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Ear to the Ground

Petraeus Gets Tactical About Afghanistan

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Posted on Jun 29, 2010
Petraeus
AP / J. Scott Applewhite

Gen. David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill on Tuesday at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

On Tuesday, Gen. David Petraeus succeeded in convincing the Senate Armed Services Committee that he’s fit to take over for Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, and he hinted that strategic shifts may be on the way in that war once his expected Senate confirmation has come to pass.  —KA

The New York Times:

Gen. David H. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he would take a new look at the rules governing the use of heavy firepower in the Afghan war, which have cut down on United States air strikes and civilian casualties but have been bitterly criticized by American forces who say they have made the fight more dangerous.

Calling the protection of his troops a “moral imperative,” General Petraeus signalled in his Senate confirmation hearing to take command in Afghanistan what could be his first significant shift in policy since President Obama last week fired the top commander there, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

[...] Saying that he had consulted the Afghan leadership on the need to adjust course and that they agreed with his view, he added: “I mention this because I am keenly aware of concerns by some of our troopers on the ground about the application of our rules of engagement and the tactical directive. They should know that I will look very hard at this issue.”

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, June 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

If I were civilians, not to mention combatants, in Kandahar province I would be afraid, very afraid——here come the Marines.  Strategic military science says the enemy must be vanquished and, in that effort, all collateral damage is acceptable.

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By gerard, June 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

One part of the definition of “terrorist” is “non-State actor”.  When more than 50% of the citizenry of a democracy disapprove of a military action, does that make the military forces, non-state actors?
  Another part of the definition is “their intention is to intimidate and create widespread panic.”  Is there any military force that does not intend to intimidate and create widespread panic?
  “Their targets are often ordinary civilians.” the definition continues. (“Terrorism Studies” by Nicholas Lehmann in The New Yorker 4/26/10,p.73)
Do hi-tech weapons not target ordinary civilians to such a degree that it is necessary to mask the incidents as “collateral damage”?
  Boiling the above NYer article down, it would seem that the only “terrorism” different from ordinary war is the attacks of “suicide bombers” that “don’t take place on the field of battle.” (We haven’t quite sunk that low yet, but we’re working on it as war itself becomes morally less and less “winnable” and more and more suicidal and destructive.) 
  On the other hand, Petraeus is said to have “absorbed the theory” that terrorist and insurgent groups are sustained by “their provision of social services.”  (p76)
  A-ha!  As I keep saying:  Make peace, not war. Provide social services, at home and abroad, for ten years and see what happens.  I dare you!
  Perhaps the most shocking conclusion of this studied article is:  Since force is not the way to get the upper hand on terrorism, “the implication is that somewhere in the world there might be a politician with the skill to get people to calm down about terrorists in their midst so that a rational policy could be pursued.  That’s hard to imagine.”
  No, it’s not hard to imagine at all.  Fear of terrorism is deliberately hyped.  The missing ingredient?  Good old plain common sense. Think.  Don’t panic. 
  The myth that peace is “hard to imagine” is what keeps it from being discovered, recognized and practiced.

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