Tag Archives: Osama Bin Ladin

Our Next Step in Afghanistan

4 May

Osama Bin Laden’s blood had barely dried on the dusty ground of his palatial Pakistani compound before we as a country considered our next step in Afghanistan, and whether we could now finally declare victory and go home. Philosophically, support (or lack there of) for our current manifestation of the Afghan conflict breaks not along normal partisan or ideological lines, but rather shades of realism: Pragmatics, Blind Wearers, and the simple War Weary.

Pragmatists, such as President Obama, balance the nukes in Pakistan and remnants of Al Qaeda with our growing death toll, and grimly press on, seeing few options. Such sentiment is expressed well by this unnamed administration official:

“I hope people are going to feel, on a bipartisan basis, that when you move the ball this far, it’s crazy to walk off the field,” one senior administration official said. Officials who favor retaining a large troop presence said that while this was a significant victory, the security gains in Afghanistan remained fragile.

Outlying wearers of blinders let either their misplaced faith in humanity or pacifism (on the Left) or dislike of President Obama (on the Right) cloud their thinking, and recommend withdrawal from the conflict for those biased reasons. Thus do Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and George Will all find themselves on the same side of the argument.

The War Weary, where I suspect most of the country lies, doesn’t like to “lose” and doesn’t like 10 year wars that produce casualties at this rate, and are looking for a reason, a sign, a signal, to Bring The Boys Home. Osama Bin Laden’s death looks like just such a portent. I can sympathize. With an unclear mission and vague goals articulated by President Obama, little gain in 10 years, and a Afghan history that points toward hopelessness, one can reasonably ask what we gain by continuing.

When I want to find a new smart, contrarian and/or well considered opinion, I check TED (skip to 10 minutes in):

[HTML1]

Those words are as relevant now as when spoken in 2005. We’ve been in Afghanistan for 10 years, 6 since this speech. These ideas are not new (jobs and roads, why didn’t we think of it before!), and in various forms, we have been attempting to implement them under two administrations. Do we have the stomach for a 20 year engagement, if we have seen so little progress after 10? How long do we beat our head against the wall? And what happens when we stop?