Sunday, November 29, 2009

Asymmetrical Warfare or The Opium Season

Asymmetrical Warfare: Today's Challenge to U. S. Military Power

Author: Roger W Barnett

In this concise and penetrating study, Roger Barnett illuminates the effect of operational, organizational, legal, and moral constraints on the ability of the U.S. to use military force. As the tragic events of September 11 demonstrated, potential adversaries can take advantage of these limitations, thus spawning "asymmetrical warfare." Barnett defines asymmetrical warfare as not simply a case of pitting one's strength against another's weakness but rather of taking the calculated risk to exploit an adversary's inability or unwillingness to prevent, or defend against, certain actions. For instance, launching chemical, biological, or suicide attacks; taking indiscriminate actions against critical infrastructure; using hostages or human shields; deliberately destroying the environment; and targeting noncombatants all constitute possible asymmetrical warfare scenarios. Against these acts, the U.S. has not prepared any response in kind. Indeed it either cannot or will not undertake such responses, thus making these attacks especially difficult to counter. This refusal to retaliate in an "eye for an eye" fashion complicates the dilemma of American policymakers who seek to wield power and influence on the world stage while simultaneously projecting a peaceful and benign image. Barnett concludes that the U.S. must create a formal system of selectively eliminating the constraints that dictate our response to certain situations or scenarios. Failure to make such changes will only increase paralysis and, when the use of force is required, contribute to the already heightened risks.

Foreign Affairs

If the United States can threaten force only in terms that the political marketplace can bear — in line with international law, moral precepts, the sensitivities of allies, and a determination to avoid casualties — then how can it practice deterrence against contemporary enemies that take advantage of these constraints? This to Barnett is the challenge of asymmetrical warfare today, which he believes can be overcome only by a readiness to transcend these constraints, accepting the full nastiness of war while seeking to bolster deterrence by improving strategic defenses. The argument is vigorous and challenging, although Barnett provides few grounds for supposing that political and military leaders will adopt as robust an approach as he would wish. More seriously, he does not adequately address the role of alliances in isolating enemies nor the question of whether America's enemies will really adopt the appropriate asymmetrical strategies he fears — inflicting maximum harm on noncombatants and civil society.

Table of Contents:
Ch. 1Operational Constraints25
Ch. 2Organizational Constraints49
Ch. 3Legal Constraints61
Ch. 4Moral Constraints83
Ch. 5Effects93
Ch. 6Remedies133
Ch. 7Conclusion149
Selected Bibliography157
About the Author183

New interesting book: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge or Rebound Rules

The Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier

Author: Joel Hafvenstein

Joel Hafvenstein was hired for perhaps the most undesired job in the world today: join a team of contractors in Afghanistan’s harsh and brutal Helmand Province seeking to convince local farmers to stop growing poppies, the source of opium. Helmand, one of the world’s largest opium-producing areas, is also home to a large base of Taliban and AK-47 toting drug lords-all of whom harbored great enmity toward the West and Americans in particular.
THE OPIUM SEASON is a story of intrigue,excitement, success and heartbreaking failure at the far edge of the world.
At the height of the program’s success, the Taliban attacked, killing two close friends of the author and nine other men associated with our work. The ambushes destroyed our project and heralded a new Taliban onslaught across south Afghanistan, targeting anyone seen to be supporting the new government – aid workers, teachers, officials, religious leaders.
In the tradition of Walking Across Afghanistan and The Kite Runner, OPIUM SEASON describes the odyssey of an American in the midst of chaos, with a high-minded goal but far from reason and order. This is a riveting story that will draw national attention from the media, and from book readers hungry to know more about what it is that keeps Afghans pulled apart by so many influences.

Joel Hafvenstein, a graduate also of Yale University, works in London for a global reforestation program. His work has appeared in the Yale Journal of Ethics and Oxblog. This is his first book.

