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February 22, 2006
That Long War

Robert Kaplan has an interesting opinion piece up about the military's view of their strategy going foward.

First, mockery:

"After Iraq," one officer in the Pentagon told me, "we hope not to be invading a big country for a long time,

Has anyone shown the map of Iraq to the Pentagon and explained that it's actually a little, bitty country?

Moving on:

The goal from now on is to get into a place fast, before a problem begins to fester, when there is leeway to experiment and thus to make mistakes without suffering a loss of prestige. The way to avoid quagmires is to be engaged in more places, not fewer.

That started out admirably, but it didn't end so well. I agree with addressing problems sooner. But not if the reason is to avoid "loss of prestige."

I know I'm repeating myself, but the reasons you do things matter. If the focus is on avoiding "loss of prestige,", well, that implies that if things start to go sour, we'll wipe off our fingerprints and run away in the night.

There is precedent here: the British Colonial Office was, in effect, an interagency office, overseeing not just the military aspects of empire but also civil service, education and the like. No matter how vehemently people deride 19th- century imperialism, the same people often ask why the Americans can't be as smart in the field as the British.

Because both colonialism and imperialism are sort of out of favor these days? Because it takes brains, planning, and flexibility to take on these roles without dominating and weakening a country's faith in its ability to self-govern? Because we've bankrupted our government and impoverished our own population to the point where we really don't have the funds or the brainpower to take on these kinds of jobs?

Okay, so all I did in the end was mock, but that's not fair of me. I diss other people for cherry-picking quotes and here I am doing it.

It really was a good column full of some very interesting ideas, and you should read it.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:15 AM