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Reasons Not to Abandon Afghanistan

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Lorelei Kelly wrote in Huffington Post Thursday about a strategy of "commitment" to Afghanistan. You should read this, because it is either the most laughable recent arrangement of words on screen or a very subtle and psychologically astute plea for immediate withdrawal from that festering sore of west Asia.

Lorelei states her opening premise that having a strategy that incorporates other than military options is good. Then she counts the ways that not having a military strategy are bad ...

The consequences of a complete withdrawal would leave a violent, chaotic hole in the middle of a tense neighborhood. The US would deal a potential death blow to the world's premier military alliance (NATO) and crackpot messiahs across the globe will claim credit. Troops need to be in the mix. Most Afghans want us there. They overwhelmingly dislike the Taliban. Girls attending school has risen to 44% since we've been present. Far more Afghans have access to basic health care. We need to start seeing these benchmarks as part of a broader set of objectives -- all thus far achieved with the help of American troops.

Afghanistan is not Iraq. Obama is not Bush. We are not the Soviets. And this is not Vietnam. Historical analogies must be very carefully considered.

We should probably examine these pillars of policy in detail, since untold billions of dollars and hundreds, perhaps thousands of American and NATO lives depend on it. First there is the idea that withdrawal would leave a chaotic hole in the region. Lorelei, there is a chaotic hole there now, and we are wallowing around in it, spreading American taxpayers money around to thieves, rogues, murderers, and an assortment of pre-modern cultures who understand that part of the corruption of their government is because of Daddy Warbucks. We are a significant part of the chaos and leaving would by simple subtraction reduce it. Do not think that we are indispensable to good order and discipline everywhere we go. Quite often the exact reverse is true.

I don't know why Lorelei thinks NATO would be dealt a death blow by a coordinated but rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan. Perhaps she thinks that European governments have themselves over a public relations barrel on that subject. First, there is no evidence that any NATO force, including ours, is so committed to military ops in Afghanistan that not being committed would ring the death knell of a willingness to remain in NATO for some future necessity ... which is what Afghanistan is not. Second, "crackpot messiahs" are everywhere, Alaska, Virginia Beach, west Asia, the Arabian peninsula, the horn of Africa, everywhere. What they say is their business. Certainly we cannot predicate U.S. national policy on the angst of crackpots taking pot shots at us!

Lorelei says that troops must be in the "mix," by which she means a multi-pronged presence, that is, a continuation of military ops while we undertake to build a modern nation out of miscellaneous 14th century TinkerToy pieces. The assumption that Afghanistan is culturally or intellectually or spiritually ready to join the 21st century is at best problematic and on average utopian and without foundation in discernible evidence.

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Afghans want us there? Who says they do? The only female member of the Afghan legislature is here in the U.S. right now telling us quite the opposite. Polls taken by Europeans and U.S. agencies report the opposite as well. The U.S. presence provides only temporary security to Afghans paid for at the cost of mayhem when we move along to the next village and the warlords and Taliban seep in behind us. And, you did notice that a female says this, a person with the most to lose if the Taliban take over the country again. No, Afghans generally do not want us or the Russians or any other do-gooder forces there stirring up the cultural demons that have kept Afghanistan retarded all these centuries.

Yes, historical analogies should be considered carefully, but doing the same thing again and again hoping that eventually you will have success instead of repeated failure is insanity.

George Will, of all people, put it quite directly. If President Obama decides to augment the troops and continue military operations in Afghanistan, he will have opted for a second term of office with the price being hundreds of billions of dollars and innumerable American, allied, and Afghan lives. It is not worth it.

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First posted at Iron Mountain


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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