Best Defense

Keep on trucking!: Time to revisit the Ring Road strategy for Afghanistan?

A few years ago I ran a blog post about how our strategy in Afghanistan should be to secure not the entire countryside but just the cities and the ring road connecting them. I thought of this again when I was reading a book about the structure of preindustrial societies.

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A few years ago I ran a blog post about how our strategy in Afghanistan should be to secure not the entire countryside but just the cities and the ring road connecting them.

I thought of this again when I was reading a book about the structure of preindustrial societies (which made me think a lot about Afghanistan). In it, the author, Patricia Crone, writes that, some emperors were “specialists in what has ben called extensive power, that is the ability to organize large numbers over large distances for minimal cooperation. The Mughal emperors of India, for example, are said to have ruled their enormous empire largely by keeping firm control of the main roads and regional trading centres, maintaining no more than minimal order elsewhere.”

If that was the best the Mughals could do, operating near their own turf, what makes us think that we can do better, coming from the far side of the world? Is this not a debilitating form of arrogance?

Photo credit: ASGHAR ACHAKZAI/AFP/Getty Images

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. Twitter: @tomricks1

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