Saturday, January 31, 2009

Afghanistan - Another Iraq?

The New York Times has a piece today about the difficulty Obama will face with Afghanistan. Everyone seems to agree that winning a war there is a next-to-impossible task. As President Bush placed most of the emphasis on Iraq, the Taliban grew in strength in Afghanistan, controlling huge areas of territory outside of the major urban areas.

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.
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?

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.


  1. My long-time friend and I have been bothered by Obama's blather about Afghanistan even during his election bid.

    My opinion [and his] is that we have no business in Afghanistan. Whatever 'gain' there might be, it isn't worth one drop of our blood to obtain it.

    Afghanistan is a primitive place with unnatural boundaries and of no strategic benefit to our national security.

    Are we driven solely by vengeance, to capture OBL?

    Have we studied the Russian fiasco there and our fiasco in Vietnam?

    Get the hell out is my thought.

  2. Afghanistan is the coulda-woulda-shoulda of this decade.

    going into the 2000's, it was obvious the place was a failed state, a chaotic hellhole similar to to several places in sub-Saharan Africa we could mention; a country badly in need of an intervention and some leadership.

    after 9/11, it was equally ovbious that that anarchy was supporting and sheltering terrorism, on a level which provided a pretty damn good argument for staging some sort of intervention.

    but what actually happened was an unplanned, underfunded, half-hearted mismeasure. actually fixing the real and worrisome problems of Afghanistan would have taken much more effort and cost than it was given; instead, ridiculous effort and cost went into Iraq, for absolutely no goddamn reason at all.

    if that money had instead been spent occupying, and then nationbuilding in, Afghanistan, we might have made some real progress against the Taliban by now. what's actually happened is that chaos and anarchy have won again.

    the hell with osama bin forgotten; Afghanistan is a country of over thirty million human beings and no effective government. we had the perfect excuse to do some good there, by eliminating a theocratic warlord state, ending the same's support for terrorist actions abroad, and building something vaguely like a modern country on the borders of Pakistan and Iran. (think we maybe could have benefited from such an entity, eh?) yet we pissed it away for nothing.

    what actually will happen is we'll declare victory and leave (or else be pushed out gradually like the Soviets were, with far more egg on our faces), the Taliban will take back over, and we'll be back at square one --- minus however many Afghanis have been killed in the interim. heckuva job, bushy. heckuva job, America.

  3. It looks to me like we're headed into another quagmire from which it'll be hard to escape.

    The Bush supporters should naturally transfer their allegiance to the new president, shouldn't they? The patriotism crowd should show the same blind obedience to this Commander-in-Chief as they did to the last one, shouldn't they?

    To fail in this would be hypocrisy, no?

  4. Mike,

    The fact that you think it was blind obedience to the commander in chief shows how little you know about the people who supported Bush.

    And how much you've bought into the lies told by the media.

    That's a shame.

    Given that Obama is most liberals wet dream of a president, do you expect liberals to give him blind obedience?

  5. No, Bob, because liberals don't do that. That's the conservitives' trick: blind obedience.

  6. Woah Bob, Look out the "I know you are but what am I?" Defense!

    Mike B has hustled us, keeping his Varsity letter from the Debate team a guarded secret all the time!

    Come ON Mike, what a sorry excuse for a rebuttle was that?

  7. Weer'd,

    That defense had me stumped as how to respond.

    I didn't know how to answer something so sophomoric