Friday, January 01, 2010

Choosing Sides

Matthew Yglesias argues that Iraq and Afghan style 'boots on the grounds' is exorbitantly expensive strategy to deal with extremists who intend harm to USA. There is a point in that. He is pointing out the dangers of repeating same strategy in case of Yemen, now that American Mainstream Political Establishment has started to realize this new sanctuary. In place of this expensive counterinsurgency strategy, Yglesias advocates cheaper way of funneling some resources to local forces to wage and continue the war against those forces which intend harm to USA.

Assumptions in such advocacy are:
- those local forces are present in the first place;
- the ruling junta is engaged in activities which deprive indigenous people of their own benefits while sponsoring terrorism against West and other countries (what if those people are taking care of their own people?) and
- the internal struggle for power needs to translate in stopping of Terrorism or activities which are against the interests of rest of the world.

Libya for a while pursued Terrorism as a state policy but continued to take care of their own people so as there was no locus standi for any internal forces to wage a battle against the State. North Korea does not have any such viable internal forces. And then we have the classic case of Iran - though there are internal factions, taking side of any of these factions does not seem like achieving the goal of stopping nuke development as all factions seem committed to this strategy.

'Taking sides' - that is what Yglesias approach is essentially - worked in case of Iraq when in Anbar province General Petraeus took the side of Sunnis. Against Soviet Union, Americans took the side of Mujaheddin (fore runners of current Taliban) and it worked and today America is betting with Karzai. In Pakistan, it has been a blur picture with mixed results.

So such an approach works as long as you have, what Yglesias calls local forces, present and their interests and America's interests are aligned for at least some areas with tangible results to America upon success of these forces. In absence of that, we are at sea; as like in Iran.

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