01 December 2009

Chapter Two of Chapter One (Haven't We Read This Sentence Before?)

Bush thought that once he'd toppled the Taliban and Hussein regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, democratic nation-states would just emerge. Nation-building has proved to be a little more complicated.

I'm not clear that Obama appreciates the difficulty of nation-building either. Given the state of the state in Afghanistan, it seems to me that we have two choices: stay for a generation and massively subsidize education and development to build something akin to a modern nation-state or essentially withdraw from the country and contain its military threat. I think those are wretched choices, but building roads or securing check points into major cities for a year is not the same thing as building a nation or securing its people. Nation-building isn't measured in months but in decades. It has as much to do with reconstructing the minds of people as their towns.

And yet Obama is going to send in a surge of 30,000 more troops but only for one year. Because that is all that Bush got wrong; he was just short by tens of thousands of troops and 10 to 12 months.

It's not even obvious to me that Obama is all that sold on his own plan. His speech lacked the snap of his campaign speeches, sounding like lots of blah blah blah. (Is there a rule that when you send troops to war you talk in platitudes sure to reverse the adrenalin rush of war?) It wasn't obvious to me that he owned this speech.

This is like projecting deficit reduction after this year of deficit increase. I simply don't see how 30,000 troops will change things so much over the course of a year that withdrawal will be any easier. How is war like snorting heroin? It's terribly destructive but hard to quit. Next year at this time, expect a mid-course correction from Obama. Something about the need to keep troops in country just 6 (or 12) more months.


Lifehiker said...

Yes, it's likely that those troops will not leave in 18 months; Obama said that timeframe would signal the "beginning" of withdrawal.

Yes, Afghanistan is a country in name only; making it into a nation is a pipe dream.

But, have we forgotten how deadly an adversary we face? Fundamentalist success in Afghanistan and Pakistan would create a rallying point for Muslim bad guys around the world.

Like most really important decisions, this one has uncertainties of major proportions. Obama's choice has been made. We can only wish him well.

Big Al said...

A fellow high school alum spends a lot of her time teaching in Afghanistan these days. And she's currently there. She offered the following website to get Afghani's views on Obama's announcement: http://www.pajhwok.com/.

And Pajhwok also has a Facebook page to keep updated: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pajhwok-Afghan-News/113818652725?ref=nf&v=wall.

I do not envy Obama. And decisions like what Obama just made on Afghanistan are exactly why I cannot even BEGIN to imagine how inept I would be as POTUS.

Ron Davison said...

LH & BA,
are you saying that it's easier to be a blogger than POTUS? I guess that's possible but you have to admit that it's no picnic having to write about whatever topics you want to whenever you want to.

Big Al said...


I'm thinking you suggest to Obama a job swap: you'll be POTUS and he'll run your Blog. Should be interesting, yes?

nunya said...

Chalmers Johnson. Brilliant man.

Discussing our military empire. Been local for a while, teaching at the UC