Monday, June 27, 2011

More on Obama's Afghanistan plan

This positive assessment by J. Goldstein of the president's Afghanistan speech contains much that I agree with, including the statement that the surge was not intended as a permanent occupation force and that the "one more fighting season" rationale for delaying withdrawal is unpersuasive. On the other hand, I'm not certain that the surge was the right way to go in the first place, although hindsight is 20-20 and at the time the surge was announced (Dec. '09) I was somewhat ambivalent about it.

I also would like to agree with the general "tide of war is receding" theme, and certainly there is some evidence to support it. I remain of the view that more U.S. troops should be brought home from overseas bases than the 65,000 which the linked post says have been withdrawn from Europe, Asia and Latin America in the last decade.

As the outgoing Sec. of Defense observed on the NewsHour several days ago, war is an abstraction for all but the minority of Americans who are serving in the military or who have close family or other ties to someone who is. Watching a film like 'Restrepo', which I mentioned earlier, is one way for those at a distance to reduce the sense of abstraction and get some feeling, however partial and attenuated, of what being on the ground in Afghanistan is like, at least from the standpoint of American soldiers. Although the sentiments expressed by the soldiers in the film are somewhat various, no one says they are sorry to leave when the tour is up.

Of course, withdrawing troops does not mean, as Obama made clear, simply abandoning any U.S. interest in or connection with the country. I think there's little prospect of that happening. Despite the numerous shortcomings of the Karzai regime, U.S. assistance in the form of money and civilian expertise (and probably intel support etc.) will continue to flow even as the troop levels are reduced. That's one of several reasons why Gideon Rose's piece in the NYT, harking back to Nixon and Kissinger's tortuous and (to be blunt) criminal process of extrication from Vietnam, is off the mark.

1 comment:

hank_F_M said...


Of course the surge was not intened as a permanent occupation force. It was recommended to the president and approved as a solution to a specific operational situation. I think it was intended to do more than “shift the momentum of the war” though that was part of it. The surge has certainly accomplishe much, though the evidence I have seen is mixed on whether enough has been accomplished to support a withdrawal. I hope the President is listening to the situation on the ground in Afganistan more tha the political situation in the US.


Sort of related.

Turnabout is fair play?