Saturday, January 06, 2007

Warm Fuzzy Counterinsurgency

Friday's ATC was especially bad, so one more critique. Tom Bowman (NPR's Pentagon spokesperson reporter) profiles (i.e. provides a glowing assessment) of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus who is set to take over command of all U.S. forces in Iraq.

What is especially misleading about this feature are the assertions made about counterinsurgency:
(Bowman): "Retired Army General Jack Keane says Petraeus understands how to work with the local population and encourage them to break with insurgents – the essence of what the military calls counter insurgency."
(Keane) says that Petraeus "clearly understands proven counterinsurgency practices which have got to be put in place."
(Keane): "It’s all about securing the population and it’s not been done, and he [Petraeus] clearly understands how to secure that population."
(Bowman): "Petraeus is no ordinary general he has a PhD from Princeton – his thesis topic: The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam. He is among those who believe the army after Vietnam forgot how to fight insurgencies. He recently coauthored a new army manual on that topic."

In theory, some of the manual sounds reasonable and even humane. But the record of US counterinsurgency is anything but reasonable and humane. As Matthew Yglesias points out at TPM Cafe, the "successes" the US has had with counterinsurgency (as in the Indian Wars or in Central America) have relied on mass killings and brutality.

This glossing over the bloody history of US counterinsurgency practice (versus propaganda) is pretty much par for the course at NPR (previous case in point). This doesn't make it any less reprehensible, especially since the only way to achieve the US imperial goals for the Middle East is probably going to be through more mass slaughter of those who live there.

3 comments:

bluetaco said...

As I've written before, when are people going to realize that the US sucks at counterinsurgency war? When has it ever led to a stable, democratic state? It usually only prolongs the life of dictatorships or kleptocracies.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the insurgency...

I'm a pretty heavy consumer of news, getting my daily dose from national and international papers, BBC, NPR, and the blogosphere. But I've never seen a description of the insurgency in Iraq like this before, featured in tomorrow's NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/01/06/weekinreview/20070107_MARSH_GRAPHIC.html

I don't know why they made it an image file, strange. But it is well worth the look; I found it fascinating and reflects poorly on the quality of information that we're getting here about what is really going on in this war.

And Kudos to NPR for keeping Scott Simon off the air this morning.

Mytwords said...

Regarding the link to the NYT article on the insurgency. I forwarded it to Juan Cole at Informed Comment.