Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tom Friedman = Worthless Strategic Thinking

"These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. And then we fucked up the end game."

     - Charlie Wilson

Friedman's latest column is truly awful:

It is crunch time on Afghanistan, so here’s my vote: We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan. 
Actually, we do have the NATO support and the domestic support, but, please, don't let being wrong stop you. Continue:

The U.S. surge in Iraq was militarily successful because it was preceded by an Iraqi uprising sparked by a Sunni tribal leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who, using his own forces, set out to evict the pro-Al Qaeda thugs who had taken over Sunni towns and were imposing a fundamentalist lifestyle. The U.S. surge gave that movement vital assistance to grow. But the spark was lit by the Iraqis.
The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon, the Green Revolution in Iran and the Pakistani decision to finally fight their own Taliban in Waziristan — because those Taliban were threatening the Pakistani middle class — were all examples of moderate, silent majorities acting on their own.
The surge was also successful because American soldiers and marines started living closer to the Iraqi population centers and because America "took the gloves off" when it came to Iranian special groups operating in country. Any serious analysis of the "surge" has to realize that there were so many factors that aligned for the surge to work it was ridiculous - and saying "the Iraqis did it first" just starts a chick/egg battle that could go on all night.

And WRT to the Green Revolution - wonder if the fact that Iran's neighbor (Iraq) has free and fair elections has anything at all to do with the Iranian people expecting their vote to count? And whose fault is it Iraq has elections?

As to Pakistan - the U.S. has been leaning on Pakistan to get tough on the Taliban for a long time. And I've written about the administration's attempt to come up with a carrot and stick approach to encourage such behavior and, of course, the U.S. is quietly aiding Pakistan behind the scenes as we speak.  

What if we shrink our presence in Afghanistan? Won’t Al Qaeda return, the Taliban be energized and Pakistan collapse? Maybe. Maybe not. This gets to my second principle: In the Middle East, all politics — everything that matters — happens the morning after the morning after. Be patient.
Yes, the morning after we shrink down in Afghanistan, the Taliban will celebrate, Pakistan will quake and bin Laden will issue an exultant video.

And the morning after the morning after, the Taliban factions will start fighting each other, the Pakistani Army will have to destroy their Taliban, or be destroyed by them,
Afghanistan’s warlords will carve up the country, and, if bin Laden comes out of his cave, he’ll get zapped by a drone.

My last guiding principle: We are the world. A strong, healthy and self-confident America is what holds the world together and on a decent path. A weak America would be a disaster for us and the world. China, Russia and Al Qaeda all love the idea of America doing a long, slow bleed in Afghanistan. I don’t.
Okay, first things fucking last - China wants the U.S. to win you dumb mother fucker. If you get off your ass and get the fuck out of Manhattan and go to Afghanistan - like other, better journalist , do - you'd notice that the Chinese wants to play a constructive role. I take that back - they don't want to they have to because a future worth creating for China means access to Afghan copper.

This morning after nonsense is playing with fire. Because the morning after Bin Laden declares victory America will begin an incredibly painful and destructive impeachment proceeding which will paralyze our nation for months if not years. And if the Taliban somehow beats the Pakistani army? Well, what about the morning after India's preemptive nuclear strike on a Taliban controlled Pakistan?

And through it all, American prestige will be ruined. It's like the line at the end of Charlie Wilson's War: "We always do this; we go in and we change the world, but then that ball - it keeps on bouncing." Our biggest problem in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) is that what Friedman is suggesting is exactly what everyone expects the U.S. to do. It's why they hedge - because we've too often let that ball keep on bouncing - from turning our backs on our allies in Saigon in 1975 to walking away from Afghanistan the first time we drove the totalitarians out, the U.S. can always be counted on the go home as soon as the going gets tough because of people like Tom Friedman, and Bob Herbert and Eugene Robinson and the other anti-American leftists who have opposed every war since 1812.

The thing that I find most disconcerting about Friedman is that he is so widely read. Millions of Americans picked up (or clicked on) their copy of the New York Times today and saw Friedman's column and - although they don't know much about Afghanistan - are saying to themselves right now, "Hey, that makes a lot of sense! Let's pull out of Afghanistan!" Really Tom, you ought to be a bit more responsible with your analysis. Let's give Afghanistan at least 6 more months


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