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06 October 2009


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Maureen Lang

This web page has links to coverage of the debate via youtube, Facebook, & audio/podcast on NPR:




N. M. Salamon

Interesting video [5x10 min approx] rethink afganistan.


Maureen Lang

The site address I posted above seems to have gone down- not sure if it's permanently disabled. Been looking around for other ones that would offer the debate audio, video, or transcript before the Bloomberg broadcasts, but so far no luck.


Patrick Lang who is a retired US military officer, and a former
Green Beret. He’ll be taking the microphone first to argue for our
motion, “America Cannot and Will Not Succeed in Afghanistan and
Pakistan,” ladies and gentlemen, Patrick Lang.

Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to be here with you,
this is a fascinating topic at this particular moment in American
history. And I would’ve thought maybe that people were tired of it
by now but I can see that that is obviously not the case. Now as
the chairman said, in fact I don’t think this— you can decide that
question other than in the context of what it—whether or not you’re
going to succeed, other than in the context of what American policy
is and what the stated foreign policy of the President of the United
States is with regard to this question. That’s— I had the fortune
or misfortune to go to any number of Army service schools, one of

them was the Army War College, where they taught me a lot about
the strategy of planning… itself, you started with the mission,
national purpose, you have a policy, and then you devise a strategy
from that. then you implement that strategy. That’s how it works.
Now, last March I listened carefully when President Obama
announced that our policy in Afghanistan was to disrupt, destroy,
and disorganize our enemies, our specific enemies who were a
danger to the United States. That’s a nice… clear policy, you know,
it’s not too hard to understand that. And to that end, General
Stanley McChrystal was put in command out there, and sent out to
make what is called a commander’s estimate of the situation.
Which he did, with a lot of help from various people for several
months and it is now as you know, the object of great contention in
the Washington world. And the problem with his estimate, I think,
that is causing so much trouble, is that it is normal in an estimate
of that kind for a commander to propose several options to his
superior, among which the boss can choose. To present only one
option, in this case the option of a large-scale counterinsurgency
campaign, across all of the really hostile parts of Afghanistan in the
context of their ruined, if ever alive economy, and their obviously
rather feeble political system, is a daunting task. But somehow it
has become-- what we would call an implied task for General
McChrystal, that the pacification of large parts of Afghanistan and
the most hostile places are in fact a necessary thing. And for that

reason, he has opted for counterinsurgency. Now, I am happy to
see so many members of my generation out here in the audience.
There are usually too many young people for my taste.
[LAUGHTER] But— I started in the counterinsurgency business
—in the church of the counterinsurgents, really. In 1964, if you
can believe that, when the Army sent me down to Fort Bragg to
study this subject with intensity and at the feet of the most learned
French and British exponents of this theory of warfare which had
been created as a result of the experience of the former colonial
powers in World War II in fighting against the wars of national
liberation as they were called then. And the Communists had
gotten involved in all these wars so we were against all this as well,
so we studied up on this in a big way, and one of the most
interesting of the guys who taught from the stage there was a great,
a great scholar named Bernard Fall. Bernard Fall. Some of you
undoubtedly know who that is. And I remember watching him, I—
of course I had no real idea who he was at the time but I remember
him, watching him write—write on a blackboard on the stage,
“Counterinsurgency equals political reform plus economic
development plus counter-guerilla operations.”
“Counterinsurgency equals political reform plus economic
development plus counter-guerilla operations.” And that’s really
all of it right there, that’s all of it in a nutshell. And it is in that
context that when you look at Afghanistan, this huge place that’s

the size of Texas with 35 million people of very disparate origins,
many of them speaking languages that are not mutually intelligible,
and who don’t like each other, a lot of them, very much, in fact you
can see, that this is a very difficult thing to do. We tried applying
this theory of warfare, counterinsurgency, across the world in the
1960s and ‘70s and ‘80s and I did it myself in South America, in
East Africa and Southwest Asia and all kinds of places, and of
course Vietnam, how could I forget that. And we found that in
places where the task wasn’t too big, you know, the country wasn’t
too big, the problems weren’t manageable one way or another, or
people weren’t thoroughly converted to some ideology that
demanded revolution, that you could do this, by enough good
works and suppression of guerillas you could turn this around, and
I could name places if we had time. In places that were eerily big
and where none of those conditions applied, we—you could struggle
like the devil but you wouldn’t get very far, you know. And I—this
is the problem I have with the idea of the application of
counterinsurgency, those three things, to Afghanistan, I know that
was four things. In fact, I think that is too big a task for us. We
have been fighting for eight years, Afghanistan is a huge place, it
has terrible problems, economic ones, political ones. And the
combat problem, from the point of view of a guy who fought in
several wars like this including Vietnam, is really very difficult.
And I would submit to you that if what we’re going to do as General

