Ok, now something that is a political judgment. We should get out of Afghanistan very soon. I’ve been leaning toward this for awhile, having been of the opinion in previous years that more attention to Afghanistan was good; now, though, it’s become a military version of the  sunk cost fallacy. Obama’s upcoming decision should not be to add more troops, but to pull out, let Karzai sink or swim, and yet maintain a covert, unofficial presence to keep a check on the Taliban. Oddly enough, the U.S. has been the most successful in influencing what happens in that country when we haven’t been there officially; the initial plan that drove the Taliban out was done with a small group of “advisors” and air support.

4 thoughts on “Afghanistan

  1. Great blog, Mike. I wish I had the energy to keep up with something like this. Maybe I can just give an occasional commentary in the margins of YOUR blog. Anyway, it’s fascinating what you say about the US’s uncanny ability to maximize influence when working at a distance. Still, I disagree that the right decision is to pull out. If the US doesn’t add more troops and instead pulls out, all signs suggest that the Taliban will re-consolidate power very rapidly, and I’m afraid the hasty departure of the US would leave the Taliban re-invested, confident in the belief that the Great Western Powers don’t have the sand to enforce their will. Further, it would likely be a catastrophic political decision for Obama to pull all troops out, given that there’s already a growing perception that the administration can be pushed around (see: Iran, N Korea, Khaddafi, Palestine, Joe Wilson, etc.). More importantly, Afghanistan was always the “good war” in Obama’s book. Of course, anyone who knows anything knew that this was a rhetorical strategy to underscore the badness of the bad war: Iraq. Still, if Obama was to pull out, there would be a sizable portion of the electorate who would blame him for a lost war (especially if the Taliban re-captures power). Now, I’m not saying that one’s personal political well-being should dictate foreign policy decisions, but the past 9 months have shown that the president cares very much for his personal political well-being. Anyway, I’m rambling. Nice blog.

    1. Well, it depends on the rhetorical strategy, as you say. If he can manage “peace with honor,” then it’s ideal. And I think he is capable of such a feat. He could do it with a single speech. But if the pullout is perceived as a defeat, then….

      The Taliban have never been the real problem in the area. The real problem is the Pakistani elements who enabled and encouraged “the students” in the first place.

      Frankly, the Taliban were the most vulnerable when they were trying to be a government; then they had fixed locations to defend and could be fought more or less conventionally. Right now, they have all the advantages that T.E. Lawrence talked about for a guerrilla war – support of the populace, terrain, an amble supply of bodies that know that terrain, a scattered populace with long supply routes for a conventional foe. It’s like trying to invade and conquer Arkansas.

  2. You should know the look on the face of a student who has suddenly read a question about which he has absolutely no knowledge whatsoever. I see it on Obama’s face each time he speaks about Afganistan. Of course, the USA should pull out of Afganistan. The vast majority of people there live every day in survival mode and have no time for politics. We cannot make them Americans, we cannot make them adopt the American culture, we cannot make them Christians and we cannot expect them to behave otherwise as we do on a day-to-day basis. Its another Vietnam. The best thing we can do is leave immediately and completely.

    Now if we were will ing to “sanitize” the country and rid it of the Taliban forever, we could claim it as abandoned and colonize it with people we can better expect to do as we wish.

    The real question is what gives us the moral right to force others to do as we say? George Bush used 9/11 as an excuse, what will be Obama’s crutch?

    Where’s Jame Bond when you need him?

    1. Bond was in a rather idyllic Afghanistan in “The Living Daylights.” He ended up helping the local insurgency, some of which would have probably become Taliban supporters, against the Russians, though he got upset at them when he learned they were opium dealers. Not much help there.

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