Ralph Peters remains one of the very few intellectual soldiers with a strong background in intelligence, the craft of counterinsurgency and the political, strategic insights regarding limits to Empire building as witnessed throughout any serious reading of history. Peter’s insight is brutal in its sobriety: American efforts in Afghanistan will be blunted from an impoverished political culture. He admonishes the American political leadership for the intrinsic short sightedness that accompanies most inside-the-beltway ruminations regarding foreign policy. He adamantly proposes that the United States Military remains the only functioning arm of government. Peter’s is no Cassandra, he is not one to hedge given the stakes of our world where terrorist proxies gain legitimacy, where nuclear material is readily available from unsavory regimes, where autocracies stifle, terrorize and rape its citizenry.
What is required to win in Afghanistan is clarity regarding the scope of our political, cultural enterprise. There has never been a successful counterinsurgency absent either a robust mercantile/middle class, sufficient literacy rates, a homogenized ethnic citizenry with historical political acumen or a host nation whose natural frontier borders an enemy.
The United States simply cannot cut its loses in Central Asia. This is the most searing insight regarding the implementation of policy in this geographic region. We either buck up to our cultural, political responsibility in this act of child rearing or face innumerable obstacles as terrorist regimes gain a foothold throughout this region. The good news is simple: our forces are up to the challenge of squeezing Iran on two fronts. But our contemporary domestic political culture is unfortified in its grasp of the significance of both Afghanistan and greater Central Asia. Iran and its proxies have not lost sight of such weakness.
What conditions the ambitions of Iran?
Its simple: by becoming a nuclear power, it purchases a permanent reprieve from any natural enemy. Absent such a defense, the clerics of Qom are easily defeated.
How do we characterize the ambitions of Iran?
There are eight pieces to its imperial design.
1. Deter American interests across the globe.
2. Insure against any successful democracy in the Middle East.
3. Offset the nuclear capabilities of Pakistan & India.
4. Demonstrate hegemony throughout the Persian Gulf.
5. Address the embarrassment of a weak Saudi Arabia.
6. Rid the world of Western domination.
7. Neutralize Israel.
8. Through nuclear intimidation, turn Europe against American interests.
The clerics of Qom have succeeded in preparing both the cultural and political ground to secure all eight of its objectives.
What characterizes our chief cultural, political obstacles in Afghanistan? Keep in mind that American interests is in preserving the favorable arch surrounding Iran. This is a containment strategy that has had great success beginning with Iraq.
Our chief obstacle(s) remains intellectual: fortitude and the continuous display of political acumen remains our primary concern as we engage an impoverished political Afghan ethos. Nevertheless, we must maintain our grasp of the following:
1. Recognize that the key terrain throughout our engagement in Central Asia is human.
2. Allow for command to become decentralized throughout Afghanistan.
3. Acknowledge that the quality of political and military leadership on the ground will determine much, not Washington.
4. Vanquish the misleading understanding of the primacy of stability. Foster the ethos of engagement.
5. Focus on how to improve local Afghan forces in a heterogenous ethnic region.
6. Acknowledge that the Pentagon must lose its bureaucratic lethargy and discover suitable officers to deploy.
We have significant intellectual reserve to draw upon in this great engagement with cultures that never had an enlightenment. The ‘Great Game’ has its own antecedents to lavishly draw upon. We can start by emulating Henry Rawlinson and Fredrick Roberts.