Dr. Silverman has sent me these Venn diagrams that encapsulate his mental ordering of different sets of people and groups in Afgjhanistan. I find them fascinating and I offer them to you here as a point of departure for a new thread on Afghanistan' pl
The central questions in my tiny little mind centre on slide 2 and are as follows:
1. whether Afghan government institutions are up to the central role depicted in the second diagram;
2. whether US civilian agencies can operate effectively not in close association with GIROA; and
3. how much of the “Green Layer” the Taliban, etc. [lots of “etc.”] can manage to make inaccessible.
To the SST Community:
I figured I’d provide some narrative explanation for the slides – the colors, the overlaps, etc. So please find that below. This is also a work in progress, so if you’ve got constructive comments, I’m looking forward to seeing them.
I was asked, as a favor to someone trying to figure out how to do better/more effective stabilization, reconstruction, and development, to graphically display the current state of the Afghan socio-political elements (for lack of a better term) and US/Coalition activities there, as well as graphically display what a reformed and functional system would look like. I’ve tried to keep most of the color coding and labeling simple. For instance the coalition forces and civilian agency, NGO, and IGO allies are all in shades of blue for the Force and its civil agency allies, the negative actors are in red, and the population elements are in green. Everything is clearly marked and in an attempt not to make this look like technicolor vomit, or give anyone too much of a headache or stomach ache, I’ve simplified the layers so that the red layer encompasses the Taliban, the Warlords, the organized crime and other criminal elements, and al Qaeda. The Blue layers, in two different shades, cover the military and civilian elements, and the green layer all the Afghan societal elements (urban/rural/Pashtun/Uzbek/Tajik/Hazari/Cuchi/etc) – this is not exhaustive as we’ve got over 136 we’re dealing with and I’m lucky if I can remember the names of more than three khels at a time. Moreover, it would make the representation so busy as to be incomprehensible. Additionally I’ve broken out, as its essential to this conceptualization of how to go forward the educated portion of the green layer, and as that overlaps with the expats and the urban population they’re broken out as well. Corporate/Private sector initiatives are in purple and GIROA is in grey (these are arbitrary color choices). Also, GIROA includes within it all governmental entities, including military and law enforcement, at all levels. Here too I was trying to keep this as unadorned, for ease of access, as possible. Finally, the heavy black solid line is meant to represent that a segment is essentially isolated from the Afghan society. In the first slide this is around GIROA as the government is largely not legitimate in the eyes of most Afghans, nor does it penetrate very far into Afghan society outside the urban areas. In the second slide this has been replaced with a hashed line indicating that there is permeability between the government and the societal elements and the solid line has been moved around the red layer, which has been moved to the edge as its marginalized in a reformed and more functional polity, society, and economy. Finally, the overlap for the blue forces is not meant to really be venn diagram appropriate as in “this is the amount of overlap/penetration” rather it is intended to show the points of access and entree into the state and society.
Two brief comments:
1. I find it hard to believe that there are no urban taliban, criminals, etc.
2. Warlord is a term that is inconsistently used, often as a means of delegitimating particular leaders who may not be entirely without a legitimate following. I am concerned about its catchall use.
The Afghan situation was a little confusing, but THIS certainly clears everything up!
Thanks for posting this, Pat, and double thanks to Dr. Silverman for sharing it…
I’ve been struggling with the systemic chart discovered by Richard Engel for a couple of days because sometimes (in fact, often) complex graphs such as this can be unwound and recast (and simplified, perhaps) to present meaningful relationships (or the absence thereof) into the inherent understanding of a very complex environment in both functional and dynamic terms…
I took a look at your diagrams before seeing your comments, and my immediate reaction was this question:
Do the two slides represent a “before-and-after” vision of the situation on the ground as a reflection of the “refined” strategic objectives presented during the past few weeks… or do they represent two alternative perspectives of the status quo with very different implications?
I know that you were probably not intending any correlation between the size of the entities presented and any quantitative factors, but seeing these two diagrams brought home a “discussion” that I had with a friend who knows far more about this part of the world than I when I told him that the participants at the Congressional hearings this week had seemingly agreed upon the figure of 35,000 Taliban under arms. He disputed this figure on two levels: first, on the degree to which the Taliban who are opposing the stabilization efforts are more numerous (where does the number come from?); second, by the arbitrariness of the distinction between Taliban combatants and the members of the communities within which they live.
The contrast between two representations of the “Red Layer” is notable in its own right, and my final observation is that seems unrealistic (imho) to lump “Taliban, Warlords, Criminal Elements, and al-Qaeda” in a single category even if they compose the the crux of the insurgency… though they may well represent a relatively indistinguishable entity at the current time.
In any case, Adam, this is a very worthwhile endeavor that should be pursued if only because it may help “display” the evolution of the situation “on the ground” as it develops (for better or for worse…).
The Venn diagramm is very clear as to initial conditions and desired conditions, but for one fact:
the USA economy, is the largest all encompassing part of the above diagramm, and it is missing.
