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Dear David: Study Cockroaches and You’ll Learn the Wisdom of Counterinsurgency

Posted on July 7 2010 9:00 pm

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David Forsmark says that Fox News commentator Ralph Peters has a point. Peters, of course, thinks that America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the height of folly — and Forsmark is willing to cede that Peters may be right.

I will grant no such quarters to Ralph Peters, whose argument is fallacious and wrong — and, ultimately, inimical to the safety and security of the American people.

David and Peters raise several points that cry out for refutation, but for the sake of a single blog post, let me now address just one:  Peters’ preferred counterterrorism policy won’t work. It cannot succeed in eradicating the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.

A  counterterrorism policy is like trying to kill cockroaches with bombs: The bombs explode, but the cockroaches proliferate. So, too, with Afghanistan. U.S. Special Forces can kill all of the bad guys they want; but this will do little to nothing by itself to stop the spread of terrorist networks in Afghanistan.

That’s because the fundamental problem in Afghanistan is political, not military. The country lacks adequate security and effective governance. And the only way to remedy this problem is to wage a classic — and necessarily long-term — counterinsurgency campaign to restore adequate security and at least a minimal level of effective governance. Afghanistan is simply too geographically complex and diffuse, too decentralized and unwieldy, and too populated and tribal to think that killing a select group of bad guys will neutralize its terrorist threat.

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