sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, June 27, 2011

US Roadmap for Afghanistan (Opinion)

Nobody has ever accused me of being a peacenik, however, the question of where we should be heading in Afghanistan remains. Is America's continued involvement there is a good idea or not.
Thomas Friedman, New York Times wrote: "When President Barack Obama announced his decision to surge more troops into Afghanistan in 2009, I argued that it could succeed if three things happened: Pakistan became a different country, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan became a different man and we succeeded at doing exactly what we claim not to be doing, nation-building in Afghanistan. None of that has happened, which is why I still believe our options in Afghanistan are: lose early, lose late, lose big or lose small. I vote for early and small."
I am pessimistic that the US will be able to achieve any long term nation building in Afghanistan (a bronze age tribal culture armed with modern small arms).

Whether the surge is working or not may soothe our egos in the short term, but in the long term, unless we are going to continue to pour soldiers and money into that tribal morass for all eternity, it will eventually revert to its natural state which is feudal and chaotic and not worth one American life nor a penny of American taxpayer funds. 

Killing Al Qaida was a noble, necessary, and achievable aim; anything beyond that is only wishful, unrealistic, and very expensive thinking. 
Back to Friedman:
"My wariness about Afghanistan comes from asking these three questions: When does the Middle East make you happy? How did the Cold War end? What would Ronald Reagan do? Let's look at all three.
"When did the Middle East make us happiest in the past few decades? That's easy: (1) when Anwar Sadat made his breakthrough visit to Jerusalem; (2) when the Sunni uprising in Iraq against the pro-al-Qaida forces turned the tide there; (3) when the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was routed in 2001 by Afghan rebels, backed only by U.S. air power and a few hundred U.S. Special Forces; (4) when Israelis and Palestinians drafted a secret peace accord in Oslo; (5) when the Green Revolution happened in Iran; (6) when the Cedar Revolution erupted in Lebanon; (7) when the democracy uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Egypt emerged; (8) when Israel unilaterally withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza.
"And what do they all have in common? America had nothing to do with almost all of them. They were self-propelled by the people themselves; we did not see them coming; and most of them didn't cost us a dime."
We need to let the Afghans sort out their own problems with or without Pakistani involvement - it's up to them. 

P. S. 
Until the US has a comprehensive, sane energy policy, the Middle East will matter more to us than it should. So we have to keep a hand in the mix -- but the sooner that we take a step back and make the hard choices for a long term independence from Middle Eastern oil, the better off we'll be. 



12 comments:

  1. Concur. The Middle East (especially the 'Stans) are beyond our capability to fix or in most cases, even understand...

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  2. How much do you think our presence there has to do with China?

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  3. Trestin, there has been the historical Chinese element-the Vakhan Pass, which is an invasion route west. However in today's world, I think the Chinese strategic hedge would be the very smallest reason for us to be there.

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  4. Trestin - the old argument that the tradition Chinese invasion route through the Vakhan Pass provided a real strategic reason for occupying Afghanistan is moot in the modern world.

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  5. I'm thinking more along the lines of political economic influence, much like most of what is happening in Africa right now.

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  6. The Soviets eventually gave up on Afghanistan. We will too.

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  7. Agreed on most points... but how to guard the US from stateless enemies based in failed, lawless states such as Afghanistan?

    To me, that's the question we need to answer before we skedaddle off... and then apply it to Iraq and pirate bases in east Africa as well

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  8. One can't be more pro-what-we-did-in-Afghanistan than I am...but there is a time to leave. There is no reason to broadcast our timetable either. There will always be a need for us to fight bad guys, build roads, protect the weak...but we can do that here too.

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  9. RR - Nation building in a nation that doesn't want to be built doesn't work. The moment we leave, the Afghans will revert to their tribal social base. And I'm sure that they'll invite fellow Muslims to sup at their table. However, it's critical to remember that there were no Afghans carrying box cutters on September 11.

    Race - It's run its course. The US made a BIG mistake when we abandoned Afghanistan post-Soviet era. We need to keep an eye on the place and a presence there. However, the war makes no sense to me at this point.

    Opus - Yes.

    Trestin - The differences between Africa and Afghanistan are significant and I think that the Chinese are smart enough to draw lessons from history where Afghanistan is concerned. Alexander couldn't hold it, the British Empire couldn't hold it, the Russian Empire couldn't hold it (great game and more modern) and neither can we unless we commit to endless war and pouring endless treasure into the place with no hope of return.

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  10. Exactly, but the type of people that kept an eye on the place pre-Soviet-era...today, do we have such men?

    Race

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  11. Definitely cool on nation building at this point, LL

    But what I was concerned with was allowing terrorists bases in such lawless states time, space, and security to plot against us as they did prior to and on 9/11

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