(The conversation below is based on actual events. I’m pretty sure.)
General COIN Tosser: So I have this fancy newish military doctrine that could come in mighty handy if you’re trying to pacify a rebellious foreign population – if you’re into the whole neo-colonial thing.
Obama Administration: I’m listening.
General COIN Tosser: Well, it’s called counterinsurgency doctrine, but since we’re the military, we acronymize it as “COIN.” Shiny and new, huh?
Obama Administration: Like a medal. Ooh, if we try it, do we get to call it a “surge”?
General COIN Tosser: Sure do, and the press will love it, but the whole process is designed to take a couple of decades, requires a shit-ton of soldiers and is guaranteed to chew up a few trillion dollars in the process. But on the upside, after all is said and done, we’ll have at least a 50-50 chance of success.
Obama Administration: Hard to argue with those odds.
General COIN Tosser: I’d say it’s a bargain. But it is a bit of a temperamental mistress, and will require a strong yet pliable central government in the occupied territory, yet one that enjoys popular support and legitimacy in the eyes of the locals.
Obama Administration: Wouldn’t those contradict each other most of the time?
General COIN Tosser: Please don’t interrupt.
Obama Administration: I’m sorry, I forgot my place.
General COIN Tosser: Also, too, it won’t work if the insurgents have a foreign patron capable of providing arms, funding and/or safe haven. And we’ll have to develop expertise in the local culture and people. But otherwise, a couple of decades, a few trillion dollars, and we’ll have at least a…er…coin toss chance of success. But the locals get the final vote. Which they kind of did in the beginning, and all along, really.
Obama Administration: I see. But in Afghanistan the central government is corrupt, weak and unpopular – in fact, rule via a centralized government isn’t typical for Afghanistan historically speaking; Pakistan is providing support and safe haven for insurgents; We lack any sort of granular knowledge of the local culture and people, oh, and you’ll only have 18 months, not 18 years, to pull it of. So what do you say?
General COIN Tosser: …
Obama Administration: …
General COIN Tosser: Cakewalk.
And they all lived happily ever after.