Archive for May, 2009


Posted: May 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

One might expect a blog focused on Christian nonviolence to post something about Pentecost, one of the most important church holidays.  Alas, I’ve been neck deep in working to help get a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) pushed through a state legislature and with the IRS paperwork for our nascent nonprofit startup…no major blog post from me today, sorry.

So, if you’re looking for food for thought on Pentecost, I commend to you today’s entry from the Girardian Lectionary.

Happy birthday, Church.

Donald Rumsfeld earned considerable scorn from across the ideological spectrum for his attitude toward post-war planning. One episode in particular illustrated his Defense Department’s attitude toward post-invasion planning:

In a piece from October 2004 entitled “Pre-war planning was non-existent,” Knight Ridder reported on a meeting held at a US Air Force base just days before the start of the war in March 2003. The meeting was held to discuss the plans to oust Mr. Hussein and restore democracy in Iraq. When the presentation came to the subejct [sic] of postwar Iraq, the slide being shown said ” To Be Provided.”

The Knight Ridder story detailed the results of this lack of planning:

In fact, some senior Pentagon officials had thought they could bring most American soldiers home from Iraq by September 2003. Instead, more than a year later, 138,000 U.S. troops are still fighting terrorists who slip easily across Iraq’s long borders, diehards from the old regime and Iraqis angered by their country’s widespread crime and unemployment and America’s sometimes heavy boots.

The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency was particularly aggressive in its forecasts, officials said. One briefing occurred in January 2003. Another, in April 2003, weeks after the war began, discussed Saddam’s plans for attacking U.S. forces after his troops had been defeated on the battlefield.

Similar warnings came from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. The council produced reports in January 2003 titled “Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq” and “Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq.”

Unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which Iraqi troops were trying to maintain their grip on Kuwait, “they are now defending their country,” said a senior defense official, summarizing the Joint Staff’s warnings. “You are going to get serious resistance. This idea that everyone will join you is baloney. But it was dismissed.”

Many of us opposed to the Iraq war heaped scorn on Rumsfeld and his subordinates for the irresponsibility of planning a war and refusing to plan for the post-war period. Because the U.S. failed to do serious intellectual work to contemplate the contingencies possible after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the administration was caught off guard by the emergence of opposition to their post-war agenda for the country. Here, the administration typified a phenomenon described in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power:

“Most people believe that they are in fact aware of the future, that they are planning and thinking ahead. They are usually deluded: What they are really doing is succumbing to their desires, to what they want the future to be. Their plans are vague, based on their imaginations rather than their reality. They may believe they thinking all the way to the end, but they are really only focusing on the happy ending, and deluding themselves by the strength of their desire.”

Ironically, this passage could apply equally well to either the Defense Department’s behavior during the early phases of the Iraq war or to the peace and justice movement’s behavior during and after the 2006 congressional elections and the 2008 presidential elections. In both 2006 and 2008, once the strategy of our movement became largely electoral, we mistook Election Day’s victory for “Mission Accomplished,” leaving us unprepared for the fierce resistance to our agenda following our successful toppling of the opposing regime. With evidence mounting that MoveOn has thrown in with the militarists on Afghanistan, with the preferred presidential candidate of the anti-war movement now busily expanding one or two wars (depending on whether you view the war in Afghanistan and the “covert” war in Pakistan as one war or two) and the party swept into Congressional control on anti-war sentiment busily cramming more and more money into the War Department, it’s pretty obvious that the anti-war movement’s post-election strategy remains “To Be Provided.”

MoveOn’s defection robs the anti-war movement of one of its most effective structures for collective action, and without that structure the movement’s unity and strategic vision have taken a body blow. I commend folks working to pressure them back into the fold, but at some point we’re going to have replace them with new structures. A new “mother-ship” database would be a good place to start.

