Innovation in Counterinsurgency

Via Spencer Ackerman, this is definitely clever:

For some U.S. operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra were just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases. Two veteran officers familiar with such practices said Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal. While such sexual performance drugs are generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency’s teams operated, they have been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere.

“You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones,” said one retired operative familiar with the drug’s use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives — the maximum number allowed by the Koran — and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could “put them back in an authoritative position,” the official said.

One especially neat thing about this is that unlike guns or money, our Taliban rivals have essentially no prospect of producing large quantities of advanced pharmaceuticals. So if Afghan elders decide they like their ED meds, they’ll really have no choice but to try to stay on our good sides. And conversely, if things don’t work out so well there’s much less potential for a “blowback” problem when you’ve been handing out viagra than when you’ve been handing out rocket launchers.