Friday, October 27, 2006

Paul Krugman: The Arithmetic of Failure

David Seaton's News Links
"It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars." That phrase could sum up the entire feeling that the world is entering a period of enormous change. DS

Abstract: Iraq is a lost cause. It’s just a matter of arithmetic: given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country. ... Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a war we haven’t yet lost, and it’s just possible that a new commitment of forces there might turn things around.(...) The classic analysis of the arithmetic of insurgencies is a 1995 article by James T. Quinlivan, an analyst at the Rand Corporation. “Force Requirements in Stability Operations” ... looked at the number of troops that peacekeeping forces have historically needed to maintain order and cope with insurgencies. Mr. Quinlivan’s comparisons suggested that ... in some cases it was possible to stabilize countries with between 4 and 10 troops per 1,000 inhabitants. But examples like the British campaign against communist guerrillas in Malaya and the fight against the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland indicated that ... a difficult environment could require about 20 troops per 1,000 inhabitants. The implication was clear: “Many countries are simply too big to be plausible candidates for stabilization by external forces,” Mr. Quinlivan wrote. ... Iraq is a cauldron of violence, far worse than Malaya or Ulster ever was. And that means that stabilizing Iraq would require a force of at least 20 troops per 1,000 Iraqis — that is, 500,000 soldiers and marines. We don’t have that kind of force.(...) If we stopped trying to do the impossible in Iraq, ... we and the British ... might still do some good. But we have to do something soon: the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan says that most of the population will switch its allegiance to a resurgent Taliban unless things get better by this time next year. It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars. But the arithmetic of stability operations suggests that unless we give up our futile efforts in Iraq, we’re on track to do just that. Read More

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