal role in that war, and watch them fail.

Advertisements

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

[…] at Sully’s (where he’s taken a breather), links to Matt Y and Matt Steinglass. Matt Y links to Robert Farley: I don’t doubt that the use of drones has resulted in […]

Pingback by These Are Not The Drones You’re Looking For « Around The Sphere

[…] But it’s not exactly the same thing, and Matt Steinglass argues that it high time to think more clearly: […]

Pingback by Hearts and Minds « Just Above Sunset

[…] adds his own two cents. So does Matt Steinglass Andrew’s thoughts on Obama, Cheney, and the war in Afghanistan are here […]

Pingback by Drones are more than a strategic error | The Daily Clarity




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: