Afghanistan Escalators Need to Provide Strategic Rationale

-

Afghan.Helicopter.Photo.jpg
(Photo credit: Army.mil’s photostream)
Max Boot, Frederick Kagan, and Kimberly Kagan argue in today’s New York Times that we cannot afford to “lose” Afghanistan and suggest a number of tactical changes to our operations there.
Their argument contains three major flaws.
First, the authors fail to place the war in Afghanistan in the context of the United States’ overall national security strategy. Strategy is about priorities and trade offs. Pouring more troops, money, and political capital into Afghanistan means fewer resources to pursue our other national security objectives across the globe.
Dennis Blair, Obama’s director of national intelligence, recently told Congress that the global economic crisis has overtaken international terrorism as the greatest threat to our national security interests. But the authors fail to even try to argue why Afghanistan should be a higher priority than our other challenges.
Also, an honest assessment of whether a prolonged nation-building project in Afghanistan in in our interests must make some educated guess about the endeavor’s costs. The authors do not offer any estimates as to their proposal’s financial costs or duration.
Second, the authors’ mischaracterize their opponents’ arguments. They assert that “some claim we have no interest in making Afghanistan a functioning state.” But everyone would love for Afghanistan to become a functioning state; the question is whether we can make that happen through a prolonged military occupation.
Third, they claim that “the odds of success are much better than they were” in Iraq before the “surge.” The authors (whose piece is titled “How to Surge the Taliban”) seem to take for granted that our strategy in Iraq for the past two years has been effective. But the “surge” failed to achieve its strategic objective: political reconciliation in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, on the opposite page Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie Gelb suggests that we withdraw our troops over a period of three years while providing military and economic assistance to fight terrorism.
I am not in a position to evaluate the details of Gelb’s plan, but I like that it acknowledges the regional nature of the problem, recognizes the limits of our power, and places the war in Afghanistan within a broad strategic framework.
Here is the key graph:

I don’t know whether the power extrication strategy sketched out here would be less or more risky than our present course. But trying to eliminate the Taliban and Qaeda threat in Afghanistan is unattainable, while finding a way to live with, contain and deter the Taliban is an achievable goal. After all, we don’t insist on eliminating terrorist threats from Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. Furthermore, this strategy of containing and deterring is far better suited to American power than the current approach of counterinsurgency and nation-building.

— Ben Katcher

Comments

40 comments on “Afghanistan Escalators Need to Provide Strategic Rationale

  1. kotzabasis says:

    Dan Kervick,
    Certainly the “hearts and minds issue” is a core issue. But the “concentric circles of people,” will not be influenced by US Congress pronouncements and condemnations, in this case of Israeli actions, if they perceive, which they will, that this change of American policy arises from the weakness of the latter and from the strength of the “hard core” “militant jihadists” in their war with the US. The concentric circles of support for the militants will only disappear by depriving the latter of the ‘aura’ of being seen as the victors (The ethos of Arab pride trumps all.) against the American hegemon. And that entails the imminent and decisive defeat of the militants in the field of battle, as it happened in Iraq to the Sadrist militias and al Qaeda.
    Furthermore, your concentrated reasoning loses its force if your policy contains these two incongruous parts: The first one will destroy by predators and covert operations (Which will be seen in the Muslim world as American excesses) the incubators of “Salafist ideology”, which are the madrassas, while the second, will denounce American and Israeli excesses. Do you seriously believe that such denunciation will have greater influence upon fellow-travellers and sympathisers, than the destruction of the madrassas in which many civilians will be killed, and will win their hearts and minds?

    Reply

  2. Zathras says:

    Before this thread ends (with the by-now obligatory exchange of boilerplate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) I thought I’d try to draw some attention to a proposed plan of action written by Sarah Chayes a couple of months ago and posted on Tom Ricks’s blog: http://www.sarahchayes.net/images/Afghanistan_policy_action_plan_0109.pdf
    Without endorsing all the ideas in it, one may say that Chayes’s piece does attempt to grapple with the challenge presented by the corrupt and hyper-dependent Afghan government. It is worth considering thoughtfully.

    Reply

  3. Dan Kervick says:

    C-G Kotzabasis,
    I’m talking about the hearts and minds issue. There is a hard core of dyed-in-the-wool militant jihadists with an uncompromising Salafist ideology. They are not going to be swayed by US public diplomacy, or by forseeable changes in US policy. They can only be dealt with forcibly. They must either be captured or killed, and their plans must be disrupted.
    But the hard core is surrounded by concentric circles of people who are associated with the hard core by various degrees of fellow-traveling or sympathizing or onlooking. The extent to which the jihadists are able to expand their movement to get material or moral assistance from people in the out rings depends on how well their message resonates.
    In my view, the jihadists have been the beneficiaries in recent years of a number of wrong-headed US policies that help their message resonate strongly. If hundreds of innocent people in Gaza have their lives snuffed out in an over-the-top Israeli attack, some as a result of deliberate crimes, with nary a peep from the US Congress, then when your friendly neighborhood jihadist says, “Muslims lives mean nothing to the Americans,” that message is going to get much more play on the street than it would if the US Congress had stepped up and condemned the excessive use of force.

    Reply

  4. kotzabasis says:

    Kervick says:
    “When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system.”
    Your quote states the obvious. Of course one does not fight terrorism only with police methods but the question is out of all the methods which are the most effective by which one can defeat the jihadists. And while your paragraph in your previous post that mentions “predators” and all the other ‘hard things’ that one has perforce to do against the jihadists is full of strategic clarity, by reverting back to your old argument of three years ago that the present terrorists are similar to the anarchist terrorists of the past and can be interdicted by ‘police’ methods, you unconsciously downgrade the seriousness of your ‘hard things’ position.
    Moreover, you are locked in the fallacy of a rational person who premises his actions that his enemies that ‘round’ him up are also rational and if he shows by his actions, in our case America, that he is not against Arabs and Muslims this will bring a definitive change in the attitudes of the jihadists. This is a ‘straightjacket’ delusion that has lost all contact with reality. Islamic fanaticism will not be influenced, soothed, abated, or defeated by moral examples or olive branches but only in the field of battle and that is why a military deployment against it is a prerequisite. In short, it’s just another but more effective method in defeating the jihadists in a shorter span of time.

