I don't know about anyone else, but that sounds ominously familiar to me; an ill-defined plan, inadequate resources for the immense task at hand. Even before the election, I wondered what was going on here. Does Barack Obama really need to perpetuate the supposed man-hunt for the phantom bin Laden? Is that what it's all about? Or is Obama beholden to the military industrial complex? Perhaps this was part of the deal. Is it too cynical to suppose that deals like this are made in Washington?
Enter Mr. Obama. During the campaign he promised to send two additional brigades — 7,000 troops — to Afghanistan. During the transition, military planners started talking about adding as many as 30,000 troops. And within days of taking office, Mr. Obama announced the appointment of Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Balkan peace accords, to execute a new Afghanistan policy.But even as Mr. Obama’s military planners prepare for the first wave of the new Afghanistan “surge,” there is growing debate, including among those who agree with the plan to send more troops, about whether — or how — the troops can accomplish their mission, and just what the mission is.
On Reuters there's a wonderful article by Bernd Debusmann which explores the possibility of a solution to this dilemma. Since the real problem is the illegal opium production, controlled by the Taliban, why don't we buy the entire crop? It would cost far less than the war, and would afford other opportunities concerning the world-wide heroin problem.
Richard Holbrooke, the man President Barack Obama has just picked as special envoy for Afghanistan, said: “Breaking the narco-state in Afghanistan is essential or all else will fail.”The problem is it may be easier said than done. Which makes me wonder what these guys are up to. Do they really want to do what they say?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, described Afghanistan as “our greatest military challenge right now” but said there could be no purely military solution — not even with the additional 30,000 troops Obama plans to dispatch over the next 18 months.James Nathan, a political science professor at Auburn University in Alabama and former State Department official, outlines the radical solution.
Purchasing the whole crop would take it away from the traffickers without cutting more than half the economy of Afghanistan,” Nathan said in an interview. “Such a purchase would directly confront Afghanistan’s most corrosive corruption. It would end the Taliban’s money stream.”
And the cost? By Nathan’s reckoning, between $2 billion and $2.5 billion a year, no pocket change but not a large sum compared with the around $200 billion the U.S. taxpayer has already paid for the war in Afghanistan. The idea may sound startling but its logic is not far from the farm subsidies paid to U.S. and European farmers.
On a more modest scale than Nathan’s buy-it-all idea, a European think tank, the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), is lobbying for an alternative to traditional counter-narcotics policies dubbed Poppy for Medicine.
What's your opinion? Is that a reasonable solution? What's wrong with it? Isn't it better than spending the next five or ten years stuck in another war?
Is it too much of a stretch to suspect secret deals behind the scenes in Washington? Could the new administration be just a corrupt as the old one as far as this stuff goes? Does that make me a conspiracy theorist? I admit, I never thought Oswald was the lone gunman.
What do you think? Please leave a comment.