105
6
Containment, Use of
Force, and Failed States
A number of years ago, I was invited to give a talk on homeland security
in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After my talk, I was approached by a U.S. mil-
itary serviceman, who shared with me that he was shortly Afghanistan-
bound, where he would be training local policemen. In response to my
question regarding his language skills, the response with a wry smile
was, “Sir, I barely speak English.” Although we both sort of laughed, it
was clear that the mission was inherently problematic if not guaranteed
to fail from the outset. The story has stuck with me since, for a number
of reasons, but primarily because it highlights the enormous complex-
ity, relevant to military missions, where language skills present an enor-
mous challenge. In addition, it raised questions regarding knowledge and
understanding of the “other;” sending U.S. military personnel who speak
only English to train Afghani policemen raises profoundly important
questions regarding both the mission and U.S. understanding of local cul-
ture mores and norms. Although we both chuckled at his self-deprecating
response, I think we both recognized the mission had a dubious chance of
success. See Figures6.1 and 6.2.
I recalled that story recently while meeting with a former senior of-
cial in the Israeli intelligence community. The ofcial (hereinafter, Mr. X)
shared with me the following vignette. When posted with senior Israel
Defense Force (IDF) ofcers in the First Lebanon War (1982), he was deeply
MODERN GEOPOLITICS AND SECURITY
106
struck by their lack of understanding of domestic Lebanese culture and
politics, and how that dramatically affected both their intelligence-
gathering modus operandi and subsequent operational decision-making
process. In addition, Mr. X emphasized that the involvement of IDF of-
cers in Lebanese political issues reected confusion, regarding the proper
role of a military in nontraditional conict, when nation-states are not
engaged in war with other nation-states.
Both President Bush’s decision to intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan
and President Obamas decision to expand the drone policy, reect the
implementation of signicant U.S. power. The question is why, and to
what end. The larger question is whether the force has long-term signi-
cance, or is its impact limited to the immediate here and now. Rephrased,
is state power, as implemented by Bush and Obama, tactical only, or is
it strategic thinking at its core, reecting profound geopolitical decision
making?
Geopolitics
International
Security
International
Cooperation
Diplomacy
Self-Defense
Intervention
Leadership
Negotiation
Sovereignty
Containment
Use of Force
Failed States
Figure 6.1. Containment, use of force, and failed states.
CONTAINMENT, USE OF FORCE, AND FAILED STATES
107
The question is neither amorphous nor abstract; both actions, interven-
tion and drone, directly result in the loss of life. Bushs action placed U.S.
forces in harm’s way; Obama’s signicantly enhances collateral damage.
The question is “to what end?” This was poignantly brought home when
I posed, to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, the following question:
“What is the true mission in Iraq?” The wide-eyed, deer in the headlights
looks told me everything I needed to know; we were sending Americas
nest without a clear sense of mission. In the aftermath of my talk, Dean
(then Professor) Martha Minow and I wrote the following: “The junior
leader, armed with an unclear understanding of the strategic objectives,
increasingly loses the condence of his troops. They may fear their superi-
ors are recklessly endangering them. He is the representative of the senior
commanders, yet he cannot articulate a clear purpose coming down from
PAKISTAN
Kandahar
Ghazni
KABUL
Indus
Amu Darya
Bagram
Kunduz
Mazar-i-
Sharif
Shir Khan
Jalalabad
Zaranj
Shindand
Herat
Towraghondi
AFGHANISTAN
INDIA
IRAN
TURKMENISTAN
UZBEKISTAN
TAJIKISTAN
CHINA
Figure 6.2. Map of Afghanistan.

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