Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Worst of Both Worlds: Planning to Fail in Afghanistan

The NYT is reporting that president Obama is looking for a "middle way" on the debate over Afghanistan.

Oy vey.

The middle way will fail.

Obama's natural instinct as a consensus builder is failing him here. I've made it clear that I support going long and big with enough troops to control the population, but I think a compromise (not enough troops to defend the population, enough troops to make easy targets) is the worst of all possible outcomes. If you don't want to commit to winning don't stick around; send in the Terminators and be done with it. Yes, that would be an incredibly stupid move from a grand strategic point of view. It would be incredibly ineffective - it would be the Powell doctrine on crystal-meth - it would cost lives in Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, India and Russia and it would have nothing to do with building a future worth creating. But continuing with the status quo is also extremely counter-productive and will cost American lives and prestige.

We need enough troops to build trust on the ground or our endeavor will fail. But if we are going to fail anyway we might as well minimize American casualties.

There is only one reason to stay in Afghanistan: to put Afghanistan on the glide path towards becoming a functioning member of the SCO. This is essential to our national security because expanding the Core and shrinking the Gap is imperative to our national security. We have to regionalize this conflict by making partners of China and India. And American troops have a key role to play in both protecting the population and training Afghan security forces in the mean time. And both of those jobs are manpower intensive. 

I hope the president realizes this.

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