    Reply

  5. Arun says:

    What would happen if the US and NATO packed up and left Afghanistan? Would the Karzai government actually start functioning? Today, they are not accountable to the public because of the implicit NATO protection. Somehow I keep thinking of the “Geithner put” that banks in the US have; there is a similar moral hazard in Afghanistan.
    Instead of occupying Afghanistan, have very strong checks on all people entering and leaving there, whether via Iran or via Pakistan.

    Reply

  6. Dan Kervick says:

    Kotzabasis says:
    “Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall within the ambience of “law and order.””
    I do. When I say that terrorism is a law and order problem, I don’t mean that the only tools to be used are the methods of the criminal justice system. Those latter tools have proven effective in many cases, including operations interdicted in the UK and Canada. But given the limits of applying these tools across borders and inside rugged countries, sometimes more aggressive means must be employed. What I mean is that terrorism is fundamentally a problem of a limited number of militant “outlaws”, and that the strategy for addressing it should focus on that fact, rather than be distracted by extravagant projects for state improvement and state overhaul.
    What I am most skeptical of is the idea that the problem of terrorism is a conventional military problem that calls for the use of conventional military operations – in the form of armies, invasions and occupations – against either states or sub-national “armies”. And I am especially skeptical of the idea that the way to address the problem of terrorism is to launch massive – and generally very unrealistic – state-building operations in the hope that some day the dangerous backward parts of the world will be filled with well-functioning and capable states that will be able to supress all of the militants operating inside their territories.
    There are other means that need to be used as well, including denying the terrorists the ideological foothold that multiplies their influence and capability. That means not doing so many things that provide evidence of the very charges the terrorists make. To counter jihadist charges that the United States is hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims across the world the United States should stop behaving as if it is indeed universally hostile to the interests of Arabs and Muslims.

    Reply

  7. kotzabasis says:

    Ben Katcher’s intellectually malodorous, and disingenuous, argument has reached the other shores of the pacific. While he claims that “pouring more troops…into Afghanistan means fewer resources to pursue our other national security objectives across the globe,” he does not mention by name any of them other than the economic crisis mentioned by Dennis Blair. Hence his statement that “strategy is about priorities and trade-offs,” while true in general, is a contrived fiction when he applies it to international terrorism since these other priorities remain nameless. The reason why he does not name them is that if he had identified these priorities and contrasted them with the priority of global terror he would embarrass himself for being ludicrous.
    Dan Kervick’s paragraph that contains “we use predators and covert methods,” which incidentally is an idea that I suggested myself too eight years ago, is very interesting although he contradicts himself further down on his post when he contrasts present terror with anarchist terror in the past and says for the latter that it “was basically a law and order problem,” which he first ventilated in a riposte to me on TWN three years ago. Surely, Kervick, who has learnt his logic by sitting in the spacious intellectual laps of Hume and Russel, could not cogently argue that “predators and covert methods” fall within the ambience of “law and order.”

    Reply

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who thinks we can ‘win’ there, no matter what that means,
    is deluded. From The Guardian, ‘Combat Outpost.’
    http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?
    option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=3314
    &updaterx=2009-02-19+03%3A40%3A40
    And when they get effective antiaircraft missiles?
    There are several other Guardian videos from Afghanistan at Real
    News. None hopeful.

    Reply

  9. glennmcgahee says:

    I am disturbed by our movements in Afghanistan because something is being overlooked. I caught it in McClatchey News Services. Our troops there are being placed strategically along a corridor that is planning to be used by the Chinese to build a railroad that will be used by them to get access to and mine a large cache of copper ore discovered there years ago by the Soviets. Is that part of our payment for the loans we are receiving?