But just as important as new structures is new vision–a strategic reset triggered by the realization that the anti-war movement was never about electing a politician but about affecting government policies. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the election of more Democrats in 2006 were not ends in themselves but means to the ends–ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (if the anti-war movement is truly an anti-war, vs. anti-Republican-led-war, movement). Now is a good moment to begin that reset, because a new, solid target has appeared on the horizon: the 2010 National Defense Authorization (NDAA).

Even though it’s a “budget” document, the NDAA is an authorizing document, not an appropriations document; in general, it sets policy rather than appropriating funds (although in rare instances a relatively tiny amount of appropriations get tacked on to the NDAA, but that’s not its primary function). Therefore, it’s a prime vehicle for setting restrictions on U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, debate around a recent NDAA focused on whether or not to revoke Congressional authorization for the ongoing occupation in Iraq. So while it doesn’t have a sexiness of a half-trillion dollar, earmark-laden Christmas tree, it can be a powerful vehicle for forcing public debate and broad policy changes.

Congress will utilize the following process to craft the NDAA: (the Senate follows a similar legislative process; I focus on the House as it’s the chamber with which I am most familiar):

  • House Armed Services subcommittees will meet to craft their portions of the legislation. They will hold hearings to gather testimony (often testimony invited from experts who tend to back the chairman’s intended policy choices), and then hold a final hearing to pass their subcommittees’ portion of the NDAA. During this process, the chairs of the subcommittees work behind the scenes with the chair of the full committee to ensure their subcommittees’ portions of the legislation are acceptable. They also feel out other committee members to gather intelligence about possible challenges and amendments that could be presented that are germane to their subcommittee’s product. This part of the process is critical–it creates the starting point for the final legislation, and, due to the complexity of the full NDAA, this represents one of the only true opportunities for in-depth consideration of each component.
  • The full House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will have a full committee hearing, where the various initial components of the NDAA crafted by the subcommittees are gathered and folded into the larger bill. At this point, the behind-the-scenes wrangling over needed changes to these various pieces becomes public: during each subcommittee chair’s presentation of their legislation, the other members of the committee may challenge their assumptions or offer amendments–or oppose the subcommittee’s draft language altogether. Important changes can be made at this stage, but because the entire bill is under consideration, in-depth discussion of any particular piece can be undermined by time constraints and the exhaustion of members of Congress as the hearing drags on. After each piece is presented by the various subcommittee chair (a process that takes hours), a final vote is held on approving the legislation for consideration by the full House.
  • A Rule is passed by the House Rules Committee that sets the ground rules for consideration of the NDAA. The shape of this rule can deeply affect the outcome of the legislation as it decides how vulnerable the legislation will be to amendment, while also potentially limiting parliamentary challenges to the legislation like points of order or motions to recommit the legislation to the originating committee. The rule also determines the length of time the House will set aside for debate on the legislation.
  • The NDAA is scheduled for consideration by the full House of Representatives. During this process the chair of HASC and the ranking member of the minority party split the bloc of time in half, which they then subdivide among members wishing to speak about the legislation. If the rule allows for amendments to the legislation, amendments are offered and debated. The final bill is passed if it survives any potential parliamentary challenges like points of order or motions to recommit it to the committee.
  • The House and Senate must pass identical versions of the NDAA. If the bills which emerged from the two chambers’ legislative processes are not identical (and this almost never happens on any legislation of substance), the two chambers appoint conferrees to a conference committee to work out a compromise bill. This conference report is then reported back to each chamber, where members vote on it. Once it passes, it is sent to the President for his signature.

This process provides an opportunity for the anti-war movement to refocus on our overriding goal: to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of these steps provides opportunities for citizens to influence the process and for creative public education. Focus on affecting the process can help our movement–fractured by our failure to plan for continued public pressure beyond an electoral victory–to recreate structures that have been co-opted by the administration and by Congress.

The subcommittee process is already under way.  Here’s a list of subcommittee hearings coming in the next week:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

10:00 a.m.; 2118 Rayburn House Office Building
House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee will meet to receive testimony on the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for Military Construction.

