Bombs and rockets

Coercive institutions are a dictator’s final defense in pursuit of political survival, but also his chief obstacle to achieving that goal. This book argues that autocrats face a coercive dilemma: whether to organize their internal security apparatus to protect against a coup, or to deal with the threat of popular unrest. Because coup-proofing calls for […]

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It is one of history’s little ironies that al-Qaeda itself was set up as a JSOC-like group. The main trainer of al-Qaeda in the years before 9/11 was Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian American army sergeant who had served at Ft. Bragg, the headquarters of JSOC. In the 1980s, Mohamed taught courses on the Middle East […]

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This [claim by Al Qaeda military commander Saif al-Adel that Osama bin Laden deliberately provoked the United States into attacking Afghanistan] was a post facto rationalization of Al-Qaeda’s strategic failure. The whole point of the 9/11 attacks had been to get the United States out of the Muslim world, not to provoke it into invading […]

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This slam poem has been acutely and importantly confrontational for ten years or more, and it’s worth re-considering in light of Friday’s inauguration in Washington D.C.: “Homeland” by Marty McConnell

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In the closing days of his administration, President Obama has chosen to commute the 35-year sentence of army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who will now be released in May. Late-term commutations are always controversial, and this one is sure to be at least doubly so. Related: Wikileaks and whistleblowers

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For the Afghan government to gain the upper hand, however, the foreign money needs to continue flowing. If salaries aren’t paid, local police could turn into insurgents or bandits. Problems with the pay structure would also threaten the integrity of the Afghan military, possibly breaking a key national institution into feuding factions. Donors have promised […]

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Modern terrorists have rarely killed more than a few thousand people in any given year. Many times in Afghanistan, when my boots were stained with human gristle, I asked myself if the bloody effort could be justified by the hunt for small bands of madmen. Defeating terrorism was never described as NATO’s main goal in […]

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Karzai suffered criticism for his statement [that security in Afghanistan was better between 2002 and 2006 than in 2012], but he was correct. The NATO surges into the south will almost certainly be remembered as a spectacular mistake. Many of the aims were noble: peace, democracy, rule of law. We thought that a sweeping program […]

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I told the UN chief about my recent conversations with disgruntled tribesmen, and their complaints about the Afghan police behaving like robbers. “Yes, this is a case of bad governance,” Mr. Masadykov replied. “I can say now, when we’re talking about Taliban, maybe half of these so-called anti-government elements acting here in this area of […]

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It was easy to guess why the American had been selected to deliver the message: other countries in the NATO alliance were describing their presence as a humanitarian gesture. A British minister infamously predicted the military surge would happen without a shot fired, and the Canadian military was pushing journalists to write about medical programs. […]

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