Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama's Afghan Surge

I'd love to weigh in, although a brief comment is all I've time for right now.

 But in fact, I weighed in on this last January, in a piece that got a nice mention in The Nation magazine's TomDispatch site.

And I still stand by what I wrote then.  You could see this coming a year ago.  And it's a huge mistake, for more reasons than I could possibly enumerate in a brief paragraph.  But to try:

1. The US can't afford it.  Our domestic economy is hurting; infrastructure is crumbling; schools are in decline; people are without jobs - and we're now running a huge deficit (which does indeed need to be paid for, sooner or later), and China's continuing infusion of money is keeping us afloat.

2.  The military is way overstretched, and exhausted.  Before the recession hit, they were scraping the bottom of the barrel by reducing qualifications for enlistment - taking people with medical and emotional problems and substandard intellectual capabilities.  Now, enlistments are up because there are no jobs, plus the military offers a nice signing bonus.

3. There is simply no way that in the space of the 18 months Obama has specified, a sufficiently large Afghan military and police force can be "trained up" that will be either competent or uncorrupted.  The burden is going to fall on US forces.  And by the military's own recommendations for counter-insurgency, the 100,000 US soldiers and marines (plus the several thousand NATO forces, many of whom are not permitted to engage in combat owing to their countries' rules of involvement) are no more than one-fourth of what's required.

In 18 months, the US-NATO forces may (I repeat, MAY) be able to secure Kabul and Kandahar, but the Taliban (whose numbers likely include - and now will likely attract - more anti-occupation resistance fighters [dare we call them "freedom fighters"?] than hard-core Islamists) will still control the countryside, and will be strong enough to move toward the cities again if the US decides to leave on schedule.  The Afghan "national army" won't be ready; the "tribal militias" that the US is already arming against the Taliban will be as likely to resist the Kabul (presumably Karzai) government as to side with them; so, . . . the US will need to stay on longer, and longer.  And the US and NATO forces will be chalking up both their own casualties, as well as hundreds of Afghans (mostly Pashtuns) as "collateral damage." 

How Obama and the Democrats reconcile all that with the 2012 (or even the 2010) elections remains to be seen.

And Osama bin Laden is undoubtedly thrilled.  What he wanted all along was to bring down the Great Satan by bleeding it to death. Mr. Bush and his pals unwittingly (or dim-wittedly) accommodated him.  It's sad to see Mr. Obama and his pals now rushing to hasten the demise.

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