2:30 p.m.; Room SR -222; Russell Senate Office Building
The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee will meet to receive testimony on support for military family programs, policies, and initiatives in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2010 and the Future Years Defense Program.

2:30 p.m.; Room SR-232A; Russell Senate Office Building
Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee will meet to receive testimony on strategic forces programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request forFiscal Year 2010 and the Future Years Defense Program.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

9:30 a.m.; Room SH-216, Hart Senate Office Building
The Senate Armed Services Committee will meet too receive testimony on the Department of the Navy in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2010 and the Future Years Defense Program.

1:00 p.m.; 2212 Rayburn House Office Building
The Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee will meet to receive testimony on the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for the U.S. Special Operations Command.

What you can do:

Find your elected representatives:

Check to see whether they serve on House Armed Services or the Senate Armed Services subcommittees. If so, call the congressional switchboard (202.224.3121), ask for your elected official and tell them:

  • “I oppose the continued occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
  • “I expect you to use the subcommittee process to explore non-military options and push for a swift end to U.S. military action on a firm timeline.”

Then, link up with anti-war groups like United for Peace and Justice and Peace Action West to participate in group actions and stay up-to-date.

Because we’re facing the consequences of a movement-wide lack of post-election planning and the loss of a major organizing structure in MoveOn, we’re in a tough time in the U.S. peace and justice movement. This is a good moment to refocus and re-engage in the policy-making process while we work to repair the damage. Take a few minutes to call your elected official and reconnect with the larger peace and justice movement.

We pulled a Rumsfeld, folks; it’s time to get moving again and repair the damage.

Large sections of both the Democratic Party and the peace and justice community continue to show considerable reluctance to protest the policies of the Obama administration, regardless of the blatant similarities between his policies (and the policies’ drawbacks) and those of President Bush.

During the Bush administration, Democrats (myself included) made a fair amount of hay trashing President Bush’s plan for a “10-year, trillion dollar war” in Iraq. Consider this statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (rightly) lambasting Bush’s listless “strategy” in Iraq:

“…President Bush is proposing, a 10-year war, a war without end, costing trillions of dollars at the expense of our military readiness…We do have a military crisis not seen since Vietnam. …Again, we cannot afford the President’s commitment in Iraq…This deployment, in addition to our military capacity, to protect the American people, is also unsustainable financially.  According to the recent report by the Joint Economic Committee, this war could end up costing American taxpayers $3 trillion.  Think of the opportunity cost of that money…”

Now, consider this from this month’s news:

Afghanistan war funding surpasses the outlay for Iraq for the first time in next year’s proposed Pentagon budget…The Pentagon’s $534 billion base budget is $21 billion, or 4 percent, larger than last year’s.


The United States could have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the top Army officer said, even though a signed agreement requires all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by 2012.

If we couldn’t afford 10-year trillion-dollar wars under President Bush before the economic meltdown, how in the world can we afford them now? The answer is simple: we can’t.

Jeremy Scahill put it best (h/t Steve Hynd):

Ah, good thing the US quest for violent global domination was brought to a screeching halt with the November presidential election. Without Obama’s election, we’d still have an occupation of Iraq, mercenaries on the US payroll, torture of prisoners, an unending and worsening war that kills civilians in Afghanistan, regular airstrikes in Pakistan, killing civilians and an embassy the size of Vatican city in Baghdad, which was built in part on slave labor. Not to mention those crazy “Bush/Cheney” neocons running around trying to become the “CEOs” of foreign nations. Wow, glad that’s all over. Whew! And, it’s a really good thing Bush is no longer in power or else the US would come up with some crazy idea like building a colonial fortress in Pakistan to defend “US interests” in the region.

