04 October 2009

Don't tell me we've stooped to the "Domino Theory"

I try to avoid making Vietnam comparisons in the Afghan debate, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

Take today's post by Londonstani in Andrew Exum's "Abu Muqawama", in which Londonstani and British General Sir David Richards invoke the old "Domino theory" argument from the Vietnam era. Says Gen. Richards in the Telegraph:

He said: "If al-Qaeda and the Taliban believe they have defeated us – what next? Would they stop at Afghanistan? Pakistan is clearly a tempting target not least because of the fact that it is a nuclear-weaponed state and that is a terrifying prospect. Even if only a few of those (nuclear) weapons fell into their hands, believe me they would use them. The recent airlines plot has reminded us that there are people out there who would happily blow all of us up."
Cute, but hardly accurate. Keep in mind that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan throughout the 1990s and seemed largely uninterested in Pakistan.

But wait, there's more to the Taliban's dastardly plans:

He said: "Failure would have a catalytic effect on militant Islam around the world and in the region because the message would be that al-Qaeda and the Taliban have defeated the US and the British and Nato, the most powerful alliance in the world. So why wouldn't that have an intoxicating effect on militants everywhere? The geo-strategic implications would be immense."

All right, so the monolithic Takfiri Jihadists in the world will then band together and continue taking over every country at will if we abandon Afghanistan? I have my doubts. The last time we invoked the Domino argument was Vietnam, and it was an utterly false assumption: after the US withdrawal from Vietnam, there were more wars among the Communist countries of Southeast Asia than anything else: Communism completely failed to take hold over the rest of Southeast Asia. Just as there was no monolithic Communism, there certainly is no monolithic Muslim jihadism (in case you didn't notice from all the sectarian violence going on).

One of the worst strategic blunders on the part of al Qaeda (and similar takfiri groups) is their propensity to cause mass civilian casualties among the Muslim community--significantly reducing their appeal. They also appear to have little interest in actual nation-building and governance. (T.E. Lawrence said it best--insurgents rarely make effective civil leaders). Especially in light of the elections in Iran, which showed considerable disinterest in the leadership of the ayatollahs and the like, I have my doubts that the Muslim world is going to rush to accept militant jihadism as a form of governance in the wake of an American withdrawal.


J. said...

Londonstani's post rubbed me wrong also (and nearly impossible to leave comments there now). It may be that separate insurgent groups in other countries are heartened by America's lack of success in Afghanistan (let us never say failure). But to what extent does that mean that those groups will be successful in overthrowing their respective governments? And how exactly will they spread their influence/power outside of their national borders? It doesn't compute. The Domino Theory fails.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/05/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.