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Here is the “rush” transcript of Zakaria’s interview of Freeman. It will bge interesting to see if the trancript remains unedited on the CNN website.
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0903/15/fzgps.01.html
    FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
    Interview With Charles Freeman; Examination of U.S. Support for Israel
    Aired March 15, 2009 – 13:00 ET
    THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
    FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I’m Fareed Zakaria.
    This week, a man named Charles Freeman, a man with a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service, withdrew his name from consideration to be the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, a key intelligence job. In doing so, he blamed — and I quote here — “the Israeli lobby,” for his decision to pull his own nomination.
    He accused the so-called Israel lobby of “character assassination,” of “willful distortion of the record,” and an “utter disregard of the truth.” Strong charges.
    His opponents, of course, had strong charges of their own, accusing him of anti-Israeli bias, even anti-Semitism.
    To answer these charges and to discuss these issues, Charles Freeman is my guest today.
    Now, in making these accusations, Freeman has pushed to the forefront a topic that previously had been discussed only among academics, policy wonks and bloggers. And even there it’s been controversial.
    The basic charge is that lobbyists supporting Israel wield too much power, which results in the U.S. blindly supporting Israel, even when it’s wrong.
    The counter is that there are many lobbies in Washington — on guns, Cuba, entitlement programs — and to single out pro-Israeli groups is unfair. There are many who argue that even the term “Israel lobby” conjures up an image of a Jewish conspiracy.
    To discuss this issue and others, I will be talking to the man at the center of the controversy, Charles Freeman, in just a moment.
    Also on GPS today, the former secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, with some very tough words about the Obama administration. And then a conversation about President Obama’s first 50 days with some great thinkers. So, stay with us.
    (BREAK)
    ZAKARIA: And joining me now, Ambassador Charles Freeman.
    CHARLES FREEMAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Thank you. Glad to be with you.
    ZAKARIA: Let me first ask you, you don’t feel that you were pushed out by the White House, or you were forced out? This was your decision?
    FREEMAN: It was my decision with Admiral Blair. And I frankly find it very amusing that politicians are lining up to claim credit for having assassinated me.
    ZAKARIA: Well, let’s talk about the one politician who has publicly taken credit for your withdrawal, Senator Charles Schumer from New York.
    Do you think that he was instrumental in any way?
    FREEMAN: I have no reason to believe he was. I’m sure he did talk to Rahm Emanuel and others at the White House, as he said he did. But I have no reason to believe that that had any particular influence on the decision. It certainly didn’t have any influence on my decision, and it was ultimately my decision.
    ZAKARIA: The issue that he raised, that Charles Schumer raised, and the issue that you raised in your statement, was about Israel. There were a few surrounding issues that people raised, but the heart of the matter seemed to be that a number of people felt that you were overly critical of Israel.
    And you described the forces that got you out as the “Israel lobby.”
    Describe what you mean by the Israel lobby, and describe what you think they did.
    FREEMAN: Well, the “Israel lobby” is a term that’s in general use. I think it isn’t a terribly accurate name. It probably should be called the Likud lobby, or the Yisrael Beiteinu lobby. It’s the far right wing of the Jewish community here in alliance with the far right wing in Israel.
    And I don’t think that I’ve been in any respect excessively or unreasonably critical of Israel. I think I have been critical of Israeli policy. And the atmosphere is such in this country now, that whereas Israelis in Israel routinely criticize policies they think may prove to be suicidal for their country, those who criticize the same policies here for the same reasons are subject to political reprisal.
    ZAKARIA: But your feeling is that you could see the hand of supporters of Israel’s — supporters of the right wing in Israel, as you describe it — in derailing your nomination or raising the controversy? You said — in your statement you said the e-mails make it clear, the blogs make it clear.
    FREEMAN: Oh, and this morning, indeed, there were various postings by the organizations that organize the campaign, the Zionist Organization of America, for example, detailing, or setting out in considerable detail, how they organized research to find material that they could use to agitate, first, congressmen who were sympathetic to them, and later, others, on various issues.
    And, of course, they do not admit, but it is a fact, that they engaged in a truly libelous campaign of selective misquotation and distortion and fabrication of facts that are absolutely not real.
    ZAKARIA: Let me just read the quote, because I think many people will want to hear more about how you think about this.
    You said, “We have paid heavily and often in treasure in the past for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel’s approach to managing its relations with the Arabs. Five years ago we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home.”
    And the five years ago, of course, refers to 9/11.
    So, you see our support for Israel as having produced a kind of — a tidal wave of hostility that then, in some way, did cause 9/11, isn’t it fair to say?
    FREEMAN: I think we are paying a price, because our actions have catalyzed — perhaps not caused, but catalyzed — a radicalization of Arab and Muslim politics that facilitates the activities of terrorists with global reach like those who struck us on 9/11.
    ZAKARIA: But you could see why people who support Israel, or perhaps American Jews, would be perturbed by that statement. Do you wish you hadn’t written it in retrospect, or said it?
    FREEMAN: No, no. I stand by what I said. And I think it’s unfair to put American Jews all in one camp.
    There’s a very large number of American Jews who have written to me to express their gratitude for my raising the issues I have raised about Israeli policy. And there is a movement that insists that these actions not be carried out in the name of Judaism or the American Jewish community.
    I think one of the great ironies in this situation is that, in my experience, the bravest and most outspoken people against these policies of the Israeli government, the establishment, are Jews.
    Why? Because American Jews feel a deep commitment to the continued survival of Israel, and they see — and they also identify with it. And they don’t want to see that survival jeopardized or the moral standing of the Jewish state compromised in the way that it has been.
    ZAKARIA: You know that when you say things like — when you refer to the Israel lobby, for some Jews — certainly not all — it conjures up the idea that you are in some way insinuating a kind of Jewish conspiracy. And it has led people to loosely use the word anti-Semitic when describing you. How do you feel when you hear those charges?
    FREEMAN: I feel deeply insulted. The last thing on earth I am is anti-Semitic. There are Jewish members of my family, although I am not Jewish. I have great respect for Judaism and its adherents.
    I also, frankly, have a lot of respect for Israel. And I’m sorry to see it so badly corrupted by the occupation, and to see its values so badly damaged by the settlement process in the occupied territories.
    The humane spirit that Israel used to evoke is now replaced by something else.
    ZAKARIA: Do you feel that the lobbies, the groups that reflect American Jews’ concerns about Israel, that may reflect Israeli policy, have too much influence in public policy in the United States today?
    FREEMAN: Well, I think the right-wing elements that I referred to, which are loosely called the Israel lobby — as I said, I’d prefer the term Likud lobby — in fact have a hammerlock on both public discussion and policy.
    And the objective of their campaign against me was to reinforce that hammerlock, to enforce the taboo against any critical discussion of Israeli policies and what they might mean for Israel’s future or the future of the United States as affected by Israel’s future; to ensure that this group — which is a very well-organized group, as can be readily discerned from their messages crowing about how they organized this campaign — to reinforce their veto power over appointments to the government; to ensure that analysis was not value- free, but pro-Israel in orientation and, to some extent, anti-Arab; and finally, to ensure that the policy process remains supportive of whatever it is that whoever is in power in Israel demands.
    ZAKARIA: And we will be back with Ambassador Charles Freeman in a moment.
    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
    ZAKARIA: And we are back with Charles Freeman.
    Ambassador Freeman, had you taken on this job, people say you have such strong views on the Middle East, on Israel, on the Arabs, you wouldn’t have been able to provide good, impartial intelligence.
    What do you think you would have been able to do, had you had that job?
    FREEMAN: I served my country in diplomatic positions, including analytical positions, over the course of 30 years. I know very well how to submerge my own opinion and to articulate the views of the collective, the organization, the government that I serve. I don’t have any particular agenda with regard to Israel or any other issue.
    What I do have is an iconoclastic mind. I don’t like people who assert things because they’ve heard them, they are the conventional wisdom. And I would have challenged people to produce evidence that what they were saying had some grounding in evidence.
    In other words, I think this business that, somehow or other, an analytical job cannot be done by somebody with a critical mind is an oxymoron.
    ZAKARIA: What about China? One of the statements of yours that people bring up is a statement that you made about Tiananmen Square, in which it sounded like you were saying that the Beijing government was doing the right thing.
    FREEMAN: The statement that was circulated omitted the first part of the sentence, which was the subject of the sentence, which was “the predominant view in China.” Meaning that I was describing the dominant view of the Chinese leadership after they had conducted an after-action review of the whole event. And their…
    ZAKARIA: Not — in other words, not your own views, but the views of the Chinese government.
    FREEMAN: Exactly.
    And that, of course, I don’t think very many in the China field would dispute that. That is, a weak and divided and indecisive Chinese government in 1989 allowed demonstrators to occupy the center of their government facilities and to disrupt the normal functioning of government for five or six weeks, while they dithered. And the result of this was, they believe, that it made a bloody outcome almost inevitable. And the setback to reform that that caused was also an inevitable consequence of this.
    ZAKARIA: Let’s talk about Saudi Arabia. You said something quite striking, that al Qaeda succeeded in its principal goal, which was to cause an estrangement between the United States and the Saudi Arabian monarchy.
    Do you believe that that is reversible? Do you believe that that is now something that just has spun (ph) up? Because the popular sentiment, certainly in the United States, is that the Saudi Arabian government, and the regime, and the society, has in some sense spawned al Qaeda.
    FREEMAN: Yes. No, I think that Saudi Arabia has definitely been successfully vilified in our politics. Any association with Saudi Arabia of any kind, as my own experience probably demonstrates, is a very large black mark.
    Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, the United States is now amazingly unpopular and disliked. The American invasion of Iraq, a fellow Arab country, the American backing of Israeli actions in Lebanon and Gaza, and other activities that we’ve carried out in the region, are all deeply resented.
    Here, obviously, Americans remain traumatized and very angry about 9/11, as we should be. ZAKARIA: But you wouldn’t blame the — you don’t think Saudi religious organizations or the Wahhabi clerics, you know, created this kind of Frankenstein monster?
    FREEMAN: I think the atmosphere created by a very narrow-minded, austere version of Islam certainly helped to spawn this.
    And I note that, in fact, the king of Saudi Arabia has taken very significant actions over the succeeding period, now eight years, to reform education, to open an interfaith dialogue, both domestically and internationally, to push for tolerance.
    ZAKARIA: So, you see the Saudi king, who you have called “Abdullah the Great,” you see him as a modernizer and not somebody to be vilified?
    FREEMAN: Very definitely. Just to consider, for example, what he did on Saudi Arabia’s and the Arabs’ policies toward Israel and the peace process would justify that epithet.
    He reversed decades of Saudi policy, which was that Saudi Arabia would be the last country to recognize and normalize relations with Israel. Saudi policy since 2002 has been that it will be the first, if Israelis and Palestinians reach a mutually acceptable agreement, and that it will bring all other Arab countries with it in establishing normal relations with Israel.
    ZAKARIA: And what will be the next move for Charles Freeman? Do you still support President Obama? Has this disillusioned you?
    FREEMAN: It hasn’t disillusioned me at all. I feel, first of all, we only have — this is the only president we have. He happens to be a very bright and articulate man with a strategic mind. And what we need more than anything is a strategic review of the policies that have brought us to this sorry pass in which we now find ourselves — not just in the Middle East, but in many other places, as well.
    ZAKARIA: Ambassador Charles Freeman, thank you very much for joining us.
    FREEMAN: A pleasure.

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Fareed Zakaria GPS airs each Sunday, at 1pm and 5pm on CNN.
    Today’s show….
    Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles “Chas” Freemen comments on the decision to withdraw his name for the nomination for chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and the controversy surrounding his criticism of the “Israel Lobby.”
    http://edition.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/
    We’d like you to think about the forces that influence Washington.
    Listening to the show and all the rest that you have read, do you believe groups that lobby on behalf of Israel have too much influence? Or do you think this is a bogus, even scurrilous charge?
    Email us at
    FareedZakariaGPS@cnn.com

    Reply

  12. thetruth says:

    Max Boot and Fred Kagan getting articles filled with flawed thinking, glossed-over-facts and misrepresentations published in major media sources? After being wrong about Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and the entire Middle East for the past 20 years, shouldn’t they be washing dishes somewhere?
    Meritocracy my ass. Not so long as you’re a conservative.
    I’m surprised anyone besides other conservatives takes these jokers seriously. What have they ever gotten right? Actually, I’m not really surprised, more saddened that an intellectually bankrupt and dishonest political faction continues to get propped by our media.
    If there was a meritocracy in the pundit/think tank industry, anytime clowns like Max Boot and Fred Kagan opened their mouths, they would be laughed from the room.

    Reply

  13. TonyForesta says:

    What are we involved in? State building? Oil and energy corridors? Again, people can dance around the basic facts and pretend that America’s aims in Afghanistan are noble or in some way honorable, – but any cursory examination of America’s policies and practical applications and operations in Afghanistan prove there is nothing noble or honest in the process.
    Imagine a world where the numbers are flipped flopped, and Afghanistan was the recipient of the bushgov wanton largess to the private military and intelligence industrial complexes nobid, openended, multihundredmilliondollar contracts,- and Afghanistan had 150 thousand troops, and support, – and Iraq who had nothing to do with 9/11, and no operational links to al Quaida was alloted on 17 thousand US troops, and support.
    The world would be a different place. Failure to capture bin Laden is all about not wanting to capture bin Laden, and using or exploiting the icon of bin Laden to perpetuate the supremicy of, and funnel gargantuan fortunes into the offshore accounts of select predator class cronies and oligarchs. I have five guys in Brooklyn that would hit bin Laden in a few weeks.
    The government needs bin Laden and the nebulous unknown unknown always outhere boogieman, or evildoer. Then it is possible to terrorize and mesmerize the population into submission and blind obedience to whatever jibberish the government is preaching.
    Our greatest threats walk amongst us.
    Who gains?
    What are the objectives in Afghanistan?
    What are the estimated costs?
    How long are the American people expected to fund and support the war in Afghanistan?
    What will define victory?