This is what happens when movements about causes get co-opted by movements about people. I voted for Obama; I wish him all the success in the world in the path of peace and justice. But right now our country continues to careen off that path because people bought the easy lie that they can rely on a Great Man to set the world to rights. Quite a lot now depends on our ability to see through the lie in time to prevent it from robbing us of the potential of the peace and justice movement we’ve built over a decades-long slog, begun long before there was an Obama to ride it to the White House. As Dr. King said,

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”

Friends, if you don’t wake up–soon–to the fact that the President’s “success” is dependent on your holding him accountable through social action and protest, your children will be @#! lucky to grow up in even a shell of the U.S.A. of your childhood.

Study turns belief commonly held by video game industry, gamers, on its head

By Laura Sanders

Blood, guts and gore aren’t what thrill avid gamers when they slaughter zombies in The House of the Dead III video game, a new study suggests. Instead, feelings of control and competence are what the players crave. The new research, led by psychologist Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester in New York, appears online January 16 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“A common belief held by many gamers and many in the video game industry — that violence is what makes a game fun — is strongly contradicted by these studies,” comments Craig Anderson, a psychologist who directs the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University in Ames.

Encouraging, and food for thought about how to design future entertainment products without including the violent narrative.

Our methods for dealing with the spread of the Taliban in Afghanistan continue to come back to bite us:

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

Keep in mind, the U.S. ousted McKiernan because he was not sufficiently enthusiastic about arming locals. The fact that weapons supplied to the Afghan government keep falling into the hands of the U.S.’s opponents in Afghanistan should temper any enthusiasm for handing out guns to locals as a way of reducing violence in Afghanistan. But those plans will presumably proceed under the command of General McChrystal, along with the meat-grinder airstrikes that have caused more than 2/3rds of the coalition-caused civilian casualties.

Guns that end up being used to kill U.S. soldiers (and other Afghans), rage-inducing airstrikes, a flat refusal to stop such airstrikes despite demands from the Afghan government (which undermines the local population’s faith that their government can protect them)…all supposedly in service of a counterinsurgency strategy supposedly predicated on convincing the local population to stop supporting opponents of the local government. If the U.S. government is serious about stability and reducing violence in Afghanistan, officials must adopt means that do not contradict the desired ends.

The Resource Problem

Adopting a violent paradigm for what constitutes “fighting the spread of the Taliban” severely restricts the number of participants who can be trained for the struggle. Cultural norms will often restrict the pool of recruits to the male population; physical demands of violent struggle will likely exclude the old, the sick, and the very young. Relying primarily on armed conflict further reduces the recruiting pool to match the number of available weapons, and it restricts the length of time fighters can participate in the conflict to periods where ammunition is available. Afghanistan’s rugged geography will constrict the ability to transport ammunition to the fighters. So, by relying on armed groups of young men, the U.S. strategy excludes large numbers of potential defenders of a non-Taliban-dominated society and sets limits on defenders’ time frame of activity. A better strategy would allow the entire population a maximized, meaningful opportunity to resist the encroachment of the Taliban.

Sowing the Seeds of Future Conflict

Beyond imposition of recruiting and activity restrictions, the U.S. strategy also virtually ensures continued conflict and instability in the area. As we’ve seen, the weapons we’re supplying to our allies are finding their way into enemy hands. Further, by flooding the Afghan security forces with resources while providing insufficient attention to civil society and good governance, we deform Afghan society into one in which the military forces are the most resourced and powerful arm of government, a situation conducive to future coup attempts by would-be military dictators. A better strategy would support the growth of civil society while resisting the encroachment of the Taliban on Afghan life.

A Better Solution: A Non-Military Anti-Insurgency Strategy

What follows is an outline for a non-military anti-insurgency strategy which draws heavily from a recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report and Gene Sharp’s “The Anti-Coup.” [Sharp’s work deals with defending against coups d’etat and “putschists,” so were appropriate I’ve replaced these terms with “insurgency” and “insurgents” in applicable passages.] It aims to enlist as many people as possible in the resistance against the spread of the Taliban and to maximize their ability to participate. Concurrently, it will lay the groundwork for civil society in Afghanistan and de-emphasize political violence as a method of participating in conflict. This strategy will cost far less and lead to far fewer casualties–both civilian and military–than the current military approach.

