Friday, November 26, 2010

Afghanistan: worse than Vietnam?

Very interesting essay from Robert Wright in the NY Times assesses the US's current adventure in Afghanistan as much  more damaging to the US than was the Vietnam War, at least in terms of its strategic consequences.  It's hard to dispute Wright's contentions that
  • the Afghan war, besides being the longest in US history, is also costing the US hundreds of billions of dollars desperately needed to prepare America's domestic society for the future (which, as Wright notes, is what Bin Laden was hoping for from the outset); and
  • the Afghan war is likely recruiting more enemies for the US than it's eliminating.
But something that really struck me was Wright's reference to a recent analysis that concludes:
A well tuned terrorism containment strategy — dubbed containment 2.0 by the foreign policy blogger Eric Martin — . . .  would mean convincing Americans that — sometimes, at least — we have to absorb terrorist attacks stoically, refraining from retaliation that brings large-scale blowback.
I have to concur.  Indeed, I've been thinking about this for awhile.  For all the horror of the 9-11 attacks, as we assess things more than nine years later, I believe one can make a strong case that the damage wrought by the US's response - both the damage we have done to the societies of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the damage the US has done to its prestige, its international standing, and its domestic tranquility and resources -  has been grossly disproportionate to, and incomparably more devastating than, the damage done by 9-11,

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