    Reply

  14. Dan Kervick says:

    Zathras says:
    “The argument for a surge of American troops into Afghanistan rests on the fact that al Qaeda once used that country as its safe haven. The objective of American policy — the one objective, really, that must be attained — is to prevent that history from being repeated.”
    I don’t understand the connection between the latter aim and the proposed surge, Zathras.
    For those who think we need to redouble our efforts to “win” the war in Afghanistan, I take it they mean we need to do whatever it takes, militarily and financially, to build a stable Afghan state run headed by a secure and US-friendly government. I have two problems with this idea. First, I tend to doubt that the US has the wherewithal to accomplish such a goal in such a rugged, decentralized and forbidding country – no matter how much our surge surges. The whole idea seems fantastical.
    Second, I don’t see how even achieving this fantastical aim would really help with the Al Qaeda issue, since I find it hard to believe that any Afghan government that we can realistically imagine taking shape will have the capacity to prevent Al Qaeda elements from gathering in remote locations and forming bases. As a basis for comparison, can we realistically imagine an Afghan government with even half the capacity of a state like Pakistan? Hardly. And yet Pakistan itself is not in control of large swaths of its country. Pursuing the quixotic state-building plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is a distraction from the methods that actually work.
    My understanding is that we have been engaged in a global campaign against jihadist terrorism for several years now, and the main practical method is to rely on intelligence to stay one step ahead of the folks who actually pose a threat, and the disrupt their efforts, kill their leaders and interdict their operations. We’re probably going to have to keep doing that sort of thing for quite some time, just as the effort against organized crime in the US never really ends. If Al Qaeda cadres build some kind of training base in Afghanistan, we go in and blow it up. If they build another one, we blow that one up too. We use predators and covert methods. The same is true of al Qaeda redoubts in Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen, right? We are going to have to do this no matter what kind of government we get in Kabul.
    I can’t believe that at this late date American political leaders and opinion leaders are still deluded by the theory that the chief enabling cause of terrorism is “state sponsorship”, and so that our aim is too manufacture strong states where none exist now. This seems wrong-headed to me. I’ve used this analogy before, but the militant jihadist movement seems something like the anarchist movement of a century ago. Parts of that movement were violent. Was the solution some sort of state-building process in Europe and the United States? No. There were already strong states in Europe and the US. But it is of the nature of terrorist groups to slip between the cracks in the sovereign power of states.
    Anarchist terrorism was basically a law and order problem. The idea was just to stay ahead of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, and outlast the movement as its ideological fervor gradually dissipated and it burned itself out.
    We should never have gotten involved in state building in Afghanistan. Now we have a generation of American leaders who are invested in that project, and see their personal honor and the national honor as riding on its very unlikely success. They need to get real.

    Reply

  15. Barry says:

    The giveaway that the article is wrong is its failure to even mention, let alone distinguish, Russia’s and others’ prior failures to tame Afghanistan. How is our attempt different? Any argument for military success there that doesn’t address this question is bogus.

    Reply

  16. Norbert Scheppers says:

    What’s that again, Zathras? !!!
    Afghanistan has over three times the land area than what was formerly South Vietnam. You are simply dumb, delusional and naive.

    Reply

  17. John Crandell says:

    Just as in South Vietnam, we are caught up in our own ideology, rather than having any genuine interest, any humanitarian perception of the quality of life of the Afghan people.
    I think of the time that I spent in South Vietnam, of having read Halberstam before I went over and when I got there it was all so apparent that by god, our number one interest was in blowing up anyone who started getting any ideas pursuant to their quality (or lack) of life. That they could bake under the insufferable sun and suffer any indignity, any disease as well as starve to death. That scenario was all alright and proper. But if any of them began to think deeply about their station in life or the legitimacy of their government, by gawd there was no limit to what the American government would expend to seek and find them and blow them to smithereens! All at the behest of the American Catholic heirarchy.

    Reply

  18. JohnH says:

    Midland–Obama will be blamed by the Republiscum and the wingnuts for anything and everything. Imagining the dire political consequences of Obama not toeing the line in Afghanistan are a very poor justification for maintaining any of Bush’s policies, particularly the disastrous, nonsensical occupation of Afghanistan.
    As for the US losing face in the Middle East, how low can you go beyond where Bush took the US? Imagining that the US might lose the last shreds of its credibility are another poor justification. In fact, once out of Afghanistan, the US might once again have time and attention to make it a priority to play a constructive role in the Middle East, if that is indeed possible at all.

    Reply

  19. Midland says:

    People are over-complicating this decision . . .
    1) You cannot negotiate a rational conclusion to a war when you are losing badly.
    2) We are losing the war in Afghanistan big-time. The Taliban are overuning the country.
    3) If Obama simply bails out of Afghanistan, the Taliban takes Kabul in short order and massacres everyone whoever supported us there. Obama then takes the blame for the entire cursed seven year failure of the war and loses any credibility in any negotiations anywhere in the Middle East.
    4) If Obama can be blamed by the Republicans for a disasterous ending of the Afghan war, his domestic policy agenda is ruined, the American economy could fold and send us into a depression, and the radical right gets yet another chance to destroy our democracy.
    I don’t doubt Obama is working on some rational political strategy in Afghanistan and will take any plausible negotiated ending to the Afghan war Clinton can cobble together for him. However, he needs a breathing space, a hard military blow against the Taliban that throws them back away from Kabul and gives him something to bargain with.
    The iron grip the American right has on the Beltway sub-culture and the Beltway media requires him to keep winning, over and over. Until he tames the Beltway machine, he has no slack, no room for failure of any kind.

    Reply

  20. bangzoom14 says:

    The military in this country is simply out of control. They directed the foreign policy while the idiot was in office the past eight years and they think they can do the same now. President Obama, you should take a word out of the republican playbook and just say NO. This endless “strategery” in the middle east is beyond absurd. It makes no sense. Who are we fighting? Who are we helping? We can barely keep ourselves above water. Although let’s face it, we know who we’re helping. We’re helping line the pockets of the military contractors and related businessmen and politicians. Pretty sad scenario.