Step One: Sharply Reduce Military Confrontations

Recent experience shows that we will not cease our most counterproductive activities so long as COIN remains our paradigm, which ensures that we will not win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. Airstrikes and night raids will continue. We will continue to attempt to seal the Afghan border to trap insurgents and prevent the use of safe havens, which will drive us to continue a dangerous escalation of the “covert” war in Pakistan (and we are at war in Pakistan, make no mistake, regardless of whether the bombs are falling from drones or manned aircraft). These activities induce the outrage driving Pashtuns into the arms of the Taliban. In addition, this military violence on behalf of the United States creates a false unity among various factions, galvanizing them against both coalition forces and the Afghan national government on whose behalf we fight. In other words, our participation in the ongoing political violence in Afghanistan provides the contradictions in our counterinsurgency rationale that will ultimately doom the strategy.

In Focus and Exit, Carnegie’s Gilles Dorronsoro argues:

The key idea is to lower the level of conflict (i.e., to reverse the current trend of ever-increasing violence). The only way to weaken, and perhaps divide, the armed opposition is to reduce military confrontations…The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban. Combat troop reduction should not be a consequence of an elusive “stabilization”; rather, it should constitute an essential part of a political-military strategy. The withdrawal must be conducted on U.S. terms only, not through negotiations, because negotiations with the armed opposition would weaken the Afghan government. Negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban cannot bring positive results until the Taliban recognize that the government in Kabul is going to survive after the withdrawal.

The first step, then, in reversing the growth of Taliban power in Afghanistan is to begin a sharp, unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from combat zones into what Dorronsoro calls “strategic zones,” where they will prepare for a final withdrawal from the theater. Information operations specialists in the U.S. civilian and military services, in coordination with the host nation government, should vigorously publicize this move as a concession by the U.S. to the government in Kabul, which will immediately reap a boon of political capital across the country.  This should be accompanied by an immediate halt to drone attacks in Pakistan, also publicized as concessions to the Pakistani civilian government.

These counter-intuitive moves will have a bewildering effect on the Taliban leadership. Their claim to be the “home team” will be seriously challenged by the ability of the Afghan and Pakistani governments to extract meaningful concessions from the coalition forces. Without the pressure of military confrontation, extremist groups will be robbed of their overriding justification for recruitment, conscription and consumption of community resources. Caught unprepared to add anything of value to the community, groups will suddenly find themselves in a “sea” of locals less willing to cede power to them now that the military emergency has passed. Coalitions of extremist groups artificially unified by U.S. military pressure will fracture as they attempt to consolidate control of their territories and make power plays against one another.

In short, at a moment when insurgent groups will assume they have won militarily, they will face a moment of maximum political danger, which will be exploited by the second plank of the strategy: civilian anti-insurgency.

Civilian defense against Taliban control

The goal of an insurgency is to topple and replace a government. While important differences exist, this goal imposes on the insurgent group(s) the same prerequisites for success as a coup d’etat. This means that successful methods of popular resistance to a coup attempt can be instructive when dealing with an insurgency. Writing on the topic of anti-coup defense, Gene Sharp said:

Defense can be waged by the attacked society itself.

…[A] defense policy against coups d’etat is possible. The essence of such a defense policy is two-fold: (1) that those who attack the constitutional system and intend to replace the elected government by a regime of their own choosing must be denied all legitimacy–they have no moral or political right to become the government, and (2) they must be denied all cooperation–no one in the government or in the population should assist or obey them in any way.

To secure legitimacy, insurgents will seek to compel endorsements by “persons and institutions in whom moral and legitimate political authority resides, whether they are elected officials, unofficial moral leaders,” etc. In addition, to attain control, they “require that a multitude of people who operate the political system, the society’s institutions, and the economy will passively submit and carry out their usual functions as modified by the [insurgents] orders and policies.”

