20 July 2009

'And the big fool said to push on...'

I watched a BBC News show over the weekend involving a panel of “experts,” including former Afghan interior minister Ali Jalali, writer Rory Stewart, at least one other academic, and military veterans supporting and opposing the war, and it was quite obvious that no one, not even the most vehement proponent, could articulate a comprehensive rationale for the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan. Even the one reason most of the panel agreed upon—the need to stop the Taliban and its supporters—fell apart when the discussion then shifted to how to accomplish that goal.

Most of the panel agreed that reliance on only a military solution would be insufficient to achieve the goal, but no one was willing to suggest enhanced long-term western involvement in state-building, economic development, or the specifics of working with regional neighbors, which includes Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Nor did anyone express any optimism about working closely or effectively with the Karzai government, which appears headed for re-election next month.

The rationale for continued involvement looks more and more like Vietnam redux. Why are “we” there? Well, uh, I mean, because we already committed ourselves to being there and to pull out now would look bad to our enemies and critics and could suggest that the lives lost there already have been in vain.

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