Friday, February 03, 2012

Exit Strategy

Fred Kaplan makes a reasonably convincing argument that Barack Obama is doing in Afghanistan what Lyndon Johnson did not in Vietnam: pull out. Well, maybe not all the way--we'll still be fighting on the border with Pakistan--but a significant change in the level of effort and resources the United States will continue to devote to securing an Afghan government that has minimal legitimacy.
The critical fact is that, by and large, we’ve done our part, but Karzai hasn’t done his. The U.S. military (increasingly with Afghan counterparts coming along) has made considerable progress on the tactical military front. But the Afghan government hasn’t followed through—hasn’t provided services, hasn’t cleaned up its corruption, in short hasn’t given the population’s fence-sitters much reason to turn away from the insurgents (who exploit real grievances) and pledge allegiance to the government.

That being the case, there’s only so much a foreign army can do.


Obama isn’t quite bailing. American troops will be on the ground for some time to come. But the page has turned. If we didn’t have troops in Afghanistan already, the present conditions would hardly justify sending tens of thousands there. And, while we shouldn’t expect those whose land we occupy to love us for our assistance, we should at least have the same basic interests as the government that our troops are fighting and dying to uphold—and that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

Kaplan acknowledges that Obama is taking a chance and that Afghanistan's fate may well be more years of civil war and mayhem. He concludes,
It’s a mess, but it would be a mess, whether we stayed for one year, two years, or 10. So why not make it one year, push hard, hope for the best, then stop spending lives and money on a lost cause?
Why not, indeed?

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home