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Thinking the Unthinkable

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Thinking the Unthinkable
The Battle for Kandahar and Perceptions of American Victory

By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Paul Fitzgerald's ZSpace Page

The upcoming campaign for the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar will be the crucial test for the United States' military and the Obama administration's AfPak strategy. It will clearly be an epic military battle and a test of the intellectual movement for counterinsurgency within the military known as COIN. But, like the battle for Marja in February, will the battle for Kandahar be more about the "perceptions" of American victory than about real success? That battle featured what General Stanley McChrystal described as "government in a box," a kind of franchisable, political "happy meal" for Afghanistan with a pre-selected government administration, mayor and police force, ready to go the minute the shooting stopped.

In the end, General McChrystal's government in a box turned out to be more like a government in a coffin. Dead on arrival. Authors Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason likened U.S. policy in Afghanistan to nothing less than British literature's most famous pipe dream, Alice in Wonderland. "Lewis Carroll's ironically opium-inspired tale of a rational person caught up inside a mad world with its own bizarre but consistent internal (il)logic has now surpassed Vietnam as the best paradigm to understand the war in Afghanistan."
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