McChrystal says, we’re going to try to protect the people, which
means essentially, control the population because that’s what
counterinsurgency is about, just like insurgency is about
controlling the population either with positive means, or means not
so positive, sometimes, you’re going to have to have a lotta troops
to do this. I mean General McChrystal evidently wants 40,000
more people. Well I would say to you that that’s just the
beginning. That’s how we started in Vietnam too. This is a big
problem we’re facing in Afghanistan. And in fact, this slice of the
pie will be followed by further slices of the pie. And my objection
to all this is, and the reason why I don’t think we can win with a
counterinsurgency strategy, is in fact because I think that, three or
four years down the pike, if we apply that strategy, all you good
people, and your fellow citizens across the country are going to look
at this, going to say, are the Taliban, or whatever it is we’re calling
the Taliban, are they really our enemies, in the sense that al-Qaeda
was? Is this really what we want to do? And when that happens, I
suspect that what’s going to happen is you’re going to tell your
members of Congress that you’ve had enough of this, and then they
will vote the end of the war as they did in Vietnam. So I don’t
think we can do this, I don’t think we can do counterinsurgency in
Afghanistan, there are other methods that could be applied, that
would control the situation there over a long period of time, I don’t
think we can withdraw altogether. But counterinsurgency in

Afghanistan I find to be a very difficult idea. Thank you very much.

Patrick Lang


I am told that this debae will be on Bloomberg television every night next week at nine after Charlie Rose. pl


After 8 yrs and that audience could be persuaded to think there might be a good outcome? I'm confused.

Maureen Lang

Thanks, WILL- reading that transcript right now.

Have set our dvr accordingly, Pat.

Patrick Lang


Debate transcript courtesy of batondor.


Coll read his initial remarks. This was contrary to our instructions from IQ2. pl


America cannot and will not succeed in Afghanistan/Pakistan
Moderator: John Donvan
For the motion: Steve Clemons, Patrick Lang, Ralph Peters

Against the motion: Steve Coll, John Nagl, James Shinn
Before the debate:
For the motion: 48%
Against the motion: 25%
Undecided: 27%

After the debate:
For the motion: 43%
Against the motion: 45%
Undecided: 12%



Why didn't the moderator cut off Coll from reading his initial remarks?

N. M. Salamon

All an interesting video [50 min] on Israel lobby, US politics - seems very even haded

N. M. Salamon

sorry did not register URL

N. M. Salamon

your presentation was succint based on good analysis. Only thing I missed a strong reference that long term occupation is impossible in the xxi-st century [as was in the xx-th -Eastern Bloc by USSr, Palestine/lebanon by Israel, and various collapse of European colonial rule].
I found your opponents very short in finacial and or military cost analysis at a time thaat your armed forces/national guard are worn out by Iraq, Afganistan, somalia and God knows where else. Neither did they mnention the no-no of Vietnam, there shall be no DRAFT [the only solution to manpower needs], nor did they analyse where the money is sourced - the non-existant income of the next generation of USA taxpayers with a $60 TRILLION unfunded liability in the next shortwhile, being Social Security, Medicare, Federal debt, all unpayable without inflation - inflation which means EVER LOWER STNADRD OF LIVING, not counting Global Warming nor counting PEAK OIL.

All in all I am saddend by the poor result of the debate, where for lack of education of the REAL WORLD, the audience seems to have been addled by WE CAN DO IT motto, without reflecting on the price [a la the Ponzi scheme of the last 20 years of spending more than what was earned by the whole society].


Thanks, for the http://intelligencesquaredus.org/wp-content/uploads/AfPak-100609.pdf>link.

Peculiar production and phrasing of the for and against motion. To be quite honest I expected the result after a while. The more I was approaching the end, the more I was sure "American" would vote for the "winning" team. It felt a bit like a setup, it felt people were deliberately confused by the phrasing, the presentation. Public opinion shapers?

But this I like. Thanks to people behind the applause here. I would have joined them:

My question is, why do you have more confidence in our
counterterrorist capabilities than our top counterterrorist general.

Well, for two reasons. [APPLAUSE] First of all because, you’re
mixing apples and oranges—

Do I get to answer this—?

General McChrystal was given a mission, by the President. And the
mission was pacify Afghanistan. He succeeded wonderfully, in the
counterterrorism. But he has failed miserably and we will continue
to fail, in the pacification effort.

Patrick Lang


I hate tell you Peters mispoke. he meant Iraq, not Afghanistan. pl


General McChrystal was given a mission, by the President. And the
mission was pacify Afghanistan."

