What I’m Reading (03.15.10)

by Cameron Schaefer on March 15, 2010

On Afghanistan, waterboarding and COIN:

1) A fascinating paragraph from Robert Kaplan’s latest article on Afghanistan in The Atlantic (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

The very prospect of some success by July 2011 increases the likelihood that U.S. forces will be in Afghanistan in substantial numbers for years. In effect, the proficiency of the American military causes it to be overextended. British Major General Richard Barrons, a veteran of the Balkans and Iraq now serving in Afghanistan, told me he learned during the most depressing days in Baghdad that “the long view is the primary weapon against fate.” If you are willing to stay, you can turn any situation around for the good. But that is an imperial mind-set, with its assumption of a near-permanent presence, which today’s Washington cannot abide, even as its own strategy drives toward that outcome.

2)  On Waterboarding: here and here (caution: disturbing)

3) Getting Close to the Afghans:

Our distance from the population, and the enemy’s proximity, encourage the people to alert the insurgents when our troops approach. They encourage the people to keep quiet about IEDs, which are now powerful enough to kill passengers in our best armored vehicles. Force protection measures thus result in less protection for our troops.

The risk aversion among American commanders has many sources. Fear of casualties and doubts about our purpose in Afghanistan cause segments of American society to pillory units that sustain large casualties, and to ignore units that cling to large bases and accomplish little. Talk of troop withdrawal dates discourages leaders from taking short-term risks for long-term gain.

Part of the blame lies within the military, which has often promoted risk-avoiders ahead of risk-takers, and has undervalued other attributes of vital importance in counterinsurgency such as creativity, sociability and empathy. The extent to which American units collaborate with Afghan security forces and obtain assistance from the population depends primarily on these attributes, and it varies widely.

On millenials, the economy and the coming anarchy (light reading, I know, sorry Linda):

1) The Dropout Economy a.k.a. when Millenials get tired of paying for the broken system created by the baby boomers and decide to opt-out. (h/t Shlok Vaidya)

Look at the projections of fiscal doom emanating from the federal government, and consider the possibility that things could prove both worse and better. Worse because the jobless recovery we all expect could be severe enough to starve the New Deal social programs on which we base our life plans. Better because the millennial generation could prove to be more resilient and creative than its predecessors, abandoning old, familiar and broken institutions in favor of new, strange and flourishing ones.

Imagine a future in which millions of families live off the grid, powering their homes and vehicles with dirt-cheap portable fuel cells. As industrial agriculture sputters under the strain of the spiraling costs of water, gasoline and fertilizer, networks of farmers using sophisticated techniques that combine cutting-edge green technologies with ancient Mayan know-how build an alternative food-distribution system. Faced with the burden of financing the decades-long retirement of aging boomers, many of the young embrace a new underground economy, a largely untaxed archipelago of communes, co-ops, and kibbutzim that passively resist the power of the granny state while building their own little utopias.

2) Britain ‘four meals away from anarchy’ (h/t John Robb)

…at least there’s always music, check out this sweet visualization - Rock ‘N Roll Metro Map

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