Strategic poverty of counter-terrorism in Gaza and Afghanistan

by Yaniv Reich on November 7, 2009

Predator

My aunt recently forwarded me an article by Haaretz’s Aluf Benn, which argues (correctly, in my view) that the US is engaging in possible war crimes during the targeted assassinations carried out by its remote control drone planes. The subtext of the article, of course, with which I strongly disagree, is that since the US does such things, its acceptable for Israel to do the same. Benn goes on to suggest that Obama, who seems to like his weaponized drones a bit too much, ought to thank Israel for the example it provides in counter-terrorism tactics:

It would be interesting to know if Obama, who is due to decide on the future of the war in Afghanistan, knows from whom the Americans have learned the modern doctrine of anti-terrorism warfare, and whether he is grateful to the IDF.

There is absolutely nothing to be grateful for. Not only is the “modern doctrine of anti-terrorism warfare” as practiced by Israel and the US morally repugnant in that it summarily disregards the basic human rights of far-too-many civilians. It is also highly ineffective. It doesn’t matter how many Palestinian leaders Israel has assassinated, there is always a new generation of leaders ready to fill the void left by the new “martyrs”. Every assassination, failed or otherwise, does nothing more than motivate a new batch of militants and leaders of Palestinian resistance. Its an endless cycle.

This is precisely the reason why the US is failing to achieve whatever undefined objective it has for Afghanistan. Don’t take it from me. Listen to General Stanley A. McChrystal, leader of 68,000 US troops and 100,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. In a recent speech in London, he explained that he “flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda,” adding that this failing formula would lead to “Chaos-istan”. When asked if he would support this plan, which was being pitched at the time by Biden and others in the Obama administration, he said: “The short answer is: No.”

Did Aluf Benn not read the current papers with sufficient breadth or care to realize how profoundly awkward a time it was to make his argument?

Roughly at the same time, another political explosion went off in Washington surrounding the resignation of Matthew Hoh, the US Senior Civilian Representative in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. His resignation letter addressed the US failed strategy and tactics in Afghanistan:

“It is with great regret and disappointment I submit my resignation from appointment of Political Officer in the Foreign Service and my post as Senior Civilian Representative for the US government in Zabul province … I did not enter this position lightly or with undue expectations nor did I believe my assignment would be without sacrifice, hardship or difficulty. However, in the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan, in both Regional Commands East and South, I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the US’ presence in Afghanistan.
[…]
The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions, and religion by internal and external enemies. The US and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages … provide an occupation force against which insurgency is justified.
[…]
The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency.”

What is it exactly, Mr. Aluf Benn, that Obama should be thankful for? It appears to me that your conclusion is precisely backward. Rather than Obama thanking Israel, Israel should be the one learning from the kernels of wisdom expressed recently by senior US military and civilian officials in Afghanistan, who seem to have a far better understanding of the psychological underpinnings of insurgency than anything heard recently out of Israel.

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