When Strategy Miscues
In the last entry (above), I ended by summarizing the number of troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 or 2003, respectively. While the nation knows the toll in blood and lost lives in Iraq, only recently has the public began to focus on Afghanistan and to ask – again – how many more?
Unfortunately, the answer is always the same: how many is as unknown as it is incalculable and as particular as it is random, both for those who fight and for those in leadership who contrive to start or to continue armed conflict.
For the people of Afghanistan as for the American public, much will depend on the new “matrix” strategy being introduced to beat back the insurgency’s recent gains. The matrix is envisioned as measuring 50 “indicators” of progress on reaching a set of mutual goals established by the central Afghani government and coalition forces.
The U.S. ground commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is not expected to request a specific troop increase when he testifies before Congress in September. What will spur the administration to request Congress authorize higher war spending is the “matrix effect” – created when separate elements from different backgrounds combine their capabilities into a new entity whose power is greater than the sum of its parts. The deployment of another 100 U.S. trainers is expected to act as the catalyst that finally produces a battle-wise and tested Afghani army – more professional, more concerned with human and civil liberties, more committed to democracy, and less corrupt than the other ministries.
While this is commendable psychology, it may well be non-transferable. A person unfamiliar with the meaning of key American theoretic concepts – e.g., “equality of opportunity” – that Americans instictively believe comes with Mom's apple pie are too often left to stumble about with no insight or other support. The result is a communal psychology that features the safety of the fighters before the safety of the community as a whole. At this point the psychology on which the culture rests becomes subject to widespread disintegration, leaving no understanding as to how such concepts of "equality" become integrated personal and communal actions that sustain national objectives without the burden of rigid matrices.