LESSONS LEARNED (Dec. 7, 2009)
Food for Thought
The debate over the Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy is well underway with pundits — both print and electronic — weighing in on the wisdom of sending another 30,000 U.S. troops to keep the nearly nine-year mission from failing.
But two think tanks have taken a closer look at another — even longer — counter insurgency and counter terrorism effort in Colombia. Are there any lessons to be learned from the Colombian experience? Both the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) think there are.
In a recent report, “Countering Threats To Security and Stability in a Failing State,” CSIS maintains there are parallels to Iraq and Afghanistan in Colombia’s struggle against left wing insurgents, right wing paramilitary groups and violent narcotics kingpins. “Nations that cannot control their own territory run the risk of succumbing to the threat of armed insurgents and international criminal gangs as well as offering a safe haven to terrorists,” says CSIS President John Hamre in a forward to the 90-page report.
The story of how Colombia was able to reverse its slide toward a destabilized government by taking control of previously ungoverned areas and providing a larger portion of its citizens with security “may offer lessons for other imperiled states,” Hamre adds. The report was written by Peter DeShazo, Johanna Mendelson and Phillip McLean.
Another report, by the SSI — a think tank at the U.S. Army War College — looks at the rebuilding of Colombia’s battered judiciary system with U.S. assistance. “Colombia may very well be the best ongoing laboratory for democratic state building,” a summary of the report notes, adding that restoring security without the rule of law “puts a society at risk of falling into a Hobbesian hell.”
The article was written by Dr. Gabriel Marcella, retired director of Americas Studies at the War College.
Of note, another War College faculty member, Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II, the director of research, is critical of the concept of fourth generation warfare (4GW) as a new development.
The Price (Updated Dec. 8 to restore link to photos)
The 4GWAR blog wasn’t up and running until after Veterans Day — also known as Armistice Day — commemorations Nov. 11, so we missed this moving photo essay by Reuters photographer Larry Downing. His blog posting, which recently came to our attention, is about Section 60, the part of Arlington National Cemetery where most U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan fatalities are laid to rest. While sometimes teetering close to the maudlin, the photos and accompanying commentary by Downing are, for the most part, very moving in a quiet. thoughtful way.
On this day, when the United States marks another war and the surprise attack that sparked it 68 years ago, we believe it’s appropriate to remember the price that war exacts — not just on the dead, but on those they leave behind.
Entry filed under: Counter Insurgency, International Crime, Lessons Learned, Photos, Washington. Tags: Arlington National Cemetery, Colombia, Counter Insurgency, counter terrorism, International Crime, Lessons Learned, nationa building, Veterans.