Fox News Commentator Ralph Peters is at it again: Taking cheap, nasty and gratuitous shots at General David Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. This is not surprising. What is surprising is that Fox News anchors Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham don’t challenge Peters’ glib assertions.
Peters, after all, creates ludicrous caricatures of his opponents’ positions. Thursday, for instance, on the O’Reilly Factor, Peters said that:
“McChrystsal was trying to follow Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy, which is: Hug your terrorist today… [It's] be nice to folks [and] don’t use excessive force, blah, blah, blah.” And this, Peters continued is “killing our troops.”
So it’s “really put up or shut up time for Petraeus… Can he be a man of character and accept the fact that his counterinsurgency strategy just doesn’t work in Afghanistan? Can he move beyond it and get back to the mission… which [is] to kill America’s enemies?
“…And Joe Biden, God Bless him, was right… Counterterrorism is the way to go. Don’t try to build Afghanistan. You can’t rebuild [that country]. There’s nothing to rebuild. Don’t try to build Afghanistan in our image. Kill our enemies.”
Peters is wrong. He’s wrong to say that a policy of counterterrorism can succeed in Afghanistan. And he’s wrong to disparage America’s counterinsurgency strategy.
A counterterrorism policy would consign Afghanistan — and America — to decades of endless warfare because it would mean, in effect, abandoning large sections of that country to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Our objective, after all, wouldn’t be to establish indigenous Afghan control over Afghanistan. To the contrary: a counterterrorism policy would deliberately leave much of Afghanistan highly contested and in a Hobbesian state of nature. Consequently, our enemies could still threaten us, despite our periodic hit-and-run attacks.
Peters doesn’t want to admit it, but counterinsurgencies can and do succeed, and Afghanistan need not be an anomaly or exception.
Indeed, succes stories include Iraq, Malaya, Colombia and the Philippines. And far from trying to remake Afghanistan into Darien, Connecticut, as Peters alleges, the United States instead is trying simply to establish a minimal level of governance in Afghanistan. The model is Tajikistan, not Disneyland.
Peters is like a lot of ancient warriors, only he has a mean streak. He doesn’t believe in counterinsurgency warfare and nation-building; however, he does believe in sucker-punching his opponents.
But just as Peters’ rhetorical cheap shots are wrong; so, too, is his analysis of Afghanistan. The reality is that this is what war looks like in the 21st Century. This is what modern-day warfare requires and demands. Deal with it — and we are, but no thanks to Peters.
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