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16 June 2010


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Sidney O. Smith III

Beautiful article. I note that Anthony Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Arleigh Burke believed the attack on the USS Liberty was intentional.

What say Mr. Cordesman?


Oh my sainted Aunt! What a mess!

"In short, winning requires a major adjustment in US, ISAF, and donor acceptance of Afghanistan as it is."

....But then we must fight on to change Afghanistan?

"Asia is not going to be civilised after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old."

Rudyard Kipling "The Man Who Was" - 1891.

N M Salamon

While the analysis is excellent with respect to the issues within Afganisatan and Pakistan, the analysis completely neglects the most important part of any war effort: FINANCE.

All NATO members are facing horrendous fiscal problems seamming originally from the USA/UK regulationless financial games. Saving the banks have put the Soveriegn debt rise [consequence of the SAVE initative] to unacceptable levels, which will entail major cuts in numerous state budgets/ and tax increases. Under such conditions foreign adventurism's support will drastically decline, forcing various governments to end such wastage of public funds[especially the funds of future generations]. The speech by the PResident yesterday called for m,ajor investment in renewable resource type energy production Congress will ahve to decide: energy sufficiency or war - it is that simple; and this decidion will have far greater effect on Afganistan Pakistan AND THE USA then any military tactical or strategic plan in the next few years.

William R. Cumming

Brilliant and realistic post. Just years too late.

Patrick Lang

I cannot avoid saying that Cordesman up to this point has been a cheerleader for these exercizes in unreality in Iraq and Afghanistan. The chickens are going to come home to roost. The COINistas will go down hard and their general officer disciples will go with them. pl


Agreed, Cordesman is years too late.

Tom Toles nails it:


just to keep things straight, does Cordesman's latest revised verison of reality represent Afg 3.0 or Volume 5 of a series without end?

Russ Wagenfeld

I have always harbored a distrust concerning Cordesman's expertise and motives. I have a feeling that he would not have written this piece without knowing there was already a receptive and important audience out there which wanted to hear this. So it is interesting on that level as well.
Regards, Russ

Patrick Lang


What we will see is a flight of the rats leaving the sinking ship.

This will be accompanied by plaintive whining that the TRUE COIN methods were not thoroughly applied. This is something like all the statements I heard from Communists (former) in Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. "Marxism-Leninism was never really given a chance..." etc.

The analogous statements about the COIN philosophy will set the state for another attempt to app;y this highly seductive doctrine 50 years or so hence. pl


Can This Mission Be Successful? Can We Win?

Are two questions, not one.

The public reason for the Afghan mission seems to be to create a stable Afghanistan that isn't a base for Al Qa'ida. A possible way to end this mission succesfull would be to loose to one, or a coalition of non Taliban insurgents groups.

clifford kiracofe

Ho hum,

Just another strategic narcissist (Beltway "expert") blowing smoke, bobbing and weaving, and laying on more jive from the comfort of his paper mill.

I know, he does the gravitas thing well but...really.

The volcano of oil in the Gulf is the present strategic crisis and 911, the Hindu Kush, and all that pale in comparison...

FB Ali

I could not proceed beyond the first section of Cordesman’s article, because I gagged at the nonsense he was spouting. The man doesn’t have a clue what is going on in that region. A sample of his cluelessness:

The key reasons for the war remain Al Qa'ida and the threat of a sanctuary and base for international terrorism, and the fact the conflict now involves Pakistan's future stability....Experts disagree sharply about Pakistan's instability and vulnerability in the face of a US and ISAF defeat in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s instability is due to the US war in Afghanistan; it would improve greatly if the US left that country.

....keeping US capabilities to work with Pakistan in UCAV and other strikes on insurgent networks is also an option.

Nothing is creating more anti-US sentiment in Pakistan than UCAV strikes in its tribal areas. The government and the military have both said, publicly and privately, that these are counter-productive and should stop.

....investment in helping key allies like Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco would do far more to provide overall security.

The US is not helping these countries, it is helping their unpopular rulers to remain in power. This is preparing fertile soil for extremists among their populations.

If this is the level of ‘experts’ in the US, no wonder it is in such a deep hole.


"Massive population increases, poverty, decaying educational and social infrastructure, culture shock and alienation..."

So he wants to export Planned Parenthood to the developing world? Good luck getting any family planning funding through congress. The right gutted that decades ago.

clifford kiracofe

FB Ali,

Indeed and it is no wonder some of us are rather fed up with the inside the Beltway nonsense.

The public is too dumbed down, propagandized, and manipulated to comprehend the abysmal (and dangerous) state into which their country has fallen.

This is not to mention the grave problem of the massive and systematic betrayal of this republic by the political class which is under the thumb (presently and for the foreseeable future) of the "pro-Israel" Lobby.

Cordesman is considered a "senior expert" and also to have "gravitas." All of which means his ilk of strategic snake oil salesmen get listened to while authentic realists are vetted out of government and marginalized.

And I would not count on anything changing for some time to come, if at all.

