Thursday, December 13, 2007

Soft brains on "soft power."

[Note: I'm blogging at Let's Talk about Democracy lately]

AFP reports (with a straight face):

"After six hard years of war, the United States is awakening to the idea that 'soft power' is a better way to regain influence and clout in a world bubbling with instability."

Well, how about that?

It seems the military wants the Department of State and other civilian agencies to take to the reins on this whole fighting-an-insurgency thing.

AFP: "[The Pentagon] has stepped up thinking and planning for what it calls 'phase zero,' military jargon for conflict prevention. 'I think they've come to the conclusion that insurgencies are really hard to fight. And so it would be better if they could not have the conflict in the first place,' said Robert Perito, an expert at the US Institute of Peace." [My italics]

Hey, there's a concept. Why didn't anyone think about that before we blundered into Iraq?

Soft power in Afghanistan:

So how is that soft power thing working in Afghanistan these days?

Afghanistan Watch:

"Almost half of Afghanistan is now too dangerous for aid workers to operate in, a leaked UN map seen by The Times [of London] shows. In the past two years most foreign and Afghan staff have withdrawn from the southern half of the country, abandoning or scaling back development projects in rural areas and confining themselves to the cities or the less risky north. . ."

Well, so much for that. Better get the military involved. AFP reports that the US military is pumping nearly $ 2 billion into Afghanistan. Is it for civilian projects? Water, irrigation projects, schools etc? No?

"About 75 percent of next year's allocation would go towards building facilities for the Afghan security forces on which the country depends, the head of the corps, Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp, told reporters. . . "

But, we'll all be gratified to know that 228 Army Corp. engineers will be building "roads and surveying dams for use to provide power, irrigation and drinking water." [uh huh.]

I know, maybe the way to go here is to super-impose the Anbar Model on the Tribal areas in Pakistan.

The NYT reported recently:

A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said.

If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agree to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said."

Wow. you see all these people are all the same. Just throw a little money at them and they'll come around to our way of thinking.

Robert Kaplan thinks it's a great idea. He writes: It's the Tribes stupid!"

"There is nothing wrong or cynical about this. Where democratic governance does not exist, we must work with the material at hand."

Right, what could go wrong?

Ahmad Rashid pointed out to Terry Gross yesterday on Fresh Air that the fly in the ointment is that in Anbar, the Sheiks came to the Americans because they were sick of foreigners killing them. In the case of the Pakistanis, besides the fact that they already have plenty of money and weapons, they're buddies with AQP and the Taliban. IN many cases even related to them. We're the foreigners. Sure, they'll take their money but they'll be as reliable as Pervez Musharraf has been.

Real loose thinking. Or is that soft thinking?


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