I read this off the transcript too, but that is not the mission the President gave to General McChrystal.


There may be no religion mentioned in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual but I believe your labeling this as “sacred scripture” is accurate. The high priests are staring at the think tank gravy train drying up once this war is over. FB Ali was right, we are beset by a plague of crooks and fools.

“We have to provide essential services to the population, water, electricity, …” “We have to provide them with good economic development and opportunity to have their sons and their daughters earn a decent living,’ “We have to provide them with good governance, something that, we have not helped with as much as we should.”

I’ll forgo comments on US health care reform, unemployment, etc and just ask:

What is John Nagl talking about? We, the American people, have to provide good governance to Afghanistan? Heck, twenty minutes later he’s telling us our troops are “fighting for the legitimate government of Afghanistan” and then later that ONLY 7 percent of Afghans support the Taliban? If only 7 percent support the Taliban then how the heck is this war still going on then?

In 2001 the American Army defeated the Taliban Government that had sheltered Bin Laden. It is time for them to ‘return with the honor they have earned’. Tell Karzai to fight his own damned ‘rebellion’ with his own damned army. If only 7 percent of the population supports the Taliban it is not a problem, unless less than 7 percent of Afghans support Karzai.



I hate tell you Peters mispoke. he meant Iraq, not Afghanistan. pl

I saw the problem of your team clearly. But it also felt it was somehow (people keep telling me not to use this word so frequently, there it is again) created. I wish I had been on a PR team getting a fairer chance in the "staging" of the point and counterpoint positions.

Look at how the numbers are used already by http://securingamerica.com/>O'Reilly

My heart was with Ralph (with you obviously, and with Clement too) anyway, although he could have gotten his point over much better, had he been advised in how to present his view to us military nitwits out there.


Fred, Ralph's points were very emotional and from the point of view he knows, the military,from the perspective of to put it in Sic Semper Tyrannis terms: The Angst of the Legion. He is still in this. For him it's still about the life and dead of his men.

How would he have argued had he been warned that some of his points could be easily misunderstood, how and why, by people unfamiliar with the realities of his "trade"?

I don't think he is a heartless killer, but some of his points can be easily misread that way.

I simply corrected Afghanistan with Iran in my mind. It was so obvious, that he reacted emotionally to an ANONYMOUS challenge from the audience. Which really was how do you dare question an authority way beyond your capabilites on the issue. It was a trick. He should train to register this and pause to break the stimulus - response chain.



I re-read this transcript at length. I have no issue with Ralph Peters, he did misspeak as Pat pointed out. I was glad to hear some details on the efforts of the USSR in Afghanistan, they received little for the clinics, schools, etc and blood spilt. They had a super power funding the opposing side, too.

The anonymous audience member? Seems like the kind plant you get at a congressional campaign event. John Nagl at times sounded like Huey Long (see my comments above with his quotes). I was going to suggest he run for office from Louisiana, lord knows an Iraq war veteran wouldn't have much problem against soon to be ex-Senator Vitter.

I do have many issues with the mind-set of Col. Nagl. As Pat Lang pointed out the Counterinsurgency Manual has no reference to religion in it. There's plenty of talk from the neo-con ranks about 'Islamic extremism' but no understanding of religion in everyday life, or is it only non-Christian religions that they neither understand nor respect. I wonder if this is an issue with modern conservatives across the political spectrum? Justices Anton Scalia and John Roberts seem just as emotional on an issue before the Supreme Court http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/us/08scotus.html . Would the justices be as emotional in supporting Islamic, Jewish, Hindu or any other symbol 'honoring all war dead'? We do not need to become Muslim in order to understand or respect followers of that faith, no more than we need be Catholic to understand or respect Catholics.

As for Obama, it looks like the Nobel Committee just gave him all the reinforcements needed to tell McChrystal no, he's not getting any more troops from anyone and 'old Europe' doesn't support bombing Iran.



OK, wait, I'm confused. Are you talking about the same Ralph Peters who managed to skip out on the Vietnam War, and now shills for the NYPost and Foxnews? The same Ralph Peters who went on Foxnews and said it would be ok for the Taliban to execute Pfc. Bergdahl, "the Taliban could save us all alot of time and money by...(shrugs)" You can find the interview on youtube. I very much doubt that for Ralph Peters this is about the life and death of his(?) men. I think it's more about how well he can line his pockets.

Just my opinion.



I watched it. This was artfully edited to justify the audience vote.

Half my opening remarks were omitted and all of my closing statement. pl



Regarding your 13 Oct 09 post: I now understand your distrust of MSM.

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