Democracy Arsenal

« New Treasury Sanctions on Iran's Nuclear and Missile Programs | Main | Looking forward to 2021 »

June 16, 2010

Has the Worm Turned on Afghanistan? - UPDATED
Posted by Michael Cohen

As regular readers of DA are well aware I have been beating the drums on the incoherence of our Afghanistan policy for more than a year - well for the first time in a long while I have some company and from two individuals whose voices should wake people up. Both Tony Cordesman and Andrew Exum served on General McChrystal's strategic review team that last year recommended a pop-centric COIN strategy for Afghanistan. Both are now having second thoughts:


There is nothing more tragic than watching beautiful theories being assaulted by gangs of ugly facts. It is time, however, to be far more realistic about the war in Afghanistan.

 . . . The fact is, the strategic case for staying in Afghanistan is uncertain and essentially too close to call. The main reason is instead tactical. We are already there. We have major capabilities in place. If we can demonstrate that the war can be won at reasonable additional cost in dollars and blood, it makes sense to persist. But, only if we can demonstrate we can win and show that the additional cost has reasonable limits. Containment and alternative uses of the same resources are very real options, and would probably be more attractive ones if we could somehow “zero base” history. The reality is, however, that nations rarely get to choose the ideal ground in making strategic decisions. They are prisoners of their past actions, and so are we.


I still think, as echoed in this New York Times editorial, that "General McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy still seems like the best chance to stabilize Afghanistan and get American troops home." But a lot of the same reasons Tony outlines in his most recent paper for the CSIS, I am not sure we can pull it off. I think we need to reexamine our assumptions, reconsider our strategy, and do both with the requisite epistemological humility about the environment in which we’re fighting.

Contrast these sentiments with the all the "good news" and "progress" being reported in congressional testimony by Petraeus, Flournoy and Gates:

"I think frankly that the narrative ... has been too negative. I think that we are regaining the initiative. I think that we are making headway," Gates said.

"It is truly an 'up and down' (experience), when you're living it, when you're doing it," Petraeus said. "But the trajectory in my view has generally been upward, despite the tough losses, despite the setbacks."

Michele Flournoy, under secretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services panel the fight was "going to be hard."

"There are going to be times when we take one step back and two steps forward," she said.

Keep in mind that this perspective is very much contradicted by the most Pentagon report on Afghanistan; by a recent GAO report and by a steady drumbeat of bad news from Afghanistan. If ever there was an opportunity for the President to change course it would be right now. I mean outside his own advisors and generals it's pretty hard to find anyone in Washington who has a scintilla of optimism about our current mission in Afghanistan.

Still, it would be nice to hear from more of my progressive brethren . . .

UPDATED: You know when I said that it's hard to find anyone in Washington who is optimistic about Afghanistan I was clearly forgetting Max Boot. In response to Exum's crie de couer he writes this:

The question is whether President Obama will have the will to see this through as President Bush did in the face of much greater public opposition. All it would take would be a speech from the president saying something like this: ”I was wrong about trying to set a timeline for American withdrawal. I wanted to inject fresh vigor into our military and diplomatic efforts. But I now realize that my talk about starting to pull American troops out next summer has been misinterpreted; it has caused some in the region to doubt our resolve. So let me be clear. We will stay as long as necessary to defeat the cruel evil of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and associated extremists. I now pledge that, to paraphrase another young Democratic president, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty in Afghanistan.”

Boom. With a few gutsy words like that, President Obama could instantly change assumptions about our willpower.

Heavens to Murgatroyd. Perhaps Max could think a bit about how that whole pay any price, bear any burden thing worked out in Vietnam. It ended in the worst military disaster in US history . .. well until the next disastrous war in 2003 that Max Boot shamelessly cheerleaded in support of.

There is a great deal about Max Boot's analysis that makes me wonder - but his refusal to ever consider public opinion or the historical lack of political will among countless democracies to fight overseas conflicts is perhaps the most perplexing. Consistently we have seen that lack of popular support can undermine the support for long, drawn-out conflicts - as was the case in Vietnam, Algeria, Iraq and to a lesser extent Malaya, Kenya, South Lebanon to name a few examples. And even in countries that weren't democracies this has been the case.  Even in one of the examples that Boot cites - the Iraq War - he ignores the fact that stubborn adherence to a failing war cost Republicans control of Congress and the White House.

Why Boot never factors in the role of political will and seems to believe - against all evidence to the contrary - that it can simply be manufactured by "resolute" leaders is beyond my meager ability to comprehend.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Has the Worm Turned on Afghanistan? - UPDATED:


I'm sorry, but it's not good enough to say "do over." The pundits' second thoughts should carry the cargo of their previous assumptions, heady projections and salient selling points.

Some warned them, and they didn't listen.

"Contrast these sentiments with the all the "good news" and "progress" being reported in congressional testimony by Petraeus, Flournoy and Gates:"

Well, yeah, I always do a great job, how about you?

Carl, that's bunkum. If it was a bad policy then and still is, or if it became one since, it needs to be righted.

We friends had lots of discussion on it.One of my friends told that "The worm wanted to be stroked by honeyed words not hit by numbers".

land of chaos Gold is also importamt. Most of competitive LOCO's players place her in the "B" tier - the 2nd lowest of the tiers, get loco Gold, of course, but she is a late game "carry" character that lacks the farming ability to reach that level and land of chaos online Gold required to carry. Stella has a poor early game and if she falls behind she will lose her ability to carry or accomplish much in the game, so does her cheap loco gold. So maybe you need to buy loc Gold in store.

This super video converter for mac is developed by Emicsoft Studio, it is currently the best video converter running under Mac os x, comparied by isqunite, Visualhub and other Free video converter for Mac, This video converter for Mac is more stable in converting video files and support more video formats.
thank you for sharing the post!it is good !
Convert VOB to AVI MAC
Convert FLV to AVI MAC
Convert MOV to AVI MAC
Convert WMV to AVI MAC
Convert MP4 to AVI MAC
Convert 3GP to AVI MAC
Convert MPEG to AVI MAC
Convert M4V to AVI MAC

Like your article, it gives me a lot of help,hope you like what.

A man is walking through the zoo when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the

cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to devour her right in front the little girl's screaming parents.
Tiffany AccessoriesYesterday I

was buying a large bag of Purina Dog Chow for Roscoe, our hunting dog, and was standing in line at Wal-Mart getting ready to

replica Breitling Watches the

hospital were discussing the qualities of their favorite patients. "I like contractors myself" says one. "
replica Bvlgari WatchesThey don't

even flinch when I tell them I underestimated the cost and length of surgery." Sitting on the side of the highway waiting to

catch speeding drivers, a State Police Officer sees a car puttering along at 22 MPH.
replica Cartier Watches He thinks to

himself, "This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder!" So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over.

There is a great deal about Max Boot's analysis that makes me wonder - but his refusal to ever consider public opinion or the historical lack of political will among countless democracies to fight overseas conflicts is perhaps the most perplexing

Türkiyenin ilk Hiphop Sitesi için tıkla -> Hiphop <-
Gekko G Fan Sitesi için tıkla -> Gekko G <-
Mask Animasyon sitesi için tıkla -> Mask animasyon <-

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use