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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mark Bowden has some suggestions on war strategy for President Obama:

President Bush made a courageous decision in the summer of 2006 to reverse direction, but not the reversal sought by Congress (including then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden), the American public, the overwhelming majority of the press (including this newspaper), and even most of his own military advisers. Instead of cutting our losses and pulling out of Iraq, as we did in Vietnam, Bush doubled down. He invested more troops and, more important, embraced an entirely new strategy.

And Bush was right. What had happened beneath all of the politics was a small revolution in war-fighting philosophy, championed and implemented by an unlikely military leader, Gen. David Petraeus, a soldier/intellectual molded as much by the think tank as the battlefield. He calls the movement his "Counterinsurgency Nation," and it has rewritten the way America fights. It is not a completely new idea - there are few of those in the study of war - but its basic principles came into clearer and clearer focus as a new generation of military officers fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its guiding principle is simple: The prize in these countries is not territory, but people.

Now President Obama must decide whether to let this new generation of battle-tested soldiers apply what it has learned to Afghanistan. Those who argue that the methods employed in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan are right and wrong. They are right that the two conflicts are not identical. What worked in Iraq will not apply in all cases in Afghanistan. But they are wrong to assume the lessons of Iraq have no application in Afghanistan. The counterinsurgency consensus grew out of experience in both wars. America's new military leaders have been managing both conflicts simultaneously for most of this decade, and the hard-won lessons they have learned derive from both.

This counter insurgency idea is very strong, but even if Obama adopts this strategy, don't look for Bush to get any credit. I really don't care who gets the credit, as long as we do what is right for the people of Afghanistan.


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