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HOW THE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION CAN AVOID A FOREIGN POLICY NIGHTMARE

By       Message Edward M. Roche     Permalink
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During the campaign, President Elect Obama made numerous references to the foreign policy mistakes of the outgoing administration. President Bush put too much effort into Iraq, and had ignored the situation in Afghanistan, thus allowing al-Qa’ida to grow more powerful. Osama ben Laden still has not been brought to justice.

To rectify this problem, promises were made to stop the war in Iraq but also to increase the focus on Afghanistan. If things go as promised, the U.S. military under the next administration will become even more involved in that inhospitable and remote country.

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There are at least 12 reasons why the U.S. should wind up operations in Afghanistan and get out.

Reason One It is not possible to win this war, or even to stabilize the situation. No great power ever has been successful there — not Alexander the Great, not the mighty British Empire, not the Soviet Union — and it is madness to believe the U.S. is any different. In spite of what has been reported in the press, the Taliban has not been stopped, instead it continues to grow. The U.S. already is losing, and will continue to lose ground. This is born out by a slew of military statistics.

Reason Two Even if the U.S. did “win”, it would be of no significant strategic benefit. There are no important minerals or natural resources in Afghanistan. There are no trade routes or shipping lanes to keep open. There are no trading or export opportunities for U.S. companies. Finally, winning will provide no enhancement to the political credibility of the administration. There is no “up side” and a lot of “down side”.

Reason Three The U.S. does not have the money to prosecute this war; and even if it wished to continue borrowing the money, there are many other higher priorities. The war in Afghanistan will provide no benefit to the U.S., its economy, or its people. Such massive amounts of borrowed money should be put to use so that it will produce a future benefit. Fighting the Taliban can not produce any future benefit. Taking the money it will cost and placing it to use elsewhere is a smarter policy, and the new administration will face numerous empty hats to fill.

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Reason Four The primary security issue raised by the conflict in Afghanistan is a regional matter, not a strategic U.S. concern. The conflict there is of much great interest to the neighbors — China, India, and Iran. None of these countries are allies of the U.S.. There is no need for our military to fight their battles. After all, those countries have not done us many favors lately.

Reason Five Victory or continued military operations in Afghanistan will not stop the production and distribution of narcotics, and even if it did, these products are consumed mostly elsewhere, so there would be little or no benefit to the U.S.. Cultivation of poppies and production of heroin is a long-standing tradition in that region, and like the continued drug trade in Latin America, can not be stopped. In any case, a war against the Taliban is not the most direct way to combat this scourge.

Reason Six U.S. soldiers should not be asked to give their lives in a nation-building exercise in the remote mountains of central Asia, and even if they should, the culture of Afghanistan will not allow modernization. The people of Afghanistan are simply not advanced enough to accept democratic modernization in an American form. Their culture is older than ours, and more resistant to change. If the U.S. is going to go about helping nations, our efforts are better spent in places that welcome our presence instead of fight it, and there are so many of these opportunites.

Reason Seven Continued fighting in Afghanistan will not win the war on terror, or even inhibit it, and even if it did, the effects would not be felt in the United States. Fighting the Taliban is not fighting al-Qa’ida. The Taliban commandos are not aiming at bringing a terrorist war to the U.S., only to expel foreigners from their homeland.

Reason Eight There is no credible European or other allied support for engagement in Afghanistan, so the substantial increase in resources required to continue will have to be supplied solely by the United States. There is some token financial support from a few countries, and some begrudgingly have offered limited personnel, but it is an American show and will continue to be.

Reason Nine Pulling out of Afghanistan will weaken the strategic competitors of the U.S., including China, Iran and other regional powers. With the U.S. gone, fighters will be free to turn against these other powers. Each will face the prospect of continued uncertainty in that region. China will have more anxiety about an Islamic challenge to the status quo in its Western region, and run more risk of protecting its name in a Pakistan under Indian pressure. Iran will risk considerably more “push back” in Western Afghanistan where it has attempted to create bridgeheads. Others will take our place. The U.S. can sit back and watch as they take the heat for a change.

Reason Ten By ceasing operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. will hand a propaganda victory to the Taliban, but the long-term effect will be to lessen the appeal of anti-U.S. sentiment in fundamentalist recruitment efforts. In an almost completely illiterate society such as Afghanistan, it is easier to get people to fight for their land or their families, and harder to get them to fight for an idea about people they don’t see on a daily basis. The enemy that cannot be seen, cannot be hated unless there is strong educational indoctrination. But Afghanistan does not have the credible educational infrastructure that would be required to whip up these sentiments.

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Reason Eleven Avoiding this foreign policy quagmire will generate that flexibility needed to obtain more important objectives, such as restoring overseas the good will and credibility of the United States. If the incoming administration from the start continues to get further bogged down, overseas partners will see “more of the same”. The new direction needed will remain a mirage. If instead it cuts with the past, U.S. public diplomacy will meet more favorable winds for sailing. Personnel will be available to focus on obtaining strategic objectives and managing the host of global problems that need addressing — trade negotiations, climate, energy, food, public health — there is a long list.

Reason Twelve Continuing or escalating the war in Afghanistan will not aid the security of Israel, but instead will both drain diplomatic resources and continue to strengthen the credibility of Islamic radicals. Conversely, if the U.S. loosens up control over Afghanistan, the Taliban will be able to increase its anti-Iranian actions, thus opening up a further pressure point against that country which stands as an enemy of both Israel and Saudia Arabia. 

Getting further involved in military actions in Afghanistan is a serious mistake. It will lead to an inescapable quagmire for the new administration. Even before the inauguration in January, the President Elect should reconsider this policy, and drop the idea altogether. 

 Copyright 2008 Edward Mozley Roche, All Rights Reserved.

 

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Edward M. Roche is a professor of Intelligence Technology at Henley-Putnam University, the nation's leading university serving professionals in the strategic security industry, especially within the law enforcement, military and intelligence (more...)
 

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HOW THE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION CAN AVOID A FOREIGN POLICY NIGHTMARE