    Reply

  21. Kathleen G says:

    “functioning state” would be in the eye of the beholder.
    I sure would not trust the lives of my children with the likes of Kagan, Kagan and Boot. Now if they would have put up some of their own childrens lives for their war in Iraq I might feel differently
    —————————————————
    Spent a great deal of time with a young man from Afghanistan who was studying here on a Fulbright Scholarship. He is now back in Afghanistan. We spent many hours talking about his country, the history and of course how much he missed his dear wife, four children and the rest of his very large family.
    He would talk with his family once a week (05-o8) and his father a retired Brigadier General who had fought back the Russians with the Mujahadeen would ask “do the Americans want to lose in Afghanistan again” He remembers clearly how the U.S. abandoned his country after the Russians retreated. My friends father had walked his 12 children and wife to Peshawar when Russia invaded (so many incredible stories)
    Anyway both my friend and his family shared that just after our invasion of their country (which they do consider an occupation) the Taliban were on the run. Then (according to them) soon after the Bush administration invaded Iraq the Taliban slowly but surely regained control and territory. By the time my friend came to the states 04 they had regained quite a bit of control. He and I would watch and listen to the MSM together (even the Diane Rehm show) and we would repeat over and over again…how come no coverage of what is going on in Afghanistan. Hell he and I laughed our heads off in wonder when Diane had a beautician on who had opened up a beauty parlor in Kabul
    http://wamu.org/programs/dr/07/04/12.php
    I had been after the Rehm show to have him on or some of the other 60 some Fulbright Scholars who were in the states and who had come together in Chicago to discuss what was going on in their country. Now don’t get me wrong I love Diane and think she is one of the best shows going in the MSM….but come on a beauty parlor in Kabul program when these Fulbright Scholars from his country were not being tapped into for their insights…ABSURD
    These conversations all took place between early 05-08 and then he returned last summer to Afghanistan. (we miss him but are so happy that he is re-united with his wonderful family) The U.S. provided lots of time for the Taliban to regain control after they had had them on the run in 2001/2002.
    My friend and his father would often say the only way to deal with the Taliban is to appeal to the more moderate individuals in the Taliban. (they were saying this three years ago) Now that is happening. The other thing they would often point out was how the U.S. had spent in 7 years in Afghanistan what the U.s. spends in Iraq in one month.
    Many hours focused on the need for replanting pomegrante, apricot, almonds, and grape orchards destroyed during the war in Russia. How poppy farmers either need to be subsidized until these orchards were old enough to produce or a way to turn the poppy production into a legal medical use outlet.
    Anyway we still communicate and he shares that things are very very bad in his country.

    Reply

  22. JohnH says:

    Step 1 in the US becoming a Chinese protectorate: “Wen calls for US fiscal guarantees”
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c2770bf0-1002-11de-a8ae-0000779fd2ac.html
    Somehow avoiding protectorate status seems a little more important than pursuing whatever dubious, undefined goals that the US energy security complex has for Afghanistan.

    Reply

  23. Kathleen G says:

    Oh great Kagan, Boot and Kagan part of the death and destruction team that took out nation into Iraq based on a “pack of lies”
    Heaven help us. Heaven help the people of Afghanistan
    Just wish Obama would start listening to people like Professor Juan Cole, Flynt Leverett, Zbig, and other more moderate folk who base what they say on facts

    Reply

  24. JohnH says:

    If I were in the Chinese government, I’d be applauding every day the US spent in Afghanistan. It is not just a war of attrition that weakens the US. But the follies of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Israel make the US borrow ever more money from China. At some point you have to wonder when the US government will have borrowed so much from China that it may have to be declared a protectorate…

    Reply

  25. ... says:

    jon – the usa can’t even look after its own people, let alone assist others in afganistan.. what is the cause belli for the usa to invade afgan? – 9-11 certainly isn’t a valid excuse.. one would be better off finding a good excuse for why norad stood down then for the perpetual war that has been spread around since…
    if the goal is to get rid of terrorism, start with your own government by not spreading it around as it has done the past 60 years… get out of trying to be an empire that lords it over the rest of the world with its excessive military machine and get back to something other then perpetual war or some other similar guise…

    Reply

  26. PrahaPartizan says:

    Wouldn’t reinforcements into Afghanistan only make sense in the context of an increase in other assistance as well? Reliance exclusively on the military option will achieve little, if not nothing. However, a more robust military could help with security to ensure that reinvigorated economic and social programs have a chance to help turn the tide on the ground. If we can’t agree that both are necessary for success, then maybe we should just abandon the country to whatever fate is in store and prepare for the outcome more intelligently than we did the last time we left.

    Reply

  27. jon says:

    The premises of the article are incorrrect, and therefore the
    analysis and recommendations are flawed at best. Afghanistan
    has never been ‘ours’ to lose. Much as it was never within our
    gift to lose China or Vietnam.
    Similarly, the Surge in Iraq was successful only insofar as
    desperately needed additional US troops in the field were the
    beneficiaries of a chance of stretegy by tribal Sunnis in Anbar
    province, the successful completion of ethnic cleansing in
    Baghdad and the creation of walled ghettoes, decisions made in
    Iran that less conflict would hasten US departure and enhance
    Iranian influence, and a strategic retreat by Muqtada al Sadr.
    It would be helpful for all parties to be clear about what they
    believe can reasonably be accomplished in Afghanistan. I would
    submit that the prospect of a stable, western-styled civic
    democracy is a long way off, if achievable at all.
    The Taliban is malleable to some degree – after all they are now
    major players in the opium trade, where they had eradicated
    poppy cultivation while hey were in power. It is possible that
    some, in some instances, may be willing to align with western
    interests, so long as it suits their purposes. Farmers will likely
    prefer a situation where they can reliably make a good income
    and see their families prospering. Warlords will continue to seek
    power, territory and wealth. And other regional powers can be
    expected to continue to pursue their own interests.
    Save a pipeline or two, Afghanistan only has strategic value as a
    buffer, or for the mischief one can project from it. Its main
    assets over the centuries have reliably been its remoteness and
    quarrelsome tribes. How much and how rapidly can this
    circumstance be durably altered?
    The US had a genuine casus belli to invade, and has displaced
    the prior government and occupied the country for seven years
    now, yet it has not accomplished the chief aim. The US objective
    can be reduced to capturing remaining Al Qaeada that
    participated in 9-11, and the capture of Mullah Omar and his
    inner circle. Shockingly, we seem to be contiually further from
    this goal. But an offer to quit the country, in exchange for
    certain persons, so that they might be brought to justice, might
    be quite successful. Whoever delivers bin Laden would then
    become the liberator of Afghanistan, and able to reap great
    benefits.
    We may also be able to provide aid and programs that improve
    agriculture, education, roads, local and national government and
    national security. But it would only be successful if it is done in
    conjunction with local resources and the people’s ability to
    accept, participate and benefit from it. And whatever we do
    must be with a commitment for a very long involvement and
    investment.
    Much of our current problems in Afghanistan are traceable to
    our immediate abandonment of the country and our proxies
    once the USSR disengaged. Our allies suffered, a power vacuum
    was created, and fundamentalists were able to exploit the
    opening and grow unchecked – in the context of wholesale civil
    war fought by our former warlord proxies. Much as Western
    Europe, Japan and South Korea required decades of assistance
    from the US before they healed the wounds of war, solidified
    democracy, and became successful countries, a similar
    commitment will be required in Afghanistan.
    These efforts might be termed as bribes, or as money wasted,
    but so what? What else can we call the money that we’ve been
    spending in Afghanistan for the past six years (and seem to
    have every intention to continue doing) to support military
    occupation?
    If our goal is to root out terrorism, and create situations where
    terrorism will not flourish in the future, we have not yet begun
    this task in Afghanistan.

