Thursday, July 30, 2009

clear, hold, and build…

…only works in real estate development.

The four year military veteran and writer Andrew Exum appears often lately on the Charlie Rose Show to discuss strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Andrew enjoys a great deal of access and recently was on a planning board with the new military commander in Afghanistan. Andrew uses the word strategy a great deal and uses the mantra of “clear, hold, and build” to explain counter-insurgency. I wonder if he has studied Edward Lansdale? I wonder if Andrew thinks he is somehow walking in Edward’s footprints, like Edward probably thought he was following T.E. Lawrence? Could it be?

T.E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia”, an experienced archeologist, was an advisor to Prince Feisal, an insurgent leader of his people fighting the Turkish Army during World War I. Lansdale was a counter-insurgency advisor, fighting Ho Chi Minh, later planning an overthrow of Castro. Insurgencies usually, very often win for good reasons, one of which is that the insurgent is more, very much more, willing to die for the cause than the “counter-insurgent” with the cumbersome bullet-proof vest and the 12-18 month commitment.

Russia recently had a successful counter-insurgency in Chechnya. Knowing that the theory of winning the “hearts and minds” is fiction, Russia used their experience in Afghanistan and simply sacked the country of Chechnya much like the Romans did in Jerusalem in 77 AD. Very effective, for a time.

Right now, there are a few older men around a campfire talking to grandsons. The young men are talking about the fight today in the valley. They baited the Americans once again. The older men nod and listen, looking at one another, eyes knowingly smiling remembering their own times like this many years ago. In the distance, the sound of gunfire. A young man asks why the Americans are here again. He asks an old man, didn’t they help you kill the Russians? Why do they fight here? The old man cannot explain it. He only knows that intruders in the valley only stay a while. Soon the valley will be quiet again. He tells the young men to leave the fireside, drink their tea and rest tonight.

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