This series is just a follow-up to You can end our war in Afghanistan.
The debate accelerates about our war in Afghanistan. IMO the following all deserve your attention. An advocate for the war called me a “troll” for making the same points as Finel, so these critiques must be hitting close to home. Pass these on!
- “Doubting Afghanistan“, Bernard Finel (American Security Project), Foreign Policy, 25 August 2009 — “A compelling case for continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan can be made, but only by answering these 10 questions.”
- “Why can’t the Afghans fight their own war?“, Shuja Nawaz, Foreign Policy, 25 August 2009
- “Working on a dream“, Sameer Laiwani (New America Foundation), Foreign Policy, 25 August 2009 — An aptly named explanation why millions of dollars and years are required to build an Afganistan Army capable of defeating the Taliban (operating without such funding and training).
I saved the best for last. Joshua Foust, one of the sharper knives writing about Central Asia, has started a series of articles that I recommend reading closely. Chapter One: “Introducing The Case for Afghanistan“, Registan (“All Central Asia, all the time”), 26 August 2009. Exum’s debate at Abu Muqawama was a wet firecracker, serving mostly to illustrate the increasing opposition to the war and its weak intellectual foundations. We can hope for more from Foust. Younger, sharper, fearless — willing to speak his mind. This should be interesting.
The opening post is, however, disappointing confusing. Like most advocates for the war, he opens by mentioning the by now well-demolished “prevent another 9-11” theme.
… you cannot ignore the domestic politics of the war. Namely, two administrations now have placed their foreign policy fortunes on defeating al Qaeda because it is a major, strategic threat. I honestly have my doubts—despite actually watching the September 11th attacks from my office window in Arlington, at the bottom of things 9/11 didn’t materially affect the U.S. — the stock market barely paused, the Pentagon didn’t stop working, and within a week things were functioning mostly normally (the psychological shock was severe, but that’s something different). When the nation’s top military officer continues to insist on teevee that al Qaeda is still capable of striking the U.S., that carries tremendous import, and building the case that even another 9/11 is an acceptable risk requires a sophistication of argument — exhaustive, comprehensive, meticulous — that simply is not evident in the “withdraw now” folks. In other words, they need to build an air tight case, which hasn’t happened yet.
What is he saying? I don’t know, but here are comments on the specific points raised.
- If 9-11 is a justification for the war, the advocates need to “build an air tight case.” American is not yet a global criminal, where war against other nations is OK unless someone builds an air tight case against it.
- For that matter, who has made the case that the war in Afghanistan makes another 9-11 less likely? All I’ve seen is hand-waving.
- As for the rebuttal (for details see You can end our war in Afghanistan), on what basis can anyone say “it’s not airtight.” Have any of the war’s advocates addressed the objections?
Another comment about Foust’s article: “A Cornucopia of Strategic Debates on Afghanistan“, Michael Cohen, Democracy Arsenal, 26 August 2009 — Excerpt:
Two things here. I hardly see at as being incumbent on those who oppose the current mission in Afghanistan to build an air tight case – shouldn’t that be the responsibility of the people who are arguing for a continued military intervention? It’s one of my great pet peeves about recent US national security strategy that the default position always seems to be in favor of using military force – and that somehow it’s incumbent on the opponents to prove why this is wrong.
But Josh is raising a bit of a strawman argument here. A top US military officer insisting that al Qaeda is capable of striking the US shouldn’t exactly shut down debate. Hell we had a President who spent 5 years telling us that Iraq was the central front in the war on terror – forgive me if I take these types of pronouncements with a grain of salt.
And just because AQ is capable of striking the US doesn’t mean the current mission makes sense. And being opposed to that mission is not the same thing as believing another 9/11 is an acceptable risk. One can certainly believe that US policy in Afghanistan is wrong while also believing that the US needs to aggressively target AQ terrorists.
But my real problem here is the notion that all of those opposed to the current US mission believe we should “withdraw now.” I certainly don’t although I do believe we should begin looking at ways to pare down our involvement there. The choice need not be full speed ahead or cut and run. That’s the same false choice we dealt with in the Iraq debate. I, for one, believe that the US has some strategic interests in Afghanistan, but I do believe those interests are not being furthered by the current mission – and what’s worse there is a growing credibility gap between what the Administration says needs to happen in Afghanistan and our capabilities (not to mention resources).
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To see all posts about our new wars:
Some posts about the war in Afghanistan:
- Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust.
- Stratfor: “The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan”, 13 May 2009
- Real experts review a presentation about the War (look here, if you’re looking for well-written analysis!), 21 June 2009
- The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
- “War without end”, a great article by George Wilson, 27 June 2009
- “Strategic Calculus and the Afghan War” by George Friedman of Stratfor, 17 July 2009
- Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 1, 18 July 2009
- We are warned about Afghanistan, but choose not to listen (part 2), 19 July 2009
- Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 3, 20 July 2009
- You can end our war in Afghanistan, 20 August 2009