This missing part involves Gross National Debt [approx 350% of GDP] off balance issues: unfunded liabilities[Social Security, Medicare etc, 300%+ of GDP] proble effect of rising oil price, global warming issues [might cause double dip recession] which will effect the political will of the electorate if Unmenployment/underemployment is still hovering about 10% and 17% respectively – today’s figures. If that is the case in July 2011, the above worthy Vebb Diagramm will become pass.
Thank you for the effort for presenting the clear picture above.
IMO that the Colonel expressed his view that the Generals have underetimated the nature of the electorate, for the reasons [above others] cited above.
1. Divide the green layer into tribes not ethnic groups, then place them closer to whichever outside group the tribes are aligned with e.g. Taliban, Iranians, Indians etc.
2. I prefer the first (slide 2) diagram because it clearly states our problem in trying to reach the Afghans by having to cross the red layer (“evil doers”) or “good doers (ex-pats, educated, urban, anybody associated with Karzi etc.)”. By identifying the “alliances” you should be able to figure out a way to bypass the “evil doers” and/or “good doers” and get a chance at the actual tribes.
3. Focus on Micro-Loans, forget big projects that only help the vultures.
IHMO, the tribes hate the “evil doers”, “good doers”, and us equally…not a cosmopolitan people.
Just my 2¢…good luck
General S. MacChrystal is on
2 part video interview [very slow on DSL]
Certainly, Venn charts can help see the situation and where we would like to go. I remember doing something similar to this while attending the Military Assistance Officer Command and Staff Course, Ft. Bragg, NC, back in in 1973. Of course, the problem is trying to get there from here with our limited resources and all the obstacles we face — identification of the specific details required to make the charts change and ability to implement the program necessary to “succeed”. So what’s new?
Prof Silverman, I want to thank you so much for a technical term that encapsulates all the Petraues-McChrystal and their peanut gallery of civilian “military” experts from non-substantial hypothetical abstractions of Biddle to under every arranged beach of pebbles of Kimberly Kagan: TECHNICOLOR VOMIT!
But more seriously I wonder why you give such a solid color to AfgGov and the Warlords as well as Taliban. In actuality so many elements within are immiscible together unless violently shaken together into a colloid. Of course, our KINETIC types who get an adrenaline high from air strikes keep stirring things up and I wonder whether you feel these colloids that you represent are attributable to our ham-fisted presence– intel blind, language deaf and culture dumb…all mom and dad soldiers desperate to go home to take care of the kids. Lastly, can our small intercalated area in your Venns be responsible for the homogeneity of the larger areas, otherwise globulated in mutual antagonism? Were we to apply a more discrete defensive pin-point firepower, could we hold and protect enough territory in which to make cities where we attract to employment and education the Pashtun youths now sent by elders to fight us in the Taliban so that, though our spots are small in area, they would gain depth over time as the population is attracted to our urban centers?
I am reminded of two things.
First, Thomas E. Ricks’ utter scorn in Fiasco for the use of Pentagon powerpoint presentations as a substitute for hard analysis of the situation in Iraq when the Bush Administration was mucking things up there.
Second, a snipet of lyrics from the Crash Test Dummies’ immortal 1990s hit God Shuffled his Feet:
I’m not quite clear about what you just spoke –
Was that a parable, or a very subtle joke?
I don’t know who Professor Silverman is, but I suspect his diagrams are both parable and joke. Even as a boy in grammar school I thought Venn diagrams were an interesting concept, but of questionable utility for all but the most simple concepts.
It may be another way of saying the same thing, but here is my take on the ‘the Generals’. They don’t underestimate “the nature of the electorate”. They (hopefully)overestimate the success of mindwar in controlling said “electorate”. IOW….they think they got us covered. And they may be right. Which gets us, (depressingly so)back to the Col’s warning about what rules Americans these days: “passion and ignorance”. I don’t see this as part of any grand conspiracy (although I don’t rule it out as such either). I just see it as the Generals (some of them), along with certain neo-liberals and neo-cons thinking they know what is best for the American people. And it is simply serendiptious that what they think best for us, turns out to be best for them.
Thank you for the enlightened analisys — is well taakn!
Take a look at this. It will make your eyes cross.
Thanks for the better display Mr Silverman.
Dr. Silverman apparently has a competitor in the graph arena: Check out the objet d’art helpfully titled “Afghanistan Stability: COIN Dynamics”.
BTW, I see I am not the only one troubled by the .ppt precedent. The blogger who posted this chart gave it another name: Son of Death by Powerpoint.
I tried to trace where my check to IRS went on the diagram Redhand so kindly provided but I got cut off by the water smudge on one of the nexus points. It’s not fair. Ah well, maybe in next year’s diagram I’ll be able to follow whether Obama gave my next tax check to build Petraeus an imperial office at the Pentagon or to build a shelter for homeless Viet Vets.
dilbert dogbert, admit it, you got that chart out of Mad Magazine didn’t you? If we just fold it on the, er, lines, we’ll surely get the joke,er, solution, no?