**Note: when first published, I made the error of referring to CT and COIN as different potential “strategies” in Afghanistan. I should have known better. As Kilcullen himself says, COIN is an “operational technique” that does not supplant the need for true, comprehensive strategy or policy. Often, COIN operational technique falls under the umbrella of stabilization, alongside foreign internal defense, conventional warfare, aid/development…etc. COIN is just one part that, sometimes, will be prime, and a lot of time, just one of the crowd of challenges.
I’ve been watching the PBS documentary The War by Ken Burns, and, although not quite as good as his The Civil War, is still very well done. If The Civil War was an A+, then The War is an A-. Both are highly watchable, gripping, and informative.
I was still at senior at West Point, roughly 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River, on September 11th, 2001. I was in a course on Chinese politics, about to listen to a lecture from U.S. Defense Attaché to China, when my professor turned on the television in time to watch the second tower go down. Quietly, he said that we wouldn’t hold class that day and that if anyone was interested, an informal prayer group was forming outside. Instead, I chose to dart across campus back to my room to make phone calls and send emails to family and friends.
The NY Times is running a great graphical depiction of the costs of 9/11 ~ which they compute to be $3.3 trillion. About half of that, $1.649 trillion is attributed to war funding (Irag and Afghanistan). The breakdown can be seen at left.
As a nation, we chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, but chose not to pay for the conflicts. This decision has led to greater accumulated national debt ($14.5 trillion and rising, roughly $1.2 trillion of which we owe to China). Admiral Michael Mullen, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, famously said that our national debt is the greatest threat to American national security.
I don’t have anything interesting or unique to say on this subject, other than to respond to the bare fact that Time magazine (Aug 29, 2011) is reporting that there were 32 suspected active duty and reservist suicides recorded by the Army in July 2011. This is the “highest monthly toll on record.”
The U.S. has largely become very comfortable with debt. At left, the two large scanned documents are from the March 14, 2011 Time magazine.
The second, smaller image at left is from the NY Times of April 11, 2011. It actually provides statistics that refute the larger graph at left ~ that student debt has eclipsed credit card debt.