Defending Frist

I do not like Bill Frist. I will always vote against him, and volunteer against any camapaign that he runs which is within working distance from my house. However his recent statements about Afghanistan and the Taliban do make a certain degree of sense and therefore I have to defend him.

From Digby:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.

The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means.

“You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government,” Frist said during a brief visit to a U.S. and Romanian military base in the southern Taliban stronghold of Qalat. “And if that’s accomplished we’ll be successful…..”

“A political solution is how it’s all going to be solved,” he said.

This is not the most artful way of repeating US Army counterinsurgency doctrine (PDF)(h/t Politburo Diktat)

1-90. The primary objective of any counterinsurgent is to foster the development of effective governance by a legitimate government. All governments rule through a combination of consent and coercion. Governments described as “legitimate” rule primarily with the consent of the governed, while those described as “illegitimate” tend to rely mainly or entirely on coercion. Their citizens obey the state for fear of the consequences of doing otherwise, rather than because they voluntarily accept its rule. A government that derives its powers from the governed tends to be accepted by its citizens as legitimate. It still uses coercion — for example, against criminals — but the bulk of the population voluntarily accepts its governance.

Going back to the Daily Show interview with President/General Musharaff of Pakistan, he stated the obvious that the Taliban is fundamentally a Pashtun peoples movement with a heavily armed wing that is fighting what they perceive to be an illegimate government composed of a bunch of out-group warlords and protected by the US Army and NATO.

Walking the talk over to Iraq, that is one of the basic grievances of the Sunni Arab community — the new political arrangments imposed/protected by the US military are far less advantageous for them then the previous arrangments. Same basic complaint in Afghanistan without the complication of massive oil endowments to fight over. So when we applauded efforts to bring Sunnis into the Iraqi political process on the hope of fracturing the hardcore elements of the insurgency from their vital but persuadable support base, we were willing to bring an insurgency supporter into government.

That is what I think Frist is trying to communicate. A political solution with a military element has a higher probability of success than a purely military solution with minimal political efforts. Counterinsurgencies can be won by either committing genocide on a mass scale, or by fracturing the supporting coalition with credible and deliverable promises of addressing grievances while providing significant security.

I don’t like Frist but he is not saying anything that should not be part of a serious discussion of how to fight the insurgency that the United States has not yet completely screwed the pooch on.

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