Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The NYT Rethinks the Strategic Assumptions of the Bush Administration

In June, I had a post I called "Rethinking the Strategic Assumptions if the Bush administration", in which I argued that:

But both things can be true: Bush was a bad president; he was also right about Iraq versus Afghanistan in 2002. He was right that Afghanistan would turn out to be un-winnable.

In short, I argued that all the assumptions about Bush's policies towards Afghanistan missing some opportunity in 2002 or 2003 were probably wrong, and that in hindsight taking out Hussein remains a pretty good bet given the alternative of doubling down in the 'Stan.

Now, the NYT's David Sanger seems to be coming around to my point of view:

Removing the Taliban from power in 2001 was deceptively easy, leading Washington to believe that the Afghans could largely take it from there. Fewer than a thousand American troops and C.I.A. officers, some on horseback, joined with the indigenous Northern Alliance to chase the Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his forces out of Kabul. That would have been the moment, it is argued, to put 20,000 to 30,000 American troops — and perhaps a similar number of NATO forces — into the country as a stabilization force.
But Mr. Bush and his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, wouldn’t hear of it. “The consensus was that little could be accomplished in Afghanistan given its history, culture and composition, and there would be little payoff beyond Afghanistan even if things there went better than expected,” Richard Haass, a senior official at the State Department in the Bush administration who advocated the insertion of a far larger force, wrote recently. “They had no appetite for on-the-ground nation building.”

Gee, I wonder why?

Bush and Rumsfeld's first instincts on Afghanistan were correct. Iraq was an easier - and likely more successful - venture in nation building. Also, the doctrinal changes that occurred during the tough slog in Iraq allowed American to build a skill set that can be applied to the Af/Pak theater.

No comments: