The beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan
This site contains mostly analysis, with few specific predictions. Here is one one: August 2009 will mark the beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan. The debate about the strategic foundation to the war has begun, and the advocates of ending the war have exposed its frail — even fraudulent — foundations. Also with collapsing public support, this suggests that the days are numbered for large-scale American involvement in the fighting.
We see the cautious (often obsequious) establishment folks turning critical of the war. Like Marc Lynch (abu Aardvark): “Afghanistan Strategy Debate“, Foreign Policy, 10 August 2009 — The analysis is, as usual for Lynch, excellent; well-worth reading in full. Excerpt:
My friend, CNAS colleague, and Gen. McChrystal review team member Andrew Exum has opened up Abu Muqawama for an online dialogue about the strategic rationale for the war in Afghanistan. …
I very rarely write about Afghanistan or Pakistan, primarily because it lies outside of the Arabic-speaking Middle East areas which I know well — I don’t speak the languages, I don’t have fine-grained local knowledge, I don’t follow the regional media. I can’t help noticing that such constraints don’t seem to stop anyone else, though. At any rate, I’m not going to join the new Iraq refugees and refocus on the AfPak policy debate. But since Exum has thrown open the question … I’ll throw out a few thoughts at least.
I have an open mind on these questions, want the U.S. mission to succeed, and have a great deal of confidence in the Obama national security team. I know that there have been a number of policy reviews at all levels of the government on Afghanistan strategy, and that most of the questions I can raise have already been discussed at one or the other. But at the same time, I find the strategic rationale for escalating the war in Afghanistan extremely thin, and the mismatch between avowed aims and available resources frighteningly wide.
What follows this introduction is a brief but comprehensive demolition of the war’s rationale.
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal published a story on all of the ways in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s command considered Afghanistan to be in crisis mode. It was very good, very comprehensive, and very compelling. Its headline summed the whole thing up by saying that the Taliban was ‘Now Winning.’
Then the Pentagon freaked out. “The general did not say the Taliban is gaining the upper hand,” a McChrystal spokesman told NBC. “That’s not how we are characterizing this,” spokesman Geoff Morrell said. Well, obviously.
… Independent observers, though, clearly see merit to The Journal’s headline. Some not-so-independent observers do, too: Kimberly Kagan, an adviser to McChrystal’s 60-day strategy review, has a thorough analysis in Foreign Policy of the myriad ways in which the war effort is in deep trouble. Indeed, pretty much every public statement from every adviser to McChrystal’s review has conveyed the same sentiment. Recognition that the Taliban is winning isn’t the same thing as saying failure is inevitable or the war is lost or the whole thing is hopeless. If Pentagon officials — indeed, if McChrystal’s command — conflate the difference, then they really will be Rumsfeldizing the war in an important way.
A note about the politics of the debate
“This Is Not The Iraq Debate“, Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent, 10 August 2009
The Iraq debate tore the left into factions. Did you support the war on human-rights grounds? Oppose it on realist grounds? Oppose it out of general dovishness? Support it out of post-9/11 political opportunism? Support it as a measure about WMD proliferation? Each faction wanted to make its argument into a broader critique of what liberalism meant after 9/11 and why its opposing factions had revealed an intellectual decadence within liberalism.
And Afghanistan in 2009 … isn’t that at all. One of the things that’s struck me about the Afghanistan debate — aside from how muted-to-nonexistent it is — is that no one is making an argument about what it means for liberalism. There’s a general lack of certainty on the part of those who favored the troop increase earlier this year that tends to preclude ideological arguments. One result is a more open atmosphere to reexamine fundamental premises of the war.
The debate waged at Abu Muquawama
(1) Exum: “Introducing the Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue” – This includes my submission.
(2) The first salvo in the Afghanistan Strategy Debate – An extraordinarily weak start for the pro-war side.
(3) Second salvo in the Afghanistan Strategy Debate — Bernard Finel
(4) The Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue: Day Three
(5) The Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue: Day Four
A paid propagandist at one of the leading pro-war think-tanks starts a debate about “why we fight”. The pro-war submissions are bizarrely weak. The anti-war submissions and comments (e.g, Bernard Finel, Col. Gian Gentile) are far better reasoned and factually supported. In broader terms, most of the comments are anti-war. Probably not how Exum intended this to run.
As with every chapter of American foreign policy (which is largely military-related) since 9-11, we can guess at what unexpect turns lie in our future. My guess is that the times are changing. The foundation for our armed intervention in Afghanistan is washing away.
Some previous predictions on the FM site
The Iraq War (The first was totally wrong; the next two look good so far):
- Forecasts for the American Expedition to Iraq, 30 November 2005
- The Iraq insurgency has ended, which opens a path to peace, 13 March 2007
- Beyond Insurgency: An End to Our War in Iraq, 27 September 2007
Economic forecasts, all looking good so far:
- Diagnosing the eagle, chapter I — the housing bust, 6 November 2007
- Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime, III – death by debt, 8 January 2008 – Origins of the long economic expansion from 1982 to 2006; why the down cycle will be so severe.
- Is America’s decline inevitable? No., 21 January 2008
- Geopolitical implications of the current economic downturn, 24 January 2008 – How will this recession end? With re-balancing of the global economy — and a decline of the US dollar so that the US goods and services are again competitive. No more trade deficit, and we can pay our debts.
- The US economy at Defcon 2, 11 March 2008 — Pretty self-explanatory. Where are we in the downcycle? What might the world look like when it ends?
- What will America look like after this recession?, 18 March 2008 – More forecasts. The recession might change so many things, from the distribution of wealth within the US to the ranking of global powers.
- The geopolitics of inflation, an introduction, 17 June 2008
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