Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Soup With a Knife

Did you know that "in all the plans for redefining the strategy in Iraq, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: pumping up the number of US combat advisors training Iraqi security forces." All the plans? Pumping up the numbers of advisors? That's what Deborah Amos wants us to believe this morning on NPR. Amos apparently has never heard of someone like Helena Cobban of the Christian Science Monitor or the Congressional Progressive Caucus; they have plans that have nothing to do with "pumping up" advisors.

But NPR has singled out one of the brains of the US Army, Rhodes scholar and head of "the new Army program to train the trainers" in Iraq - Lt. Col. John Nagl. Nagl's expertise is counter-insurgency. He has written lovingly of the British destruction of the communist insurgency in Malaya in the 1950s -- a pattern that it sadly seems is being pursued by the US in Iraq.

From Nagl we hear about how great the training of Iraqi forces is now going to be, though he reminds us that "these are long hard wars - my favorite quotation is from Lawrence of Arabia, ‘Making war on insurgents is messy and slow like eating soup with a knife.’ This is a long, hard process. Historically defeating an insurgency has taken eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve years...."

I actually think it is newsworthy to report on and interview someone like Nagl. But where is the critique of counter-insurgency? Where is a look at the ugly truths about British counter-insurgency that Nagl is so impressed with? And of course there is nothing about the sordid history of US counter-insurgency. It would have been interesting to hear Nagl challeneged about his premises, and statements such as this from the new preface to his book: "The United States is working diligently in Iraq, as it did in Vietnam, to improve the lives of the people." Now that's a whopper!

Instead NPR offers its usual fare limiting the debate to its narrowest of margins and then promoting the opinions of someone who will never question any basic assumptions and myths of US foreign policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can't... take... any... ..ore... NPR..crap!! :) Great post! And even within the confines of permissible debate on NPR you would have thought they might have interviewed someone who could at least point out how terrible the US is at counter-insurgency. Compared to the British, I mean. After all, at least the Brits bother to actually learn something about the culture and language of a country before they go in. I just feel that this post-WWII US policy of picking up and throwing some Third World country against the wall every ten years isn't going to work anymore to keep the rest of them in line. Limits of military power are becoming very obvious, and for example, all over Latin America people are saying they aren't going to roll over for Washington anymore.