Sep 19 2009

Can we win in Afghanistan?

Category: Afghanistanharmonicminer @ 8:32 pm

A couple of weeks ago, George Will opined that it is time to get out of Afghanistan.

Here is yet another response, from a man who knows a great deal about the history of the region, Michael Brandon McClellan, guest posting on the blog of Steven Pressfield, another expert on the region.

The correct questions to ask are these:

If we leave Afghanistan before it is reasonably stable, with a not-completely-corrupt government, what will happen next?  Who will move into the power vacuum?  What will be their motivations?  Will Afghanistan be used again as a staging and training area for terrorists acts against the West, and the US in particular?   What can we expect to be the opinion of those whom we want to believe that we keep our promises, and carry out military actions we’ve begun?  What will Joe Jihadi think about the resolve of the West, and the US in particular?

It’s expensive for the US to be in Afghanistan.  It costs some US lives.  It gets harder and harder to sell back home, where the Sept. 10, 2001 mindset is on full display, and spreading fast.  But the alternative is not peace and joy in the middle east, and a USA that is left unmolested by terrorists.  There are forces at work in this who take a LONG view, and are willing to plan attacks on the US, or US interests and allies, attacks that may not happen for a decade, but are made possible by a US withdrawal after we’ve failed to end significant Taliban and Al Qaeda influence in Afghanistan.  And, of course, Pakistan’s nuclear arms are much less of a threat to the world if they are in the hands of a Pakistan government that is not constantly challenged by the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  Pakistan’s stability is undermined by an unstable Afghanistan.

It is not good to be there.  But it’s probably far worse to leave before it’s done.  In the nature of things, this cannot be absolutely proved, and even if and when it works, there will be those who insist it wasn’t necessary.  Of course, there are those who insist to this day that the US should have stayed out of WW II.

Which proves that hindsight ISN’T always 20/20, let alone foresight.

Sometimes you just have to muddle through and do your best, and not quit because things get hard.

UPDATE:  George Will has posted another column, this one comparing the difficulty of creating a stable regime in Bosnia to doing the same for Afghanistan.   He may be right.  If he is, perhaps we should immediately withdraw our resources from Bosnia, and put it all in Afghanistan.

It’s those Pakistani nukes.  It’s those guys who intend to kill as many of us as they can, when they can.  Bosnia is no particular danger to us… yet, anyway.  I suppose that some Islamist crazies there could also be plotting revenge on the US, for saving Muslims from the Serbs, after the manner of Saudi anger at the US for saving Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.  But we know, for a fact, what the intentions of the Taliban and Al Qaeda are.  And we can be pretty sure of the outcome if they ever succeed in destabilizing Pakistan enough to get their hands on those nukes.

It seems to me that Will is correct in pointing out the difficulties, but that his solution (pull out, hope, and bomb occasionally) is just feckless.  We already know where that leads.