Friday, September 25, 2009

David Brooks using Obama's words against him to stay the course in Afghanistan

I'll betcha that if there's any recent statement Mr. Obama would like to retract, or at least rephrase, it would be the one in his LA speech to the VFW where he called the Afghanistan expedition a "war of necessity." Brooks calls him on it, ostensibly in an encouraging way, but I think he's trying to box in Obama nonetheless.

But I'm especially disturbed by Brooks' scatter-shot application of "facts" - as in:

" the enemy is wildly hated. Only 6 percent of Afghans want a Taliban return, while NATO is viewed with surprising favor. This is not Vietnam or even Iraq."

I'm curious as to from whose think-tank he got those facts - and how the hell does one even do such a poll in Afghanistan these days?

Brooks also asserts:

"while many Afghan institutions are now dysfunctional, there is a base on which to build. The Afghan Army is a successful institution. Local villages have their own centuries-old civic institutions. The National Solidarity Program was able to build development councils in 23,000 villages precisely because the remnants of civil society still exist."

The Afghan army is a successful institution? Great! Then the US can go home. Actually, several reports suggest that the Afghan army seems hardly to exist, at least from the standpoint of the US forces who've been finding them in very short supply when US forces go out on missions.

Brooks also notes that the Taliban are a "transnational Pashtun movement active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a complex insurgency trying to topple the Pakistani regime." Indeed. That Pashtun movement is also trying to drive invaders out of their homeland - as Pashtuns have been doing for centuries. (Of course, Brooks pooh-poohs all those historians who have written about Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires. They "know little," says he. Truly well-informed experts know better, says he. Actually, the truly well-informed experts do know better, than Brooks . . .

or, for that matter, I would suggest, than Brooks' new military icon, Gen, McChrystal. I'm truly disturbed by what seems an almost worshipful respect for the Petraeus-McChrystal doctrine of counter-insurgency as the silver bullet that supposedly turned Iraq around. We have brilliant generals, says Brooks; they'll save the situation. But Brooks (and so many other of the "the-Surge-worked" crowd) seem to forget that the Surge in Iraq (1) did not fix Iraq (not that any of our pundits seem to care about Iraq anymore. "Our work is done there, no?"), and (2) was but one of several factors that brought down the violence there (such as Muqtada al-Sadr's decision to have his militia stand down, and especially, the Sunni Awakening/Sons of Iraq movement, by which the US essentially paid off Sunni Arab tribes to get them to take on the al-Qaeda jihadist element of the anti-US resistance).

I'm glad that Brooks advises Obama to weigh his decision carefully, but I'd caution Mr. Obama against Brooks' kind of reasoning.

in reference to:

"transnational Pashtun movement active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a complex insurgency trying to topple the Pakistani regime."
- Op-Ed Columnist - The Afghan Imperative - (view on Google Sidewiki)

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