Chess and Checkers

26 01 2009

I was reading Michael Shermer’s post about Oppenheimer, and it got me thinking.

It seems to me that American diplomacy is still of the “checkers” school, whereas what is needed is the chess mindest. Even ignoring the very simplistic worldview of our dimplomacy, the actual methods by which we carry it out and when we use it seem not to show any sense of strategy.

For instance, our raids across the border into Pakistan. Certainly, in the perfect world Taliban fighters wouldn’t be able to escape across the border. But losing Pakistan’s support damages us much more than the Taliban having an area to flee to. We need allies in the region, and we can’t afford to anger Pakistan unless we develop other more reliable and stable diplomatic relationships.

Further, there seems to be a lack of consideration as to why groups like the Taliban can continue to operate. For any sort of geurilla fighting, the geurillas must have more support than, or at the very least roughly as much support as, the other side in order to succeed or even to survive. What this means is that there is a lot of support for them in the area. That should tell us that the way to beat them has little to do with fighting them, and everything to do with local support. And yet we continue this “attack” mentality, using local support to attack them rather than to gain more local support.

I don’t know that any one group the US is fighting against does any better with this sort of thing. But the problem is, we’re trying to fight too many different battles at once to be able to persist in a tactical mindset. The strategy becomes important at this level. I think that’s the fundamental failing of US foreign policy, and not just the last administration. That’s been our situation for a long time.




One response

26 01 2009

You make a good point about local support propping up the guerilla efforts of those we’re attacking in the Middle East. What would we need to change to fix it, though? To appease locals and continue to hunt insurgents puts our troops at great risk, and to halt and appease locals in hope of their support doesn’t seem very promising.

This has been beat to death over and over, but the issue should be pulled up to a higher level of strategy yet – we should question whether warfare and flushing out the insurgency is the best means to achieve the ends we desire. The efforts that lose us the support of the people we’re trying to “liberate,” and lose us the support of Pakistan and other allied countries, may in fact be damaging the overall goal of stable diplomatic relations in that area of the world.

I see what you’re saying about fighting too many battles to persist in a tactical mindset with any, but I think that we’re FIGHTING too many battles to be considered tactical at all.

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