Obama’s Afghanistan Plan

German Bundeswehr army soldiers of the ISAF monitor a valley during a mission near Kunduz, Afghanistan on September 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

German Bundeswehr army soldiers of the ISAF monitor a valley during a mission near Kunduz, Afghanistan on September 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Over at New Atlanticist, I discuss “Obama’s Afghanistan Plan,” noting that actually achieving results will prove far more difficult than criticizing the Bush administration.

My main criticism is of his continued harping on catching Osama bin Laden:

[I]t would be ironic indeed if a Democratic successor to Bush seriously made tracking down a single terrorist a high priority.  Outgoing Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean caught a lot of flack when he said that the capture of Saddam Hussein would have little practical impact on our success in Iraq, he turned out to be absolutely right.  Putting bin Laden’s head on a stick — or capturing him and subjecting him to the indignity of an international criminal tribunal — would be enormously satisfying but have approximately zero impact on either stabilizing the region or combatting international terrorism.

The main cause for hope:

The good news, though, is the talk of a “regional approach.”  While it’s just silly to say that the Bush administration is still treating Pakistan and Afghanistan as separate issues, they certainly seemed to do that far too deep into this process.  Certainly, Obama will be much more likely to bring Iran and Syria into the mix.  Whether he can ultimately be successful is another question entirely.  But it’s certainly worth trying.

The bottom line:  “Will Obama make the same mistake as the current president in not setting achievable goals for the mission?”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. steve says:

    I hope he means regional in a very broad sense. India also needs to be included.

    Steve

  2. Triumph says:

    Lets remember that all of the talk about going into Afghanistan was a front for Imam Obama to pal around with his buddy, Osama.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I sincerely wish that our leaders would ask themselves several questions:

    1. What are we trying to achieve in Afghanistan?
    2. What in dollar and manpower terms will be required to achieve those goals?
    3. Over what timeframe will this be required?
    4. Is there political support to pay this price over this period of time to achieve these goals?

    We can’t just assume that they’re asking these questions and to my eyes at this point it certainly looks as though all we’re seeing on this subject is posturing.

  4. Our Paul says:

    I have only a few thoughts on this matter.

    Chasing Obama is a fools errand for two reasons. First, if successful it will create a martyr, for he will not be captured alive, and if captured, he will be executed by our legal system creating even worse results. Second, it will never be accomplished without “collateral damage”, a process that will create mini martyrs through out the country.

    Aerial bombardment missions must be severely curtailed.

    Somebody has to climb the mountain and shout out to the gathered crowd: “We are dealing with a tribal society, and each tribe is different from the other, tied together only by religion, customs, and distant family members.”

    There is not only the “macro” regional approach:

    The good news, though, is the talk of a “regional approach.” While it’s just silly to say that the Bush administration is still treating Pakistan and Afghanistan as separate issues, they certainly seemed to do that far too deep into this process. Certainly, Obama will be much more likely to bring Iran and Syria into the mix. Whether he can ultimately be successful is another question entirely. But it’s certainly worth trying.

    Sorry about this James, it is essential to be tried.

    But equally as important is the micro approach: recognition of the tribal nature of this region. As we bend over the corpus of the Bush Afghanistan policy, will Obama and Petaeus cry out the critical question: Is there a sociologist or anthropologist in the house? And will they even consider the questions Dave Schuler is asking?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Is there a sociologist or anthropologist in the house?

    Sure. David Kilcullen who, coincidentally, is the godson of a dear friend of mine. Just google him. You’ll find all sorts of interesting stuff.

  6. fredw says:

    Capturing Bin laden would bring a criminal to justice, it has nothing to do with stabilizing the region. If we were worried about stability in the region we would not have invaded Iraq.

  7. Anderson says:

    First, if successful it will create a martyr, for he will not be captured alive, and if captured, he will be executed by our legal system creating even worse results.

    Right. I guess we should give him a pardon and a pension, then. Maybe Bush can take care of that on January 19.

  8. “Will Obama make the same mistake as the current president in not setting achievable goals for the mission?”

    Why limit the question to Afghanistan?

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    Right. I guess we should give him a pardon and a pension, then. Maybe Bush can take care of that on January 19.

    lol I can’t wait 4-8 years to see who Obama pardons.

  10. spencer says:

    Love the way the right is trying to rationalize or come up with excuses for the point that Bush will lose his job before bin Laden loses his.

  11. Greg says:

    Bin Laden is dead and even if he is still alive chasing a fictional figurehead is ridiculous. Our problems in the region no longer stem from Bin Laden. It’s the lack of a unifying Muslim figure that preaches peace, which, from my limited knowledge of various shades of Islam, seems near impossible.