McChrystal and Karzai at Bagram
Afghan President Karzai and US General McChrystal at Bagram Air Base on May 8, 2010 (US Army photo)

As I noted earlier in the week, there is a growing realization that the previously heralded counterinsurgency (COIN) plan developed by General Stanley McChrystal for US efforts in Afghanistan is failing, both in our ability to clear areas of insurgents and in the ability of the Afghans to govern cleared areas. The huge budgetary impact of the COIN strategy is finally beginning to be discussed by the Pentagon, and as a result, plans are now being floated for "counterinsurgency light". Sadly, it appears to me that these "improvements" are just as flawed as the underlying plan. In contrast, Osama bin Laden’s plan to bankrupt the US through drawing us into expensive and unwinnable wars is working just as he described it in 2004.

Here is the Washington Post describing Defense Secretary Gates’ speech on May 8 about his desire to trim $15 billion from Pentagon "bureaucratic" costs:

The Pentagon’s budget has almost doubled over the past decade, but the faltering national economy and surging U.S. debt will impose new austerity on the military, Gates warned.

"The gusher has been turned off," he told an audience of about 300 people at the Eisenhower Presidential Library here. "And it will stay off for a good period of time."

At the same time that the staggering costs of our military efforts are finally being discussed, details are beginning to emerge on a revision of COIN. Here is McClatchy:

Nearly a decade after the United States began to focus its military training and equipment purchases almost exclusively on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military strategists are quietly shifting gears, saying that large-scale counterinsurgency efforts cost too much and last too long.

But what is the future of COIN strategy?

Many Pentagon strategists think that future counterinsurgencies should involve fewer American ground troops and more military trainers, special forces and airstrikes. Instead of "fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here," as former President George W. Bush once defined the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Pentagon thinks it must train local populations to fight local insurgents.

The military calls it "foreign internal defense," although some have a pithier name: counterinsurgency light.

Brilliant! Yes, let’s do more night raids that fuel insurgencies because they kill innocent civilians while we also increase civilian deaths from airstrikes. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Did the Pentagon give any thought to how perhaps cutting back on the militarization of humanitarian aid might bring the UN and other nongovernmental agencies back into the picture in Afghanistan? Can the Pentagon ever conceive of an approach that doesn’t come with the terrible cost of killing innocent civilians?

While US COIN plans and the US budget lie in ruins, Osama bin Laden’s plan to bankrupt us remains on track:

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said.

It seems to me that defense firms will remain growth stocks while the rest of the US economy continues to circle the drain.