Sunday, October 12, 2008

A sobering report on Afghanistan

The presidential campaigns of both major parties are talking about increasing American involvement in Afghanistan, especially in the form of a "surge" of military personnel.

Of course, it may just be the usual pre-election "American can-do" patriotic muscle-flexing and poll-driven red-white-and-blue saber-rattling. But before the U.S. government decides to get into Afghanistan deeper (we're already in pretty deep as it is), whoever wins this election needs to consider the very real unintended consequences of American involvement so far (especially regarding the populist spread of the Taliban) as well as the military complexities of trying to escalate guerrilla war in this mountainous country that brought the USSR to its knees.

It is especially of concern now given the current economic crisis. There is no doubt that some in Washington see the solution to a sagging economy as going into a wartime production mode (based on the myth that World War II solved the Great Depression). My concern is that the federal government might see Afghan escalation as a "solution" to the malaise on Wall Street as well as a way of avoiding the impression of military "weakness" and the appearance of "palling around" with terrorists.

Read it here.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Amen, and thanks for providing these valuable links!

solarblogger said...

Sobering report by Anand Gopal. Whatever our position on these wars, we need to be reminded of the very real human cost among the innocent. It is not unpatriotic to remind people that terrible things happen in war zones. It is chilling to think that people are sent to these places and do these things, supposedly on my behalf.

Mike Baker said...

1. If memory serves, there has been talk of a military surge in Afghanistan for over two years so it defies logic to tie it 100% to the fairly recent economic crisis. A simple google search reveals news articles about this topic dating back to the summer of 2006. Presidential politics aside, the idea of a surge in Afghanistan was created as a result of the conditions on the ground and it continues to be the primary motivator.

2. The current engagement in Afghanistan bears only a passing resemblence to the USSR invasion several decades ago. History has shown that defining a current military engagement purely through the lense of past engagements is a recipe for disaster. Using Napoleonic lessons at the start of the Civil War, WWI lessons at the start of WWII, WWII lessons at the start of Korea, and especially Vietnam lessons at the start of OEF and OIF have resulted in many unneccesary losses.

Only now, after years of conflict, have the civilian experts who called Iraq the next Vietnam been proven wrong. Time will show similar results in Afghanistan.

3. I found the linked article to be fairly anictdotal and overly simplistic. Based on the information that I read from other public news sources, the situation is much more complex than the author asserts. Huge factors in the Afghan conflict were left out of the equation. This oversight is bound to create false conclusions on the part of many readers.

4. Nearly every call for a surge in Afghanistan sites the need to increase border security between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is an essential first step in providing a stable environment so that the things that the article calls for can be performed safely. More troops for border security cuts down on drug trafficing, raids into Afghanistan from Pakistan, and better security for support civilian personnel.

You cannot initiate sweeping economic and civilian support while the military situation is still destabilized. To suggest that you can put the cart before the horse by saying that we should persue infastructure and economic revitalization before we acheive basic security strikes me as nieve.