Foreign Policy Blogs

Sticky Politics

Sticky PoliticsGuns, sex, and cartoons. If you’re a 13 year old boy – scratch that – if you are a male, those words probably gain your attention a bit. And since US foreign policy circles are predominately male, I’m hoping my readership levels will go up with this post. On to the sensationalism….

Guns. As discussed in a personal blog post, the idea that the ‘accidental guerilla’ is an influential factor in Afghanistan is reductionist, wrong, and one of the many targets of my counter-idiocy campaign. Additionally, Counter-Insurgency (COIN) is not an effective doctrine for Afghanistan because of a few, overwhelming circumstances: multiple safehavens, terrain, popular support for the opposition, and the conflict’s actual motives.  Despite these shortcomings, paired with the realization that ISAF’s intervention in Afghanistan has distorted the power balance, torn its social fabric, and set peace back at least a decade, it’s good to see that true combat leadership and perseverance is occurring on the US side.  Wired’s Danger Room discusses one example of how US Marines operating in Sangin, Helmand have purportedly gained superiority through the old-fashioned, American way: killing people. I’m definitely not one for supporting killing people – I don’t find it that productive most of the time, for various reasons – but I appreciate it when combat isn’t portrayed as any honorable, chivalrous endeavor. To boil it down, 3/5, an infantry unit from Camp Pendleton, California, brought the fight to the Taliban and avoided getting bogged down in all the governance/development activity that detracts from combat operations. With this, because the Marines correctly and courageously analyzed their environment before implementing the holistic COIN approach, they were able to demonstrate a simple, but logical hypothesis: if you focus on security, governance can take root. Whether or not they will be able to maintain progress made in Sangin, however, is another story. If the Taliban have any foresight, though, they will stick to time-honed guerrilla tactics (e.g., targeted killings) and allow for transition to occur so that they can then confront a less formidable foe: Afghan Security Forces. In light of the recent changeover from Patreaus to the US Marine Lt. Gen. Allen, one has to wonder if other combat elements will likewise challenge the existing, floundering strategy.

Sex. Things in Iran are likely to start heating up with fomenting conflict between President Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, conservatives, and sexually-frustrated, corruptible university students. Ahmadinejad continued on his spree of casting himself as anti-establishment (I know, right!) by issuing a directive to cease plans to segregate the nation’s universities. While his executive order will likely stand for the interim, we should be prepared for a conservative backlash sent down from Khamenei, similar to his recent intervention in Ahmadinejad’s attempt to replace the Minister of Intelligence. (This is especially likely since Khamenei has ordered a review of curriculum, as well). Additionally, they may just push for a less intrusive method of segregation, as hinted to in the post, ensuring that sexes stay separated in class rooms. Sorry to say, students, but in light of the uncertainty, there’s no reason to throw away those chastity belts just yet.

Cartoons. In the war of ideas, every side needs a man in the fight. Jihadica thus recently brought to light possible plans for an al-Qa’eda oriented cartoon in a recent post. If you check out further pics on the site, the Arabic title is meant to establish ownership – it says al-Qae’da in the Arabian Peninsula’s cartoon film. I wouldn’t be quite surprised to see that the cartoon was actually produced by someone professing loyalty to the salafist movement, but it would demonstrate a serious amount of effort, even more than writing this damn blog. Additionally, if such a thing were to hit the streets in the Arab world, I’m sure it would spread like wildfire, merely because it contains non-sex themes: violence and revenge. (No worries, meaning breasts, US Supreme Court!). Even though no one’s certain about its validity, I would also expect to see some sort of pro-Arab Spring media emerging that is especially attuned to the youth.




Ali A. Riazi

Ali is an independent advisor on conflict and foreign affairs and an advocate for civilian protection. He has advised the Office of the Secretary of Defense, US military, NGOs, and intelligence oversight staff on topics, such as Afghanistan, civilian protection, irregular warfare, and civil-military affairs. His 13+ years of career experience have spanned humanitarian and national security circles and involved extensive experience throughout the Near East and Central Asia.

Ali earned a BA in Government & Politics (summa cum laude) and a Minor in International Development & Conflict Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. Additionally, he served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in International Political Economy. He is currently pursuing an MLitt in Terrorism Studies through the University of St. Andrews.

Ali's other blog interests can be followed at, and he can be found on Twitter at!/ali_riazi.