With this in mind, the coalition and the Afghan government should undertake a concerted effort to educate the population about the possibility of resisting a Taliban takeover through denial of legitimacy and cooperation. Beginning in areas not currently under Taliban control and gradually expanding to areas where insurgents operate, these efforts should seek to familiarize the population with various methods that can be used to block insurgents’ ability to establish themselves as the de facto government in a given area. At the same time, the government and the coalition should begin working within the societal structures in these areas to prepare them to take on organizational roles in confronting and resisting an insurgent infiltration. By innoculating local communities against insurgent infiltration and providing resisters in insurgent-controlled territories tools needed to resist, the coalition and government can help resource a stout anti-insurgency movement at a moment when the Taliban struggles to adjust to the new strategic landscape.

Under an anti-[insurgency] policy, the resisters will aim to:

  • Repudiate the [insurgents] as illegitimate with no rightful claim to become the government;
  • Make the attacked society unrulable by the attackers;
  • Block the imposition of viable government by the [insurgents];
  • Maintain control and self-direction of their own society;
  • Make the institutions of the society into omnipresent resistance organizations against [the insurgency];
  • Deny to the [insurgents] any additional objectives;
  • Make the costs of the attack and attempted domination unacceptable;
  • Subvert the reliability and loyalty of the [insurgents’] troops and functionaries and induce them to desert [the insurgency];
  • Encourage dissension and opposition among the [insurgents’] supporters;
  • Stimulate international opposition to the [insurgency] by diplomatic, economic, and public opinion pressures against the attackers; and
  • Achieve international support in communications, finances, food, diplomacy and other resources.

Resistance in an area facing insurgent encroachment would come in two forms: general resistance and organized resistance.

General resistance refers to a “grassroots” form of anti-insurgency defense. The population would be trained to watch for trigger actions on the part of the insurgents, which, once taken, signal that it is time to resist. This allows the population to resist in a coherent way even if they cannot communicate with resistance leaders, or if the leaders have been killed or captured. Sharp suggests that

“These points might include, for example, efforts to promote the [insurgents’] regime as legitimate, attempts to remake or abolish the elected legislature, measures to remake the courts or impose a new constitution, abridgments of freedom of speech and religion, and efforts to control the society’s independent institutions.”

In the specific case of Afghanistan, these triggers might be more localized, such as the attempted imposition of the Taliban’s version of sharia law, attempts to meddle with the leadership structure of a locality, the attempt to ban music or beard-cutting, etc.  (I readily admit that I do not know which of these might already be part of a given cultural norm in Afghanistan; these triggers should be decided upon by those most familiar with the localities’ norms, not outsiders.)

Sharp identifies the following as possible guidelines for general resistance:

  • Keep all resistance strictly nonviolent…to make the anti-[insurgency] defense the most effective possible.
  • Repudiate the [insurgency] and denounce its leader as illegitimate.
  • Regard all decrees and orders from the [insurgents] contradicting established law as illegal and refuse to obey them.
  • Refuse and disobey all attempts by the [insurgents] to establish and extend controls over the government apparatus and society.
  • Noncooperate with the [insurgents] in all ways. This applies to everyone at every level of society.
  • Persist in maintaining the normal operations of the society in accordance with the pre-attack constitution, laws, and policies of the legitimate government and the society’s independent institutions.
  • Preserve the functioning of legitimate political and social organizations.
  • Refuse to supply the [insurgents] with needed supplies and equipment, hiding these when appropriate.
  • Engage in friendly “creative communication” with the functionaries and troops serving the [insurgents] while continuing resistance. Explain to them the reasons for the defense struggle, affirm the absence of any intended violence against them, seek to undermine their reliability, and try to induce them to be helpful to the defenders.
  • Refuse to assist the [insurgents] in disseminating their propaganda.
  • Document…the [insurgents’] activities and repression. Preserve and distribute it to the defenders, internationally and to the [insurgents’] supporters.

