Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thomas Friedman's decision on Afghanistan: Screw 'em

Friedman speaks in today's NYT.  Can't say that Gen. McChrystal will agree with his prescription for Afghanistan:

 . . . here’s my vote: We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper. We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan.

Go to his essay for his explication of the "three principles" upon which he's based his decision.

In essence, #1 is - When good things have happened in the Middle East, the US didn't start them.  He goes on to note:

when the moderate silent majorities take ownership of their own futures, we win. When they won’t, when we want them to compromise more than they do, we lose. The locals sense they have us over a barrel, so they exploit our naïve goodwill and presence to loot their countries and to defeat their internal foes.
OK, except for that bit about "our naive goodwill."  How about "historically conditioned ignorance"?  Nor am I impressed with the oh-so-customary Friedman kick-ass tone that closes out #1:
 It is time to stop subsidizing their nonsense. Let them all start paying retail for their extremism, not wholesale. Then you’ll see movement.
No awareness of how US intervention (or lack thereof) has helped cause that nonsense.  No matter.  Screw 'em all.

Friedman's principle #2 = In the Middle East, the real stuff happens the morning after the morning after.  Cute . . . and here he has a good point, except that, again, his bottom line is "screw 'em."
the morning after the morning after, the Taliban factions will start fighting each other, the Pakistani Army will have to destroy their Taliban, or be destroyed by them, Afghanistan’s warlords will carve up the country . . . .

What Friedman doesn't point out are the thousands of corpses - mostly those of innocent villagers and such - that his "screw-em" prescription will produce.  And his #3 and last principle:

We are the world. A strong, healthy and self-confident America is what holds the world together and on a decent path. A weak America would be a disaster for us and the world.

One might call this hubris.

I can't disagree with his observations that the US simply can't afford the expense of ramping up efforts in Afghanistan.  As he says, "we desperately need nation-building at home. We have to be smarter."

But then, a last bit of hubris:
Let’s finish Iraq, because a decent outcome there really could positively impact the whole Arab-Muslim world

As if it's in the US's power to "finish Iraq."  Thomas Ricks made the point in his most recent book: Iraq's woes may only have begun.  It was Bush's 2003 intervention that brought them to a boil - actually, blew the lid off the pot.  Friedman seems to subscribe to the belief that the Surge put the lid back on.  Nope, at least, not securely.  The pot's still boiling, the lid's bouncing on the rim . . . and there's still a mess on the stove that we helped make, but can't clean up.

How long before Friedman pens another "screw 'em" prescription - for Iraq?

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