Monday, December 08, 2008

The Bourne Subservience

Max Boot, 2007 --

In fighting terrorists, the U.S. won’t always have the freedom of action it enjoys in Somalia. Terrorists find shelter not only in ungoverned spaces like Somalia but in anti-American countries like Iran and Syria, in ambivalent countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and even in pro-American countries like Germany and Britain. For various political reasons, the potential for swashbuckling, Jack Bauer-style counter-terrorism in such states is less than in non-states like Somalia or Afghanistan, where anything goes.

Max Boot, today (alt. link) --

Given that dismal reality, it makes sense to think of second-best alternatives. In the case of the Somali pirates, creative solutions can include using air and naval power to hit the bases from which they operate, and employing Blackwater and other mercenaries to add their protective efforts to those of the world's navies. In Pakistan that means continuing air strikes and providing assistance to tribal militias which have their own grievances against jihadist interlopers. In both places, the U.S. should be doing what it can, in cooperation with allies and multilateral organizations, to bolster central authority.

But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that any of these measures has much chance of success. Until we are willing to place more ungoverned spaces under international administration, evils such as piracy and terrorism will continue to flourish.

So what happened? How did "Cry 'Havoc' and let slip the dogs of really cool covert operations" become, er, "Could the UN come in and administer this hellhole"? Because we've had 6 years of the 2007 vintage Max Boot approach in Afghanistan, and two years of "Operation Prester John" in Somalia i.e the idea of letting the Ethiopians run it. And both have now conclusively shown their ineffectiveness.

But you won't find Max Boot or any other of the neocons revisting why they've been wrong about everything. Boot just tries to segue into a policy recommendation that he thinks will have some shelf-life in an Obama administration.

Incidentally, Boot's grasp of colonial history is pretty shaky --

The essential problem in both Somalia and Pakistan is a failure of governance. The question is: What if anything can outside powers do to bring the rule of law to these troubled lands? In the 19th century, the answer was simple: European imperialists would plant their flag and impose their laws at gunpoint. The territory that now comprises Pakistan was not entirely peaceful when it was under British rule. Nor was Somalia under Italian and British sovereignty. But they were considerably better off than they are today -- not only from the standpoint of Western countries but also from the standpoint of their own citizens.

He thus assigns no role to the local deals cut by the colonial powers in Somalia and Pakistan, precisely to avoid having to directly control difficult areas. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan, which are now the source of so many problems, were simply the successor arrangements in an independent Pakistan that the tribes already had with British India. And that's Boot's preferred model for running Pakistan now.

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