Thursday, December 10, 2009

USAF General Doesn't Get It

Noah Shachtman over at Danger Room publishes an e-mail from Air Force General Deptula about civilian casualties. What does the good General have to say?

Well then.Of course polling data and Georgetown studies support what you have to say. It is their job to. As for what Afghans themselves have to say?
Instead, when Afghan people were polled about the reasons for their growing disillusionment with Kabul, insecurity and corruption overwhelmingly dominated their complaints; “too many innocent people being killed” barely registered. Intuitively, that makes sense in a country of a thousand villages separated by thousand of mountains and valleys, where tribal institutions are the paramount determinant of communication — not the International Herald Tribune or the New York Times, or CNN or Twitter…
How do airstrikes aid the perception of insecurity and corruption? If those are the greatest reasons why people distrust Kabul, then they should be looked at. And of course "insecurity and corruption" are the issues for Kabul. Civilian deaths are the issue for the war itself. Its easily construed as two different questions, this is why polling is flawed. People may very well distrust Kabul and think that the civilian casualties are egregious...I sincerely, sincerely, doubt that needless killing "barely registered" with, you know, human beings with families and other social ties. That's just dishonest and dismissive.

So is USAF going to take this polling data door-to-door throughout the provinces point out that, you see, if you look at the data right, it's not the US's fault after all? Or uh, are they going to expect that the people who don't use IHT or NYT or CNN or Twitter use Danger Room?

The air war is busted...the US hasn't found a good way to use its massive technology and monetary advantive without getting jujitsu'd. Terrorists hang out with non-terrorists, it's a fact. So I'd assume there's a cost-benefit sheet somewhere where the US Intel says how important one terrorist is vs. citizen casualties and backlash. A higher-up is worth 5, a solider is worth 2, and bin Laden is worth, oh, my guess is 2,000 or so. And if there is, woe be to HuffPo's server the day that gets leaked. But without someone doing that actuarial math, man, this is just message-board fodder.

[I'd love to post this up on Registan but I'm trying to be not-very Afghanistan-y and not-very terrorist-y, as there are writers there who know the stuff a lot more. But come on, guys! Speak up! The same goes for anyone reading here, I've yet to get a comment and I know you exist!]

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