February 03, 2010

3 Americans Killed in Pakistan and Why Keeping the War Covert is the Right Thing to Do

Three American soldiers were killed in Pakistan. As usual, Roggio has the best coverage:

Three US soldiers involved in the training of Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps were among nine people killed in a roadside bombing near a girls' school in Pakistan's insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province.

A massive bomb was detonated by the Taliban as the US soldiers traveled to attend the opening of a girls' school in the village of Koto in Lower Dir, a settled district that borders Swat. Three children, two civilians, and a Frontier Corps official were also killed in the blast, while another 65 people, including many young girls and two US soldiers, were wounded in the attack, Geo News reported. A school was also damaged.

Read the rest here.

Now, Shachtman has a good synopsis of various under-the-radar screen operations in which US forces are becoming involved -- a role normally thought of as belonging solely to the CIA.

What I object to in his analysis is this:

When are we going to start treating this conflict in Pakistan as a real war — with real oversight and real disclosure about what the hell our people are really doing there. Maybe at one point, this conflict could’ve been swept under the rug as some classified CIA op. But that was billions of dollars and hundreds of Pakistani and American lives ago.
You can read the rest here.

The problem with the view point that our operations in Pakistan should now be subject to public scrutiny is that it rests on three faulty assumptions.

1) That the American people should be told everything that their military does because the military is doing it in their name and because they are footing the bill. Under this assumption the government could do nothing covertly.

It is not this particular mission that is the problem, but its covert nature. The objection is idealistic, but when abstract idealism conflicts with the hard reality of lives on the line -- I choose life.

As did George Wasghington:

The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent & need not be further urged--All that remains for me to add is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in Most Enterprizes of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned & promising a favourable issue.
2) That the conflict in Pakistan isn't already subject to oversight. I'm assuming that it is, but that is a fairly educated guess. That oversight being through select committees. And those select committees also hold their hearings in secret.

If you object to, say, the Intelligence Committee meeting in secret then see my response above.

3) That we aren't treating this is a real war. In fact, we are. And Noah, of all people, should understand that. In fact, not only is it the same war as the one we are fighting in Afghanistan, it is the same theater of operations. Which is why nearly every one now calls this the Af/Pak theater.

In addition to these underlying and erroneous assumptions, is an even bigger objection: that admitting that we have troops on the ground engaged in combat roles would -- literally -- lead to a civil war in Pakistan. As it is, the Pakistani people tolerate -- barely -- the notion that foreign troops are there in a support mission.

And by the Paksitani people here I mean the Punjabi elites who have traded radical tribalism or radical Islam -- the hallmarks of many in Pakistan -- for radical nationalism. The Islamists in Pakistan are allied with or sympathetic to our enemies there. The tribes are unreliable.

It is only the nationalists who have allied themselves with us, and that only reluctantly. And that premised only inasmuch as we are willing to threaten them with oblivion -- something that took them only a year or so to see was completely idle -- and more recently with the Taliban becoming an existential threat to the existence of an Indian-Muslim homeland.

It is this threat alone that keeps a certain number of Pakistani nationalists on our side. But their eagerness for us to help them eradicate their own insurgency is coupled with their need to deny that they need us to survive. To admit that they need us is to admit that the whole experiment of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has always been doomed to failure.

Pakistan's elites may be willing to let us operate on a limited basis in their country, but only on a covert basis and only in a "support" role.

It is a catch-22, ironic, and duplicitous: but calling this a war is the same thing as losing it.

Me, I'm willing to be called two-faced for sake of winning a war.

Those that prefer consistency over victory are misguided.

Besides, consistency is overrated. I believe it was Emerson who said that consistency was the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

UPDATE: It's like Uncle Jimbo and I share a brain.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 01:57 PM | Comments |