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More Troops to Afghanistan? Tolstoy Says No

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Richard Cummings       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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The debate on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan has so far neglected to consider what Tolstoy wrote in "War and Peace":

"On the most obvious and advantageous infractions of the so-called rules of war is the action of isolated individuals against troops crowded together in a mass. This sort of activity is always seen in wars which assume a popular character. In this form of warfare, instead of one compact body meeting another compact body. men disperse, attack separately, instantly retire when threatened by superior forces , and then reappear at the first favorable opportunity. Thus did the guerrillas in Spain, thus did the mountaineers in the Caucuses, and thus did the Russians in 1812.

"Warfare of this sort is called "partisan" warfare, and people suppose that when it is thus named its meaning is explained. Such warfare, however, not only fails to come under any rules, but is directly opposed to a well-known law of tactics regarded as infallible. This law demands that the assailant shall concentrate his troops so as to be at the moment of combat, stronger than his enemy.

"Partisan warfare (always successful, as history proves) is directly opposed to that law."

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Tolstoy teaches us that the military maxim "the more troops, the greater strength" is meaningless in partisan warfare, which is precisely the form of warfare with which NATO forces are confronted in Afghanistan. Consequently, sending more troops to Afghanistan will not produce the desired results. When, after 9/11, America first attacked the Taliban government and its Al Queda allies, it quickly turned the fight over to the Northern Alliance aided by expert CIA special forces. Tragically, after defeating America's enemies, the Bush administration turned away from securing Afghanistan to invading Iraq, following the example of the disastrous invasion by Athens of Sicily in its war with Sparta. Both produced catastrophic results.

Rather than repeat the mistake made by Lyndon Johnson in trying to win a partisan war with ever more troops, America must repeat what it did in the first place. Faced with an unpopular government and a fraudulent election, much as America faced unpopular regimes in Vietnam, which it attempted to replace with coups, there is no point in looking to an effective central government in Afghanistan any time soon. Afghan troops will not happily defend a corrupt government they despise against the Taliban. The only viable solution is to fight fire with fire and reconstitute the Northern Alliance, arming them to the teeth and paying them, as we did in the past, to go along. True, this would turn much of the country over to the war lords once again, but there really is no other choice. The country must be federated along tribal and ethnic lines, with an incipient central government working to balance the separate interests. The only way to solve the poppy problem that fuels the partisan war is to buy the poppies from the farmers and turn them into morphine for hospitals around the world that need it. The rest can be stored. If Russia is so worried about its heroin problem, it can buy the poppies.

With this strategy in place, American should begin to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and declare victory, much as the British did in the nineteenth century. It is a myth that they were defeated. They turned the country over to those whom they knew would do that job and got out. The military academies should then start assigning War and Peace as required reading, rejecting the notion that the liberal arts are dead.

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Richard Cummings, Ph.D. (Cantab.), a writer, served as Attorney Advisor with the United States Agency for International Development, Near East South Asia region, with Afghanistan being one of the countries for which he was responsible and taught at the Haile Sellassie I University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, David Atlee Phillips (New England) Chapter.

Richard Cummings
7 Stanford Court
Sag Harbor, NY 11963
Tel. 631-537-0683


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Graduate of Princeton and Columbia Law School, Ph.D. Cambridge University, Social and Political Sciences. Taught at Haile Sellassie I University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and author of The Pied Piper-Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream. Wrote (more...)

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