The New York Times - William Grimes

The sobering dispatches in Opium Season, a wrenching account of lofty hopes and bitter disappointments, shed a dismal light on American efforts to improve the lot of ordinary Afghans. All over the country development projects are under way aimed at winning over the Afghan people, depriving the Taliban of popular support and propping up Hamid Karzai's government. The obstacles are as steep as the surrounding mountains, as Mr. Hafvenstein discovered and ruefully recounts in this bitter but affectionate book about his three stints in Afghanistan from October 2003 to May 2005.

Publishers Weekly

In May 2005, four employees of Chemonics International, a Washington, D.C.-based contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development, were among 11 Afghans killed in two separate attacks on aid workers operating in Afghanistan's Helmand province. First-time author Hafvenstein was then a young administrator for Chemonics, having eagerly joined in 2003 a small team working on U.S.A.I.D.'s Alternative Incomes Project, aiming to create thousands of jobs building a new infrastructure to offset planned eradication of the opium poppy, the mainstay of the rural economy and the raw basis for heroin sold around the world. Beginning with the news of his colleagues' deaths, Hafvenstein retraces his rapid immersion into the deeply fractured and danger-strewn politics and society of post-Taliban Afghanistan. His personal narrative gracefully introduces this complex and troubled land, measuring the impact of warlordism and police corruption on what he comes to see as the ultimately misguided U.S. emphasis on poppy eradication. While that conclusion will hardly surprise those following the escalating violence since 2005, Hafvenstein offers a revealing if narrowly critical insider perspective on the workings of U.S.-sponsored international development schemes in Afghanistan and worldwide. (Nov.)

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Nader Entessar - Library Journal

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 has resulted in another wretched chapter in the recent history of that volatile country. Six years after the overthrow of its fundamentalist Taliban government, chaos and uncertainty characterize daily life there. Notwithstanding elections that have led to the establishment of a nominal central government in Kabul, the country continues to exhibit all the hallmarks of a failed state. The opium trade has once again become the most important source of revenue in Afghanistan, where a combination of opium growers and the so-called warlords exercise more political and socioeconomic control than do the country's elected officials and its government. This very readable and engaging book recounts the harshness of daily life in Afghanistan, as seen from the vantage point of an American who spent a year in the country's rugged Helmand province for an aid organization seeking to train farmers to cultivate other crops than opium. The author, who has published articles on Afghanistan, describes in a diary format his experience of violent political intrigue and criminal alliances resulting in the murderous drug trafficking, and the impossibility of his mission, in that country. Recommended for public libraries.

Kirkus Reviews

Long-winded, superfluously stuffed account of the author's vain attempts to induce the Afghans to give up their primary cash crop. From November 2004 to May 2005, Hafvenstein worked as a development coordinator for Chemonics International, a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in the military outpost of Lashkargah near the Helmand River, deep in the heart of opium-growing country. His urgent assignment was to wean the growers from poppy while the Afghan government supposedly pushed for its eradication. The USAID team was charged with creating enough temporary paying jobs to cushion the economic damage to opium farmers. However, the scale of the 2004 harvest was hugely lucrative; the Afghans produced a whopping 87 percent of the world's illegal opium. The author and his colleagues faced an arduous, dangerous task: to manage the walis (provincial governors) as well as the tribal groups and the remnants of Taliban rebels, while securing the safety of the agency's personnel. They learned that this area was the site of a previous American reconstruction effort in the 1940s, the damming of the Helmand and Arghandab rivers by American engineering company Morrison-Knudsen, one of the contractors on the Hoover Dam. Hafvenstein's team insinuated itself into the powerful Afghan government agency controlling the rivers' modern irrigation system in order to secure local jobs clearing drainage ditches. They were threatened by warlords still tied to the Taliban and ultimately defeated by the government's halfhearted commitment to eradication. Kidnapping and murders forced out the American agency, overwhelmed by the scale and significance of the project. Not likely towin any new converts to America's cowboys-and-Indians approach to fixing foreign countries' deep-seated problems.

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