    Reply

  28. TonyForesta says:

    Will someone, anyone be honest? The American people and the entire world really are looking to American leadership for some ray of hope that intelligent, ethical, compassionate, – and not fascist pathologically greedy minds are piloting the good ship America.
    Are America’s goals in Afghanistan political, or economic?
    Is America prepping for and vast array of US military installations to secure an oil and energy corridor bypassing Russia for control of the oil and natural gas resources distributed through the Caspian Sea? Or is there some noble cause, some caring desire to help and assist the downtrodden, deprived, and victimized populations of Afghanistan? What are the objectives? What will define victory? Obama talks nice on TV, but in practical application, – not much has changed!!! In fact much more is far worse! The reason things are moving in negative ways, is because NOTHING HAS CHANGED!!!!
    NOTHING HAS CHANGED, in the system but the occupants. The system continues to operate against the best interests of the Ameican people, and overwhelmingly favoring the predator class cronies, and predator class oligachs. Everyone else is expected to bow humbly, fork it over, accept the extraction of pounds of flesh, don’t complain, and enjoy the spectacle of the richest profiteering wantonly from our ignorance and overt government largess.
    America’s security is dependent on how effeciently our various sundry private security and intelligence cartels, and military and intelligence agencies and departments understand, monitor, and target jihadist massmurderers.
    Hurling massive armies in uniform parading around occupied nations like legionaires is a recipe for disaster. Why not put bulleyes on their heads?
    Hunt down, capture, or kill every jihadist on earth. Yeah, it’s a big job, – but it does not require and in fact prohibits uniformed obviously recognizable forces. What is required is real intel. Humint. Assets who speak, look like, understand, and stealfully seep into the jihadist networks, compile hard evidence against high value targets, laze those specific targets, and blow them off the face of the earth.
    Afghanistan is the most inhospitable warspace on earth. Our socalled brilliant weapons are significantly dimished in the harsh terrains and weathers systems in Afghanistan. Sending thousand of troops into Afghanistan is futile, fruitless, and suicidal. What is the mission? What are the objectives? What are the estimated costs in blood and treasure? How long? And what exactly will define victory? These are the unanswered conspiratorial questions asked of the fascists warmongers and profiteers in the bushgov in Iraq, and sadly, – the same questions must be asked of the Obama government in Afghanistan.
    How do America’s poor and middle class benefit from the warmaking enterprizes in Afghanistan?
    Answer that question, and Americans will follow. Ignore it, and support for our efforts in Afghanistan will diminish and erode.

    Reply

  29. Cadmus says:

    Obama would be wise not to swallow this neocon kool aide. Bush was too dumb to know how bad their advice has been, but Obama won’t have that excuse. Why do I get the feeling that the neocon’s Berlin bunker moment is going to happen over Afghanistan?

    Reply

  30. JohnH says:

    Zathras said, “The argument for a surge of American troops into Afghanistan rests on the fact that al Qaeda once used that country as its safe haven.” Nothing like building a “strategy” around fighting the last war…
    The more you hear the pretexts for being in Afghanistan, the more ludicrous they become (Iraq redux!) But I guess as long as the foreign policy mob has a pretext–any pretext at all will do!–then they don’t have to explain to American taxpayers the real reasons for expending such enormous amounts of blood and treasure.

    Reply

  31. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Third, they claim that “the odds of success are much better than they were” in Iraq before the “surge.” The authors (whose piece is titled “How to Surge the Taliban”) seem to take for granted that our strategy in Iraq for the past two years has been effective. But the “surge” failed to achieve its strategic objective: political reconciliation in Baghdad”
    It does not take a Think Tank mentality to arrive at the common sense conclusion that Iraq will eventually erupt into massive sectarian unrest. We cannot continue to bribe the various factions indefinitely, and when the cash cow dries up, they will go back to killing American soldiers, and each other. It ain’t rocket science.
    Obama’s eventual “mission accomplished” banner will be just as ridiculous as Monkey Boy’s was.

    Reply

  32. Gary says:

    First off, I have to seriously question the commitment to Afghanistan when Obama is sending only 17,000 additional troops to the region. Does anyone really think that sending those few troops is going to get the job done?? I don’t.
    If Obama wants to see results in the region 100,000 additional troops is needed. Afghanistan is going to be tougher to crack than Iraq was. Every person versed with knowledge with the situation believes that to be the case. The Taliban is resurgent and reestablishing itself, and if you’re going to take them on, and beat them, a paltry 17,000 additional troops isn’t going to get the job done.

