Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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A Look At Why Even Good Plans Fail
We often wonder why, even when armed with the best of intentions and perhaps even sound plans, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts seem futile once the fighting stops. Billions of dollars later (and often a good many deaths of our military personnel and others), things head south.

Two stories today offer a partial answer to that question, and demonstrate vividly that a military victory is only a small part of what counterinsurgency and counterterrorism actually are. There have been victories in both Afghanistan (the U.S. and NATO) and Somalia (Ethiopia with U.S. support).

The first story is a reflection in the Washington Post Outlook section on total failure of the Afghan government to mitigate rampant corruption and abuse. The government has often been aided and abetted by international donors and others who value short-term fixes over true reform.

The point made is that the Taliban is resurgent, and somewhat accepted, because the government offers nothing better, or at least is perceived to be corrupt beyond redemption.

I think this is somewhat simplistic and misses some important issues (the Taliban's ability to finance itself through opium etc.), but people living through the current Afghanistan situation say the current level of corruption and abuse by those in power has made a mockery of the government and stripped it of all legitimacy. Perhaps the difference is that government drug traffickers and warlords work only for themselves while the Taliban sends at least some of its illicit proceeds on upgrading the fighting capabilities of its forces.

If the government we support and pour billions of dollars into, cannot come off in the minds of the vast majority of citizens as clearly better, then the efforts are worth little.

The second story is the astounding news that, although the government controls nothing of importance in Somalia and the radical Islamist extremists are now in the capital again holding press conferences, the president and prime minister are at each other's throats.

One would think that perhaps the president whose country is in mortal danger had better things to do than fire the prime minister, as neither has any real power. The prime minister vows not to leave, and attacks the president. This is the government that enjoys international support and claims to have some legitimacy inside Somalia.

But the weakness, corruption and ineffectiveness, have, against all odds, made the radical Islamists, with their style of a law and order agenda, the more attractive option for most of the people.

While this farce was playing out, the al Shabab Islamists were in Mogadishu, holding a news conference declaring their desire to establish an Islamist caliphate across the world, implement Sharia law and engage in no negotiations with the now-shredded remnants of the government.

People seem to view the end of the violence and horror of their daily lives at the hands of Islamists to be a better option than the ineptness they witness in a government the outside world largely supports. Quite a statement on that government. Perhaps the leaders have that luxury because they do not actually have to live in Somalia, but can stay in foreign capital and squabble while the country goes to hell.

My point is that people are largely rational, and seek the wellbeing of themselves and their families. If we have situations where the better option is perceived to be a force that promises security in exchange for every liberty and advancement made in the past 500 years, then the forces on the other side have erred beyond all redemption.
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