Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Approaching "Surge" in Afghanistan?

Both the NY Times and McClatchy report that all of the Afghanistan "solutions" now under consideration by Mr. Obama entail significant increases in US troops.  McClatchy says that a "middle" option of 34,000 troops is preferred at this point, while the NYT suggests that Obama may be leaning toward that option but others (including a high-end option of 45,000; what they call the "medium-risk" option) are still on the table.  Taking either of those options would push the US presence in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 troops, with 42,000 from other countries still there.  Public opinion in the second-largest contributor, the UK, is running heavily against the British presence, despite Gordon Brown's insistence that the British troops must stay.

But, as McClatchy notes, the US Army's counter-insurgency manual suggests that an all-out (i.e., properly resourced) effort would require 600,000 troops.  That kind of effort simply is impossible now or in the foreseeable future.

Some on the Right have been raising the cry that the Afghanistan situation resembles Vietnam 40 years ago, but that the US could/would/should have "won" there were it nor for the lily-livered liberals who undercut the military's efforts and denied them victory.  Obama surely is hearing from that side, loud and clear.  I do hope that he takes into consideration the pointed replies of people like John Kerry, whose recent piece in Newsweek is worth a read.  But I fear that Kerry's essay may be too little, too late.

And in this instance I fear that Mr. Obama's relative youth and inexperience when he was elected president are indeed coming back to haunt the US.  David Brooks recently challenged Obama to man up on the Afghanistan issue (I weighed in on his piece here, FWIW), and all of us will remember that one of the concerns raised about him during the 2008 campaign was that he'd never served in the military, had no real trials under fire (be they in military or long-term political combat), and therefore ought not be trusted in a crisis such as Afghanistan has become.  How can he not feel deep down that he now has something to prove in terms of toughness?

But not all of us will remember - because we're not old enough to remember - the run-up to the US escalation in Vietnam.  But those of us who are indeed old enough to remember have a visceral, gut feeling about it all (whether we were in combat or not; and John Kerry was indeed one of those in combat, on the ground), an everlasting sadness about that episode in our country's history that Mr. Obama (or for that matter, Sarah Palin) cannot have, because they either weren't around, or were too young to appreciate what was going on at the time.

The Vietnam-Afghanistan parallels have been discussed ad nauseam, by people perhaps better qualified than am I (for a few of the discussions, see here, here, and here).  But if Obama does indeed opt for a "Surge" in Afghanistan, I can see the road ahead opening up in a manner all too Vietnam-like.  30,000 added troops will not be enough; calls for more will be forthcoming; the John McCains and Lindsay Grahams in Congress will scream for more troops (so as to not "waste the sacrifices" of those who'd been killed, and because for US forces to come home without "victory" means without "honor" . . . many of us know the drill) . . . and so it goes, on and on.

No comments:


Blog Archive

Cluster map

Search This Blog

ICAHD - 18,000 Homes Campaign (large banner)