    Reply

  33. Zathras says:

    The argument for a surge of American troops into Afghanistan rests on the fact that al Qaeda once used that country as its safe haven. The objective of American policy — the one objective, really, that must be attained — is to prevent that history from being repeated.
    It makes sense to set the reinforcement in motion now, before the strategy it is intended to support is announced, for logistical reasons. But the most likely strategy runs up against a conundrum, perhaps inherent in Afghanistan at any time but certainly one magnified by the lost years during which Afghanistan was a sideshow, a poor relation to the main American adventure in Iraq.
    A tried and true method of cooling off Afghan, predominantly Pashtun, guerillas is to hit them hard and inflict lots of casualties, which a reinforced American army would enable NATO to do. This could buy some time to build the Afghan National Army, make at least part of the national police force effective, seek to split the Afghanistan-based insurgency and extend the national government’s legitimacy. The problem is that it’s unlikely anything the larger force can do will buy enough time to do any of the things we need to in order to leave behind a functioning government strong enough to prevent Islamist international terrorists from setting up shop in Afghanistan all over again.
    Years of experience in Afghanistan have probably taught us enough to solve the problems of 2002, but since then events have taken their course. We were trying, with utterly inadequate resources, to build an Afghan government from scratch seven years ago; we have less inadequate resources now, but also an entrenched, ineffective, and thoroughly corrupt Afghan government complete with an equally entrenched, ineffective Afghan president. With no insurgency and ten years to work with, it might be possible to reform the government in Kabul. Under the conditions that actually exist right now, it’s hard to see how that can be done; at best, the reinforced American force could buy enough time to make the ANA effective enough to become a contender to dominate a government in partial control of some of the ecountry a year or so from now.
    Without the reinforcement, the slow decay of NATO’s position in Afghanistan seems bound to continue. With NATO’s withdrawal, a collapse of the Karzai government and most of its institutions seems likely, with Pakistan encouraging the movement of the most zealous Taliban and al Qaeda types into Afghanistan just to keep them from assassinating Pakistani politicians.
    Gelb’s recommendation would be a good foundation for our Afghan strategy if there were a government in Kabul that coud sustain itself without the level of military support now supplied by NATO and the Americans. There isn’t. And frankly, the other points made in the main post here are either unhelpful (“strategy is about priorities and trade offs”) or irrelevant (the surge in Iraq did so fail, because Iraqis failed to resolve their differences). I’m open to the argument that the Kagans’s ideas don’t represent a sure way forward, but there isn’t a real alternative presented here.

    Reply

  34. JohnH says:

    If another terrorist attack occurs, Obama will be blamed regardless of what he does. The neo-conmen will assert that he should have done things differently, could have done more, etc., etc. There is no way to win that game. And the more you play it, the more you look like the Israeli cabinet, which has to conduct pogroms on defenseless populations before elections, just to prove how tough they are.
    But all this assumes that GWOT is anything more than an expedient for other things, like lining the pockets of defense contractors and oil companies.

    Reply

  35. DonS says:

    “If he doesn’t make a valiant effort along the lines of the Powell Doctrine (overwhelming force) that sufficiently assuages the hawks in both Congress and the electorate, he will be nailed then punished if any kind of terrorist attack occurs on his watch.”
    This is the argument supporting the notion of “endless war”, at least in appearance. If a policy is followed to innoculate against criticism of an event beyond total control (a terror attack on US soil) then there is never an adequate rationale to change the policy. Have we not noticed that 1) those “endless warriors” will never be assuaged on any terms but their own 2) our current efforts have brought very little in actual success beyond the war of words 3) subduing Afghan resistence by military means is a sure loser.
    The current environment is one where “the opposition” is nothing if not irrationally wedded to oppositon for it’s own sake (and reluctance to recognize that the neocon/Republican milennia has been sidetracked). The argument, again, that we’d better not change course because those very losers will blame Obama for an attack negates the value of the political victory and cedes de facto control to the losers. It’s not only cowardly, but an ass backwards way of considering policy.

    Reply

  36. questions says:

    A different kind of thought about this mess….
    When we were “fighting” the Cold War, we had a clearly defined enemy, a clearly defined goal, and a really clear sense of success — any day that the Commies didn’t send a nuke our direction was a V-Day. Any day that we still were capitalists was also a V-Day. So we won the war repeatedly. Even during the various proxy wars, we were always winning because of the lack of bombs bursting in air over major American cities.
    Note how much of the rhetoric around the war on terriers focuses on how this one is “different”, “unconventional”, not based on an actual country, utterly inimical to truth, justice, and the Judeao-Christian American way….. The spector of otherness haunts our day and night dreams.
    How do you fight that which you cannot define? We can’t say what a terrorist is or isn’t, we can’t recognize one from the outside though we pretend that skin color and facial hair are great giveaways. We make no good argument about what we’re doing, and without an argument with clear terms, the resultant actions are equally ill-defined. In short, we don’t know what we’re doing so we don’t know what we’re doing.
    I’d recommend that we rethink what in heaven’s name the GWOT is, what a terrorist is, what we should fear. We need to do this openly and publicly because, indeed, the second there’s another attack by brown-skinned foreign-seeming terrorists, this form of government under this constitution will be toast. (Note that school shootings and family murder-suicides don’t count as threats.)
    I’d welcome an infinite series of townhall meetings in which every American nightmare gets voiced. If we speak the anxiety, maybe we can back off of some of the dumber policies we enact to battle the monster under the bed.
    And for Afghanistan in particular, maybe we need a new version of X’s piece on containment. Can we contain and re-channel some of the hostility that seems to come our way? Could we establish small safe havens of not superbad Taliban? Protect some regions that maybe even are helped to prosper? I don’t know if this sort of thing ever works, but I’m guessing that a fair number of people in Afghanistan would like not to fight but are pushed by local Taliban militias.

    Reply

  37. ... says:

    johnh – everything is working up to war on iran.. that is the other strategic rationale for being in afgan… other explanations are either idealistic or deceitful..

    Reply

  38. JohnH says:

    Great comment! People are finally starting to question why the US is doing what it is doing overseas.
    One quibble, however: “the authors fail to place the war in Afghanistan in the context of the United States’ overall national security strategy.”
    National security strategy? What a joke. May I live long enough to see the day when the US actually has a national security strategy and makes it known to the taxpayers.
    Boot and the Kagans opinions fall eerily into the same category as Obama’s comments stating that “Iran continues ‘to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security’ of the United States.” For a hyper-articulate man like Obama, it’s telling that he is totally incapable of specifying or even alluding to what that threat might be! C’mon Obama, you can do better.
    You have to agree with … “Strategic Rationale? – war = money….” or maybe war = energy resources
    We have to demand better of our leaders, or they will continue to con the American people–neo-conmen, ‘realist’ conmen, its’ all the same con game with different faces and different styles.

    Reply

  39. ToddinHB says:

    It appears that Obama is increasingly a victim of the same fear that has plagued Dems since Uncle Chimpie took office eight years ago.
    If he doesn’t make a valiant effort along the lines of the Powell Doctrine (overwhelming force) that sufficiently assuages the hawks in both Congress and the electorate, he will be nailed then punished if any kind of terrorist attack occurs on his watch.
    I agree wholeheartedly with Gelb, but fear that the Boots and Kagans of the world will hold disproportionate sway over Obama’s Afghanistan policy. I can only hope that Obama values the lives that are truly on the line, both NATO and Afghani.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *