Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Central Asian Valhalla?

The NYT reported today that the Obama administration intends to press Afghan president Karzai to make changes (a report that jives well with the Independent's report a few days ago, which noted the possible new leaders to whom the US might throw its support). Obama also plans to move slowly, and focus on war-fighting in Afghanistan as opposed to reconstruction, which evidently is to be delegated to NATO countries. DefSec Gates might have put it a little less cutely than

"If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose,” . . . . He said there was not enough “time, patience or money” to pursue overly ambitious goals in Afghanistan, and he called the war there as “our greatest military challenge.”

Mr. Gates said last week that previous American goals for Afghanistan had been “too broad and too far into the future,” language that differed from Mr. Bush’s policies.

So much for the exercise of soft power. It looks instead as if Obama has been convinced that Afghanistan needs a military solution - at least as far as US involvement is concerned. That kind of thinking seems very dangerous.


cwroe said...

Myopic and daft. The Bush Administration (not to mention every invading military power since Alexander the Great) has already made these mistakes. Let's learn from their long-term failures trying to occupy that which cannot be effectively occupied, rather than repeat them. A military solution which fails to comprehensively address infrastructure, much less put it on an equal footing with "shooting the bad guys" is dangerous. I'm disappointed with this, obviously.

John Robertson said...

I thought you might be disappointed, Chris. FWIW, I saw a report somewhere today or yesterday where the Obama administration seemed to walk back those comments a bit, saying that helping build infrastructure was by no means off the table. Let's hope so, but in any event, any rebuilding is going to be a long haul, especially with all the ground lost (both physically and metaphorically) to the Taliban since 2003. And unless the US can achieve some successes quickly, and relatively bloodlessly (both in US casualties and Afghans, although as usual the US public will take scant notice of the latter), I don't know how much stomach the American public has for hanging in and spending the taxpayers' dollars.


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