Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Free business idea for you: Eradicating poppy through urban hipness

So what about this idea I had this morning:

Poppy-growing in Afghanistan is a huge problem, on the rise after the ousting of the Taliban, who were quite effective at keeping it checked. Now, the Taliban capitalise on the poppy, just like a proud line of warlords before them, selling it off to drug-peddlers and buying weapons to fight NATO.

A lot of half-committed politicians have since then suggested that we buy the opium off the farmers instead of burning as we do now and alienating the Afghans further. But of course that won't work, because no western government so far has been willing to use millions and millions to buy poppies and burning them.

The solution could be the good old market. Why not stimulate the Afghan farmer to grow sorghum, wheat, corn, whatever, paying huge overprice, matching and even exceeding the poppy price pound by pound (which isn't really that much in the first stage of heroin production, one could add). Now, the neat trick here would be selling these crops (in the form of flour, half-and-whole processed products) to the politically and socially conscious western middle-class as "Afghan anti-drug goods", like you are able to further ecological and social welfare by buying Max Havelaar products and such.

This would take a hefty first investment and protection of the farmers for a while. Furthermore the customer demographic might not be that large to buy off all the products, but it would at least be a more productive way of countering the drug problem in Afghanistan.

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I have a deep respect for some of the officers you meet out and about. I couldn't tell you what they're made of, but in Denmark and many other countries there is an element of breeding as a part of the education of an officer. And it seems that when you combine military skills with the humanities, social sciences and even poetry, you cast people of potential. I've met some British officers of this tradition, and a few Danish.

The Times' article on one of the most talked-about officers at the time, Colonel H.R. McMaster (who alledgedly was passed over for promotion, despite his new approach to COIN, Counter Insurgency) is an interesting hint towards this tradition. He appears as an officer able to consider and re-consider, rather than following field manuals and career jockeying. On the other hand, I wouldn't know, but it is worth a read. Leaving now not the way out of Iraq.

On this note: The Danish soldiers are just dis-engaging from Iraq at this moment. Most major Danish newspapers have run personal stories from the war, and I want to write a bit about the the impact on the Danish self-appreciation after this war and the formation of mentality in a nation-at-war.



COIN from an Australian viewpoint

An insightful article in the New Yorker offers a novel take on the War on Terror and Counter Insurgency (COIN) tactics - and it throws new light on the Bin Laden speechs of October 2004 that I have dealt with several times before.

The Australian Anthropologist and officer David Kilcullen was doing an immersive language course on Java as an officer, and he stumbled upon the Indonesian government's succesful COIN campaign against the movement Darul Islam. This is interesting because one of the only known succesful COIN operations has been the British tackling of the Malayan communist insurgency. Kilcullen was started off on a path of studying this incident and his insights have now landed him Ph.D. and a place in the Department of Defence in the US where he has an influential say on the US COIN strategizing.

His take on the new, global COIN operations that NATO undertakes is basically:

It?s now fundamentally an information fight,? he said. ?The enemy gets that, and we don?t yet get that, and I think that?s why we?re losing.?

His (and alledgedly CIA's) analysis of Bin Ladens speeches is interesting:

Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden?s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. ?I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?? he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that ?this wasn?t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy.? Ron Suskind, in his book ?The One Percent Doctrine,? claims that analysts at the C.I.A. watched a similar video, released in 2004, and concluded that ?bin Laden?s message was clearly designed to assist the President?s reëlection.? Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush?s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda?s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. ?If bin Laden didn?t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he?d just be a cranky guy in a cave,? Kilcullen said.