We’ve been in Afghanistan for eight years as of last month. The president’s been in office for 10 months. We still don’t have a plan for pacifying the country. This is absurd.
I’ve made this boast before: I’ve read Carl von Clausewitz’ dense tome “On War” three times, using two different translations. Here’s the whole book in two sentences — War should have a point. You should stick to it.
We don’t even have a point here.
At least we’ve managed to boil the options down to two, as far as anybody can tell. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO commander on the ground, says he needs more troops. He’s been so outspoken about it that he has been scolded by the president.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the country Karl Eikenberry argues that the U.S. should not put additional troops in until the corrupt, election-stealing government there cleans up its act, or at least makes a show toward it.
This column was written on Monday. The president could make a decision by Thursday and render this whole column moot. Clearly, I didn’t bet on it. The best guess of forecasters as I wrote this was Thursday of next week. Any later than that and the president’s stop to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize might lose some space in the headlines.
I don’t often resort to blasphemy, but Jesus Christ. The issue that’s finally going to force a decision on this, apparently, is public relations timing and news manipulation.
The president’s been asking for more information from the Pentagon. That’s a stall. What — after eight years — are we waiting to find out?
I submit that the reason it’s taking the president so long to make up his mind is because McChrystal’s right. If Eikenberry was right — the easier course — the administration would have made this call by now.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai can’t “clean up his act” without looking like an American puppet. We should know that. We learned it in Vietnam, among other places.
To be harsh, this is a no-brainer. If we pull back to major cities, as the Eikenberry plan entails, people who cooperated with us in the countryside will get killed. If we’re going to pull back or pull out, at least give those people time to switch sides. I say all this so bluntly while I
know Eikenberry is a military man who commanded troops in Afghanistan quite recently. I agree with him totally about his frustration at the cheapskate spending for development and reconstruction. He asked for $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending for 2010. That would be a 60 percent increase over what the administration plans. That request has sat on the shelf, too.
It’s not a choice between greater escalation and money for reconstruction and development. The correct answer is both and lots of
it. The idea of losing a war out of an unwillingness to pay $2.5 billion for roads and waterworks while we debate hundreds of billions for health coverage is obscene.
I can’t believe that two men as different as George W. Bush and Barack Obama have exactly the same problem. Neither one wants to pay any attention to the war he’s in. Afghanistan is the war that Obama directly criticized Bush for, saying it is the war we should be fighting. Well, guess what — Obama was right. We should be fighting it — not dithering around hoping for a miracle. That was the Bush plan in Iraq. That same plan will have the same result in Afghanistan. We’ll drift until we’re fed up, then we’ll leave.
Fight to win or get out.