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February 07, 2010

What would Byzantium do?

Edward Luttwak: If the west really wants to fix Afghanistan, it should learn from an ancient, brutal empire (via In Harmonium).

Sounds like a plan.

Unlike the Romans, the Byzantines wrote official guidebooks on statecraft, foreign relations and espionage: writings I find especially fascinating, as I once helped compose the main field manual of the US army. These ancient techniques centred on a single, paradoxical principle: do everything possible to raise, equip and train the best possible army and navy; then do everything possible to use them as little as possible.

With Afghanistan, the west faces a simple strategic calculus: too costly to stay in, too risky to leave. A Byzantine response would be, first to withdraw the west’s scarce, expensive troops, and arm local proxies instead. This was the standard remedy for turbulent, worthless lands where no taxes could be collected, but which were to be denied to enemies: an improvement over the Romans’ fondness for battles of attrition and annihilation.

RTWT. Not that I am entirely convinced. All I am saying is give battles of attrition and annihilation a chance.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at February 7, 2010 07:57 AM