Monday :: Mar 16, 2009

Afghanistan: Tell Me How This Ends


by Turkana

In a preview of coming attractions, it was reported yesterday that four U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan. Of course, President Obama announced in February that he would be sending more troops, which means we will be hearing about more of them getting killed. That's how it works. As Jeff Huber noted:

His generals don’t know what to do with those troops when they get there; they’re not even sure what troops to send. Someone on Obama’s sprawling national security team should have told him it’s a bad, bad idea to send troops into a combat zone without a well-defined task and purpose. Ronald Reagan’s 1983 end zone fumble in Beirut should serve as a shining example of that maxim, but today’s defense hierarchy isn’t keen on learning from the past. Neocon luminary Fred Kagan, chief architect of the surge strategy, taught military history at West Point for a decade, which shows you how little regard the Army has for the subject.

The Keystone Kollege of Armed Konflict Knowledge that all our generals seem to have attended doesn’t place much importance on coherent strategy making, either.

I wrote nearly a year ago that our efforts in Afghanistan were a hopeless cause, and that whatever chance there once might have been to effect some positive result had long ago been blown by Bush Administration bungling. In a recent post, tristero offered this alternative strategy:

I propose we bomb Afghanistan. I propose we carpet bomb Afghanistan. With butter and silicon.

In other words, I propose a massive program of economic and technological aid to Afghanistan, unprecedented in scope and ambition, dwarfing the Marshall Plan. I propose building schools by the thousands and hospitals by the hundreds to win over the hearts and minds of the people. I propose a massive infrastructure project to connect even the most isolated areas of Afghanistan by modern highways and sustainable energy sources, thereby providing Afghanis with the opportunity to grow their economy. I propose paying the poppy farmers large subsidies to grow other crops. I propose establishing factories to manufacture the latest chips and high tech gadgets.

But he very sanely made clear that he doesn't pretend to know whether or not this actually can work:

But before you dismiss my idea as pure poppycock, I want to ask you: Is it any less reasonable than Boot, Kagan, and Kagan's utterly absurd ideas? Is it any less full of unwarranted assumptions, bad analyses, and foolish misplaced hopes than Gelb's?

That is my point. As bad as the idea I've proposed is - and yes, I really don't amy faith in it - it really is only slightly worse than those of the so-called experts. And maybe, in some ways, it's a better idea.

In other words, no one knows what to do about Afghanistan. I'm going to posit that sending in thousands of more troops is not going to solve much. Other than getting more people killed, of course. Which is what happens when you send more troops to a war zone. Which means it would be nice if someone asked the same question that people long have been asking about Iraq: tell me how this ends. As tristero concluded:

(T)he problems George W. Bush and his irresponsible gang of fools left the world with are unbelievably dangerous. Even a foreign policy establishment filled with geniuses - which is never the case - would find many of the holes Bush dug nearly impossible to climb out of.

We live in interesting times. Very interesting times.

It would be nice if the Obama Administration decided to make them less interesting, at least on this one front. There is no good answer. We cannot win by fighting. As Huber concluded:

In a March 6 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Obama said he is considering a plan to “reach out” to moderate elements of the Taliban. That’s a fantastic idea, and the best possible way to reach out would be to have our troops line up and shake the hand of each and every one of those mother’s sons and then climb on a plane for home.

I'm not sure there really is such a thing as a "moderate" Taliban, and I'm not a fan of negotiating with Medievalists. But I can't quibble with Huber's military analysis. Foreign powers cannot win wars in Pashtunistan. It seems that someone who can do something about it eventually should figure that out. Meanwhile, with more troops on the way, I would simply request that someone tell me how this ends.

Turkana :: 11:22 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!