Afghanistan and the Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare
by Hy S. Rothstein
Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2006. 218 pp. $26.95
Reviewed by Owen L. Sirrs and Julie Sirrs
former senior analyst and former analyst, Defense Intelligence Agency
Middle East Quarterly
U.S. troops are losing Afghanistan because they are fighting a conventional war against an unconventional opponent. Rothstein, a Naval Postgraduate School professor, explains in this timely critique that the "American way of war" has produced an "operational quagmire" with disturbing consequences for global security.
A military obsessed by precision strikes and technology, Rothstein argues, not only incorrectly identifies the type of war in Afghanistan but is hastening its defeat by alienating Afghans through disproportionate force, sclerotic decision making, and force protection measures.
Not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq, U.S. forces seem to be searching for a winning strategy as they battle insurgencies with weapons and doctrines best suited for the beaches of Normandy. As the solution, Rothstein offers unconventional warfare (UW), an approach that straddles the gray area between politics and conventional war. UW definitions in this book are broad, leading to a sense that it is easier to grasp UW in theory than to put it into practice. It includes psychological operations and civil affairs missions as well as counter-guerrilla operations. Special Forces trained in local cultures, languages, and politics are natural UW practitioners.
Rothstein recognizes that some senior U.S. military officers view UW as an aberration, an esoteric concept best left to the CIA. But, given the military's neglect of UW, to facilitate much-needed UW doctrine and development, he recommends that Special Forces not only be made a separate service within the U.S. military but that it have authority to coordinate directly with other government agencies without first having to go through the conventional war-centered Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Related Topics: South Asia | Owen L. Sirrs | Julie Sirrs | Winter 2008 MEQ
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