Mark Bowden characterizes recent counterinsurgency methods not as “nation building” so much as a strategy in war:
Counter-insurgency doctrine is as warm and fuzzy as war can get. It embraces distinctly liberal, humanistic values like protecting civilians, cultural sensitivity and rigid adherence to ethical standards and the law. It is geared toward partnership, not dominance, and always seeks to minimize violence. In Iraq it rapidly (in months) isolated the murderous extremists who were trying to provoke civil war. The new effort set up a sharp contrast between their methods and goals and those of America. As one Marine officer, Col. Julian Dale Alford, said at a conference in Washington last week, “”e gave the people of Iraq a better choice.”
The one dispute I have with Bowden is his choice of image, in this case:
It turns out that an insurgency can only be killed by poisoning the sea in which it swims.
It is an error, I’d say, to characterize the insurgents as a healthy organism to be killed by something unhealthy to everybody. Rather, what is needed is to kill the insurgency by disinfecting the water — cleaning it so that true healthier organisms can thrive.