Organized resistance refers to a “grass tops” anti-insurgency effort. These efforts would be guided by recognized, legitimate community leaders and respond to strategic calls to action. Leaders would analyze and respond to moment-by-moment events and opportunities and work to seize the initiative in the struggle. According to Sharp,

“Such resistance may take the form of specific acts of symbolic protests or resistance, of which there are dozens of possible types.”

In fact, Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution has identified 198 forms of resistance that might be suitable for this kind of resistance.

As early as possible when encroachment begins, the resisters should communicate to the insurgents their hostility to the insurgency’s goals and that they will face resistance and noncooperation. The population should in the strongest (nonviolent) means possible urge the insurgents to leave. Should this fail to dissuade the insurgents from their encroachment, the population should repeatedly communicate that they lack “violent intent or threat toward the individual soldiers, accompanied by clear resistance.” According to Sharp, this may cause or worsen morale problems among the insurgents.

Sharp also warns, however, that there is no guarantee that nonviolent discipline will affect the troops, and extreme brutality may ensue. Resisters are warned that the attackers may use repression to attempt to terrorize the population into passivity. However, if the resisters persist in their noncooperation and resistance, the repression can fail, as has happened in successful anti-coup resistances.

“Such tragedies do not, however, mean the failure of the resistance. Instead, given continued, disciplined resistance, brutalities can weaken the [insurgents] and strengthen the defense struggle.”

“Nonviolent defiance often risks serious casualties, but it seems to produce far fewer casualties than when both sides use violence. At the same time, persistence in nonviolent struggle contributes to much greater chance [sic] for success than if the resisters had chosen to fight  militarily prepared opponent with violence.”

Furthermore, repression can boomerang on the insurgents in a process called “political jiu-jitsu.” In these cases, repression against nonviolent resisters:

  • Convinces more people to join the resistance;
  • Galvanizes resisters;
  • Damages morale of insurgents and their supporters;
  • Greatly increase international pressure and rejection of insurgent claims to be the legitimate government.

(I’d note that this process seems to be happening right now in Afghanistan–to the United States–in reaction to our killing of civilians, night raids, etc.)

Sharp cautions that though this process is a boon when it occurs, it is not required for a victory. Instead, victory comes through persistent noncooperation and rejection of insurgents’ legitimacy.

Use of civilian anti-insurgency methods will mark a major shift, and will likely take the Taliban by surprise. AK-47s and contraband government armaments may make them competent opponents in a battlefield situation, but their battle prowess can be turned into a liability by a stout civilian resistance. Unprepared for the sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces and faced with a kind of resistance against which their weapons are a liability, the Taliban will struggle to regain their bearings in the strategic landscape. They will either fall apart, or be forced to unmask themselves as the enemy of the population, in which case, they’ve already lost.

Advantages of this strategy over current U.S. strategy

  • This strategy clearly links means to desired ends, and provides a clear plan for reducing violence in the short term, unlike the current military-focused strategy.
  • This strategy would immediately strengthen the political position of the Afghan and Pakistani civilian governments within their own countries, as described above.
  • This strategy would be much more likely to peel off large numbers of reconcilable Taliban than the current U.S. overtures. Instead of being limited only to blocs of fighters or militias with leaders than can be compromised by U.S. and Afghan-government enticements, this strategy allows for the process of political jiu-jitsu to ensue, which could peel off shards of even hardcore insurgent groups.
  • This strategy maximizes the pool of potential recruits for an anti-insurgency strategy, and it allows for constant resistance independent of continuous flows of ammunition. The young, the old, men and women can participate, maximizing the amount of pressure that can be brought to bear to repel an insurgent encroachment.
  • This strategy would have the effect of laying a solid foundation for a more participatory, more democratic society than the current U.S. strategy. Instead of relying on the Afghan security forces or foreign militaries, the Afghan people would be masters of their own destinies.
  • Because it is an adapted form of civilian-based anti-coup defense, this strategy would provide the Afghan people with an effective tool to block future attempts by a well-resourced military to stage a coup against the young civilian government in Kabul.
  • This strategy would likely involve far fewer U.S. and Afghan casualties and reduce violence almost immediately.

