Friedman’s Vote on Afghanistan

Columnist Thomas Friedman has put in his vote for what we should do in Afghanistan: Don’t Build Up

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.

His view is founded in three principles:

  1. Whatever happens in Afghanistan must come from the Afghans themselves. We can’t force anything on the Afghans (or Iraqis) that they don’t want themselves.
  2. Be patient.
  3. The world needs us.

    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.

The short version of my reaction is that I agree.

The longer version of my reaction is that we have a much more difficult challenge ahead in Afghanistan than many seem to be crediting. We need to find a way to continue to provide support to Afghanistan over a long period of time as we did Germany, Japan, and South Korea. I believe that experience suggests that support will only continue as long as we have troops in Afghanistan. Consequently, I believe that we need to find a way to maintain some troops in Afghanistan, albeit fewer than we have now and with a significantly more limited mission than our current forces have.

I welcome my fellow OTB contributors updating this post with their own views on this subject.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Drew says:

    I guess this is a combination query and assertion.

    When I see a statement like this: “Whatever happens in Afghanistan must come from the Afghans themselves.” I say to myself, is this really insight, or just an empty headed set of cool sounding words?

    Suppose Drew’s house had been invaded by the ‘Balitan,’ with its members tied and gagged. And suppose the police were outside deciding what to do. And the Captain said, “well, you know, whatever happens in Drew’s house must come from Drew’s family.” Say what??

    Setting aside the monolithic notion of “the Afghans,” do “the Afghans” really have the ability to organize a nationwide defense in a material way with the Taliban running roughshod over so much of the country? Not to speak of sympathetic Pakistani forces.

    As I understand it there are vast expanses of land controlled by the Taliban and they simply use these as launching points to cause trouble elsewhere.

    Now this is probably going to get me in big trouble……

    In WWI and II we had a philosophy: we are at war with a country. We went after (scrubbed term) their fighting men, their military equipment and their industrial capability to fight. We did it all out. The rest be damned, because our soldiers were dear, and, dare I say, we valued them and their mission over the enemy country’s citizens.

    Now we fight “no collateral damage” wars based upon (liberal) war correspondent press coverage, NYT’s editorials, and Code Pink. This is a recipe for failure.

    It seems to me the Obama Administration has a crucial decision to make: if this effort is worthy, then prosecute the war to its fullest with the intent of winning as fast as possible. The effect on innocent Afghanis in the short run, and the press clippings, will be horrible. Or…..

    Judge the mission not sufficiently worthy and just get out and take the consequences later.

    This in between “strategy” just seems to me to be one of political convenience, and a death sentence to the troops we dribble in.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    When I see a statement like this: “Whatever happens in Afghanistan must come from the Afghans themselves.” I say to myself, is this really insight, or just an empty headed set of cool sounding words?

    My problem with this statement is it confounds desire with capacity. Afghanistan is a weak state, primarily because of (1) geography and (2) economic base. A weak state with minimal control over peripheral regions within its borders is par for the course in the world.

    Does Afghanistan have the economic capacity to project the level of control over its territories that the U.S. desires? If the answer is ‘no,’ then we’re passing moral judgments to avoid the decision of whether we want to pay for it.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    Now we fight “no collateral damage” wars based upon (liberal) war correspondent press coverage, NYT’s editorials, and Code Pink. This is a recipe for failure.

    Ohhhh…so the fault for the two cock-ups in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t lie with the Republican Administration that started them, but rather, with the supposed various organs of the left…actually, the real recipe for failure is fighting wars of choice (not that Afghanistan is such but certainly Iraq is) without clear goals for success & exit strategies…maybe there was something to that Powell Doctrine, eh?

  4. Brave Sir Thomas ran away.
    Bravely ran away, away!
    When danger reared its ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled.
    Yes, brave Sir Thomas turned about
    And gallantly he chickened out.
    Bravely taking to his feet
    He beat a very brave retreat,
    Bravest of the brave, Sir Thomas!

    … or …

    We do not avoid this thing because it is easy, we avoid it because it is hard hahd…

    But seriously…

    1. Whatever happens in Afghanistan must come from the Afghans themselves. We can’t force anything on the Afghans (or Iraqis) that they don’t want themselves.

    Kind of tough for people without boots to bootstrap themselves up isn’t it? How exactly can we expect a “bombed into the stone age” culture and economy to come up with anything?

    2. Be patient.

    And here I thought we were leaving because we were impatient and lacked staying power.

    3. The world needs us.

    But not Afghanistan apparently. Arguably, no one in the world needs us more than Afghanistan.

    FWIW, I’m not sure we should stay, but these arguments are kind of weak.

  5. steve says:

    Drew- The best estimates put the number of Taliban at between 15,000 and 25,000. The Afghans could handle them if they got their stuff together. That would also require that India and Pakistan stop mucking around too. AQ is maybe 100 in country.

    You need to remember that most of the Taliban are Pashtuns. For many of these guys, they are just fighting against foreign invaders, not for any real ideology. Collateral damage means more recruits. It also means no intel. They dont wear uniforms. If this were a state against state war, we would be done already. Do you want to spend $10 billion a month for the next 5 to 10 years, then if we are lucky, half of that for the next 15 after that? What will we gain? All the recent attacks in Europe were planned in Europe. If they wanted, they could do a Mumbai type attack anytime here.

    Steve

  6. Jerry Swedlund says:

    There seems to be some confusion among the posters here, and having listened to the discussion at this address:
    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/09252009/watch.html
    would advise anyone who compares US support for German, Japanese or S. Korean democracies to watch it too.

    Rory Stewart responds to questions, its in depth, he lived there, wrote a valuable book, and has some very interesting insights. I could not classify him left or right from my listening. Take the time, it will provide serious information on Afghanistan.