"Equipment is not a strategy.This seems to be a Middle East policy theme that is echoed by the incoming Obamaites; "it's not the WAR that's in trouble...it's the STRATEGY!" Which is a comforting thought, since if you're not in a hopeless war, just down a mistaken strategic cul-de-sac you can turn around or back out and drive on to Glorious Victoreeeeee!But the cynical old sergeant thought I had was, and is:
Tactics are not a strategy.
We have no strategy.
That in a nutshell is the problem."
"If we HAD a strategy, what the fuck could it be?"
We're fighting ideas: the ideas that Islam is for Muslims, the idea that Western notions of education, equal justice under law, nationalism, separation of church and state are evil and wrong. The idea that there should be a Jewish state on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The idea that it's OK for Western and foreign powers to occupy and rule and state-build in Islamic states if the Westerners really, REALLY have the best interests of the Muslims living there in mind.
How do you invent a "strategy" that convinces hardcore Islamic fundamentalists that all the above are good things?
These people may be tribesmen living in the 10th Century but they're not fools. Building them dams, schools and madrassis - if you're building these things to "buy" their loyalty - will work about as well as you'd think it would. How well did the bridges, roads and schools the British built in the American colonies work to keep the colonists loyal to the British crown, back in the day?ISTM that the problem here isn't that we have no strategy, but that any "strategy" that is designed to further American political influence on the peoples, "states" and non-state actors in the Middle East and southwest Asia is designed to run up against the fact that their interests and our interests are not similar and, in many cases, are hostile. It's not that they hate our freedoms. Rather, they hate our official embrace of Zionist Israel, they hate our ignorance of and dismissal of their old ways, from arranged marriage to purdah to tribal heirarchy. Their ways may be bad ways, but they are their own. Imagine how you'd feel if some powerfully armed foreigner barged into your home and told you that you had to throw away all your "Rush" CDs and burn your DVD copy of "Runaway Bride"? If you had any spine at all you'd fight, even if you knew you had no hope of victory.
So the only way such a "strategy" can be successfully accomplished is by bloodyhanded conquest. In which many more young men, like the grieving father's son, will have to die. And while I'm willing to accept that there are arguments in favor of such a strategy, it is not one that appeals to me. My America is the one that rebelled against foreign rule, not the one that seeks to impose it.
I wish I had a more lighthearted and happy assessment, but I don't. War is all hell, as Bill Sherman said, and you cannot refine it.The only way to "win" this game of central Asian empires is not to play.
(h/t to Ranger; this post is an expansion of a comment there, and to George R. R. Martin, from whose monumental - and enjoyable, read it if you enjoy the "disheroic fantasy" genre - "Song of Fire and Ice" series I stole the title of the first volume to entitle this post, Ta.)