Patrick Lang


Among others, I am frozen out. I am tired of it. What should I do? pl

John Waring


You must continue to say what must be said in any forum that comes your way. You must continue your path of integrity.


Standing for integrity is a virtue not practiced enough, please continue. When the time is right, things will come around.

clifford kiracofe


I think the most effective action is precisely this website. It's a forward observer post reporting to the citizenry. Hopefully the citizenry can be stirred. It took a while after 1763 to get us to 1776 so I suppose patience (combined with action) is a virtue. Although the situation had been brewing for 200 years one way or another...

The main thing at this stage, I think, is to speak out boldly and tell the truth as best as one can.

Most of my friends are recently retired or in the process of retiring (like me). My personal experience and observation since the late 1970s in DC is that the "pro-Israel" forces have a hammer lock now. This situation has developed particularly over the past couple of decades.

The Freeman case is just one very visible example. But what is really going on is on the invisible front you never see in the press...this is the most insidious front.

As one friend of mine said, "it's the best Congress money can buy." As we both worked in the Senate of the United States, I think we have some feel for the matter.

I try to speak up when I can and I wrote the book "Dark Crusade" (London: Tauris, 2009) to lay out some of the issues and the historical context. This took me three years' effort on my own dime. I am working up some new similar projects.

We do what we can do in our own ways guided by our own lights....and Faith. The present "powers and principalities" may think they have the upper hand but in the long term this will not be the case, IMO.


pl: "Among others, I am frozen out. I am tired of it. What should I do?"

John Waring: "You must continue to say what must be said in any forum that comes your way. You must continue your path of integrity."

Well, yes, but that goes without saying to a large extent. I would recommend running for political office. House or Senate. Seriously.

We all know what kind of hell that would be, and that both places are full of High Poobahs of Snake Oil. But there are also quite a few people who are trying to do the right thing, from both sides of the political spectrum.


Col Lang,
You have good advice from regular correspondents. Don't underestimate the impact of SST over the years even as the effort exhausts on a day-to-day basis.

You have great skill at analysis. You also have a characteristic of not being in love with your own opinions.

A risky, but worthy step you might consider is to make clear predictions of outcomes of specific policies, their costs & their timelines. Over time, it is difficult to ignore cogent, accurate prognostication (even as the beltway / media industry manages to).

I'm probably being a romantic, but it sure would be nice for the nation if there were a price to be paid for consistent failure in public policy. There hasn't been for many years, and it shows.

If you were right more than wrong, you'd be way ahead of the game's players. & since kool-aid is not your drink of choice, I don't think you run much risk of becoming one of them.

As always, thanks for your contributions & the forum you have created.

Margaret Steinfels

You all may have a better fix on what Cordesman is saying than I do. But there's a plain vanilla reading of this that is saying forget 2011; the U.S. is going to have fighting troops there for years to come. Petreus's feint faint the other day is part of his appeal to our sentimental Congress.

Patrick Lang


No. This is just Tony C. covering his butt.

I understand that Petraeus is quite ill and is pumped full of meds. pl

Patrick Lang


I learned over the last 40 years of analytic and intelligence field work that "decision makers" do not change their minds on the basis of anyone's analysis or evidence. They make up their minds in a process of group think and then all they want from the intel people is help in carrying out their intentions.

Similarly, I have no illusions about the direct impact of what gows on here. This is an educational entrtprise which I hope will result in some of the egomaniacs making better decisions some day on the basis of their greater wisdom. pl


Do not underestimate the value of the work here at SST. The true intellectual evolution of our times is happening on the web and this is a place of wisdom.

The following was a popular culture question on a sports website presented on 6/11 to a midwestern stock car driver. I believe this is change happening in the US among us common folk:

"Israel has become a big issue on the national stage once again. What's your take on the Israel-Palestine issue, and should the U.S. government be getting involved?"

"Well, there's a lot of philosophy attached to that. I think we've got enough problems at home; we don't need to add anything more to our plate. I think when it comes to the whole Middle East thing, in my opinion, we need to be working on our own house. We've got our own problems, whether it's unemployment, or poverty, or whatever it might be."

If I was Absoltus Tyrannis and Anthony Cordesman presented me this paper, then I would thank him and begin the drawdown


The SME's in political Washington are fundamentally different from those outside. In political Washington, the "scholars" tend to be glorified public relations experts. They are selected to fix the evidence and make the case for decision makers, such as Cheney or for powerful interests, such as defense contractors. They need to know nothing about their subject, as long as their arguments sound plausible to the equally ignorant American media and its audience.

To see how Washington works, you only have to remember the run up to the Iraq war, where all the publicists raged about WMDs while the real pros, like Mohammed El-Baradei, were virtually ignored.

Now we are seeing the sequel, where Iran is "known" to have a nuclear weapons program, while those paid to know such things, the IAEA and the US intelligence community, deny the existence of such a program.

Sophistry is what drives political Washington. The goal is not to serve the public interest but to manage the public so that it will agree with whatever crazy schemes enhance the prosperity of the powerful interests serving up the phony narrative.

When you see the President espousing in such sophistry, you know that he is embedded, not an independent, objective decision maker.

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