Thursday, October 15, 2009

Development and the national security narrative: How long?

There's a time limit to how long development advocates can frame their crusade in terms of national security. The reason the national security lens gets any purchase at all is because of fragile states, and fragile states only because of Afghanistan.

If support for war in Afghanistan is deteriorating, how long before the tide shifts back against looking at development as a national security priority? And that narrative in turn becomes subsumed in a neo-realist perspective that frames attempts to stabilize fragile states as filled w/ hubris?

Afghanistan's chief challenge is governance, a sector the military seems more disposed to address than the development community. If State and USAID are unable to seriously address the core problems of fragile states, when this narrow window of opportunity closes Congress will see the additional resources they've invested in State and USAID as wasted. Is that unfair? Perhaps, but that's how it is.


Monday, October 5, 2009

IRI Pakistan Survey - Mixed Bag

The data tells a story of Pakistanis that fear their country is going in the wrong direction, but largely for economic reasons. Their perception of religious extremism, the Taliban and Al Qaeda as problems have grown. Support for military operations against the Taliban have grown, but those operations have to be Pakistani operations. They continue to oppose cooperation with the U.S. (Obama provided a slight bump which has since disappeared), and any U.S. operations in Pakistan. A substantial minority still like Osama Bin Ladin (9%).

Those who feel we're in Afghanistan in order to prevent Pakistan from degenerating into chaos should be paying attention to these numbers. They're an important component of an evaluation of how necessary our presence in Afghanistan is to prevent insurgents based there from undermining stability in Pakistan, along with military and economic factors.

Of course the fact remains, there isn't much we can do to effect Pakistan directly. But just because your neighbor's garden hose isn't long enough to reach your burning house, doesn't mean you should start spraying his house down for lack of anything else to do.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Building Afghan Intelligence Capacity, or Building Contractor Wallet Capacity?

Pincus points out the DOD is hiring contractors to translate the U.S. Army intelligence field manual into an Afghan-friendly version. Isn't this exactly how we're supposed to have learned not to do things? If you're trying to build capacity you have to follow the FUBU principle - "For Us, By Us."