I suppose I have as much time on patrols as any American, and I loathed what I saw in Sangin, because what we gained could not be sustained. Our top generals were preaching a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy based on winning hearts and minds. “The conflict will be won,” General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander, wrote, “by persuading the population, not by destroying the enemy.” Yet by a two-to-one ratio, the Marines in the platoon rated the Taliban better fighters than the Afghan soldiers, and not one Marine believed the villagers supported the government.Persuading is selling and selling is convincing your prospect that the value of what you offer is greater than the value of what he's giving up. On our side, we have peace, the rule of law and diffuse prosperity. On the other side we have Islam and its hatred of our culture, massive income from the drug trade, corruption galore and the very real threat of violent retribution by the Taliban for those who side with us.
That's a sale you're not going to make.
I would argue that it was a good effort and that we went in with naivete that we have since lost in hard lessons which cost blood and treasure. That the original mistake was innocent and based on a Fukuyama-esque End of History concept of the world doesn't make it worth continuing to pour money and lives into this thing.
If we're going to accomplish anything there, I'd much rather we simply go full Roman on the poppy fields and the drug trade without regard to hearts or minds, but I'm an irredeemable imperialist so take that suggestion with a grain of salt. In any case, when the sales territory is clearly barren, you don't pour in more advertising dollars and salesmen, you get out.