Best Defense

From Saigon to Kabul: What Bernard Fall might say about Afghanistan today

The other day I was looking back at Bernard Fall’s terrific speech on counterinsurgency to the Naval War College, delivered I think in 1964, and the following quote struck me. This comes right after a section in which he has asserted that tracking which side is collecting more taxes, the government or the insurgents, is ...

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The other day I was looking back at Bernard Fall’s terrific speech on counterinsurgency to the Naval War College, delivered I think in 1964, and the following quote struck me. This comes right after a section in which he has asserted that tracking which side is collecting more taxes, the government or the insurgents, is a good way to understand which is winning. The italics are his.

I have emphasized that the straight military aspects, or the conventional military aspects of insurgency, are not the most important. Tax collections have nothing to do with helicopters… I would like to put it in an even simpler way: When a country is being subverted, it is not being outfought; it is being outadministered… [W]e can win the war and lose the country.

In 100 words or less: How would you apply that thought to Afghanistan today?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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