Tuesday, December 01, 2009

There are simply no good answers in Afghanistan

One of my favourite writers on national security and military policy is Slate's Fred Kaplan, who had a great piece up yesterday on his ambivalance with respect to the Afghan War. (Obama is set to announce his plan tonight. It will likely involve sending tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan and shifting the strategy to counterinsurgency, "which emphasizes protecting the population more than chasing terrorists.")

Like Kaplan, I am generally ambivalent about the war. While I am opposed to any escalation of the war, not least in the absence of a firm understanding of what the point is, that is, of what the objectives are and of what would constitute success (if not victory), I recognize that a full withdrawal is simply not a viable, or desirable, option at this point, not with the need for the U.S. to remain firmly engaged in the region and with the risk that Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban, not to mention that the region would further destabilize, threatening what remains a delicate political situation in Pakistan.

So what to do? At this point, as Kaplan writes, it's a matter of choosing the lesser of undesirable choices, with counterinsurgency in a complex place like Afghanistan likely not to succeed all that well, or not at all, and with the other options perhaps even worse.

No, one doesn't envy Obama, who inherited this war, a war that was mismanaged and then neglected entirely, or so it seemed, by his predecessor. Whatever he chooses to do won't be good enough and will be criticized by armchair presidents around the world, including by his critics on both the left and the right. My own views place me to his left, but I remain realistic enough to know that the war can't, and won't, end anytime soon. It's now a matter of finding a way out while not giving up and pulling out until sufficient progress has been made or until some sustainable level of peace, security, and stability has been achieved in divided and war-torn country with no history of peace, security, or stability.

Good luck with that, Mr. President.

(Read Kaplan's piece. It should get you thinking.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home