Tuesday, April 24, 2007

MountainRunner Breaches Petraeus' Wall

MountainRunner picks apart Gen. Petraeus' security wall in Baghdad:
Can the tactical mistakes get any worse? Building a wall around Baghdad's communities, starting with Al a'zamiyah, or Adhamiya? The prime contractor may as well have been Arbeit Macht Der-Frei Gmbh as the idea of partitioning any part of the city devastates any chance for peace, or "victory" if you prefer. This is another brick in a different kind of wall, the wall of moral legitimacy and strategic appreciation of the requirements to succeed. Neither political nor military doctrine or logic can justify this folly. (...)
At best, this is an attempt to recreate the strategic hamlet program from Vietnam, and even British fortresses in the Sudan and Afghanistan a century and a half ago. But this isn't the countryside and these are not autonomous units to be caged. To say there are "serious problems" with the gated communities, as Anthony Cordesman puts it, is an understatement. Cordesman notes partitioning in Ulster and the Balkans brought security but at a significant cost. Sadly, Ambassador Crocker defended the plan as a means "to try and identify where the fault lines are and where avenues of attack lie and set up the barriers literally to prevent those attacks." A tactical tool at best, al-Hayat quoted several Iraqi officials who defended the strategy, claiming that building such walls will "give security forces a bigger chance of executing their military missions."
Go read the whole thing here.

EDIT: Noah Schachtman caught up on this great post too - here, at Wired's blogs.

Central Command Drops "Long War" Moniker

Launched as a cornerstone notion to replace the GWOT, the "Long War" concept has been with us for few years. Central Command has now, according to the New York Times, dropped it as the aggregate name for what is also known as the GSAVE - Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. Michael R. Gordon also reports that the change comes solely at the level of Central Command, not Pentagon or the White House - but in parallel with e.g. the wish of the UK.
Military officials said that cultural advisers at the command had become concerned that the concept of a long war alienated Middle East audiences by suggesting that the United States would keep a large number of forces in the region indefinitely.

Admiral Fallon was also said to have been unenthusiastic about the phrase. He has stressed the importance of focusing on the difficult situation in Iraq and in achieving results as soon as possible. The notion of a long war, in contrast, seemed to connote an extended conflict in which Iraq was but a chapter.

The change “is a product of our ongoing effort to use language that describes the conflict for our Western audience while understanding the cultural implications of how that language is construed in the Middle East,” Lt. Col. Matthew McLaughlin, a spokesman for the command, said in an e-mail message. “The idea that we are going to be involved in a ‘Long War,’ at the current level of operations, is not likely and unhelpful.”

“We remain committed to our friends and allies in the region and to countering Al Qaeda-inspired extremism where it manifests itself, but one of our goals is to lessen our presence over time. We didn’t feel that the term ‘Long War’ captured this nuance,” he added.
This more anthopological - or, oh, politically adept or holistic or effects based - approach to the semantics of military action is highly welcome. But as the article notes in conclusion: there is not yet any good replacement candidate. At least one half of the old term captured a very true perspective about the struggle: it will not go away. Even so, the other half was definitely problematic as the "war" part in reality looks more like the metaphorical "war on drugs" than a classic state-on-state piece of warfare.

The threat that we are facing is still a reaction to the increasing connectivity of globalization - and the solutions are even more polticial than military (even if they will likely include a lot of military components): OECDification of the rest of the world - shrinking the Gap - will not happen overnight.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ghani to Replace Wolfowitz?

Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan contender for the job as UN Secretary General is now in play again - this time as the US candidate to replace Wolfowitz as chief of the World Bank. Having the US's support is the surefire way to get the job as the US traditionally decides who gets the WB top post, while the Europeans in practice appoint the IMF boss. Here from The Australian:
THE future of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz was in further jeopardy yesterday after it emerged the White House was drawing up a list of candidates to succeed him. The most prominent potential replacement is Ashraf Ghani, credited with overhauling the economy of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. Such an appointment would mark the first time a non-American has held the position in the 60-year history of the global bank. Senior officials in the US administration have noted that the White House is softening its support for Mr Wolfowitz, President George W.Bush's former deputy defence secretary. They pointed yesterday to the silence of the Treasury Department and Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, as a sign of the administration's attempt to distance itself from the man it parachuted into the job in 2005. (...)

Mr Ghani was special adviser to the World Bank between 1991 and 2002. After the overthrow of the Taliban, he was Afghan finance minister for two years, carrying out extensive reforms, including issuing a new currency, balancing the budget and overhauling the Treasury's systems. Currently Chancellor of Kabul University, he was a candidate to replace Kofi Annan as UN secretary-general last year but lost out to Ban Ki-moon, of South Korea. Mr Ghani was described then as someone with a strong record as an administrator. As well as the first non-American chief of the World Bank, he would also be the first Muslim in the job.

Draconian Observations strongly supported Ghani's candidature for UNSG, and of course also supports him this time around. More than a mere competent administrator as described above he is a producer of policy ideas in his own right, and as such 'gets' what it means to be innovative - but most importantly, as few practitioners he understands the defining feature of our time: the convergence between security and development. The previous posts on Ghani can be found here.