Responses to Potential Challenges

“This strategy assumes that the people of Afghanistan will defend the Karzai regime as the legitimate government, when that’s far from a given.” This is true. However, the counterinsurgency doctrine under which U.S. forces supposedly operate in Afghanistan also makes this assumption and has a legitimate host nation government as a prerequisite for its success. So, while it’s a legitimate objection, it’s not a variable among the two plans under consideration. The Kabul government is fraught with corruption, and many groups, especially women, have very serious and well-founded complaints with the regime. If any strategy is to have any hope, this regime must begin to address its own shortcomings. Otherwise, we’re just as well picking up stakes and leaving now rather than wasting another dime on any doomed strategy.

“We lack the capacity to train large numbers of Afghans in nonviolent methods.” At the moment, the U.S. likely lacks the communicative and training capacity to undertake this strategy. That, however, is beside the point: we also lack the capability to undertake a properly resourced military counterinsurgency. But, ratcheting up capacity to implement this strategy would be far less expensive than would be the case for a “pure” implementation of military COIN doctrine, and would be far less expensive to sustain in the long run. Thus, the current lack of resources could be resolved quickly and could be sustained longer than a continued military intervention.

We just killed eight more civilians.

“The ISAF troops, however, were not aware that the insurgents were once again using civilians as human shields. If this information had been known by ISAF troops, no ordnance would have been used.

“Tragically, it is believed that eight civilians were killed as a result of the air strike. This terrible incident again shows the insurgents’ blatant disregard for the lives of Afghan people.”

First of all, I have a hard time reading our team’s military spin claiming that if they knew there were firing on an area that might have civilians in it, “no ordnance would have been used.” A week ago we dropped two one-ton bombs and several 500-pound bombs on a single village where we knew civilians were, which resulted in around 100 casualties, U.S. military protests notwithstanding. When any government shells out X number of $2,000 reparations, you can bet they are pretty darn sure they believe X number of civilians were killed. (The military’s “rebuttal” astounds me: “See, we only killed thirty innocent people! See! We do care!“) Noah at Danger Room, hardly a peacenik hangout, said:

A pair of one-ton bombs in a single village — plus eight more runs of 500-pound bombs? That is a lot of firepower.

“[N]o ordinance would have been used.” At the latest end of a trend line ending in a record amount of ordinance being dropped on Afghanistan. Right.

Second, given the history here, the insurgents are not the only ones showing a blatant disregard for the lives of the Afghan people. We absolutely know that air strikes in support of ground troops in an active engagement have been responsible for more than 2/3 of the casualties caused by coalition troops. We know that for a fact and have known it for years. Yet, we continue to use them, and basically told Karzai to go to hell when he insisted we stop. We’ve done the math and concluded it’s just not worth it for us to change the way we operate so that we avoid these mass killings. That is the definition of blatant disregard.

If we wanted to show regard for human life, we’d give up on the ends we seek that we cannot find a way to get without taking a human life. But that would be logical, humane, and maybe a little bit Christian, three things that have nothing to do with war.

FYI, the Senate is about to vote on supplemental war funding. The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is pushing supporters to call in today and tell your senators to vote against war funding. Join in:

Congressional Switchboard Number: 1-800-517-5696

This must stop. We need to let our elected representatives know we want them to end the war. If they won’t do it, we need to step outside of the normal channels and plan a civil disobedeience campaign to ratchet up the pressure. But Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan can stop this right now:  lay down your weapons and refuse to follow orders that would result in the deaths of other human beings.

Oh Good

Posted: May 20, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

From Men’s Health:

In other words, thousands of American fighters armed with the latest killing technology are taking prescription drugs that the Federal Aviation Administration considers too dangerous for commercial pilots.