Dear Lord, I Hope Not

Why Obama Will Bail On Afghanistan

Via Instapundit:

This war might still be winnable, but the notion that Afghanistan is somehow quickly going to turn around is a very bad bet. There’s good reason to believe we’ll be lucky to see any progress by the 2010 mid-terms. And anything looking like a successful resolution and a won war by 2012 is probably off the table.

So, does a very liberal Obama with a very liberal domestic policy he desperately wants to see enacted feel like carrying a potentially very unpopular war on his back at the same time?

I’ve always said that Afghanistan is not winnable in the way that Iraq is winnable, mostly because of the environment and the near-total lack of natural resources other than poppy fields. And I’ve always said that we won’t really know if Iraq was really won until 2023 (twenty years after the invasion). We may never know if Afghanistan was won, no matter how much better we manage to make things.

But we can lose in a couple of months.

Because of the difficult, long-term, and uncertain nature of victory in Afghanistan, the temptation is always going to be there to pull the plug. Might Obama’s falling approval ratings provide the motivation to do so soon?

From the 9/1/09 Daily Presidential Tracking Poll

From the 9/1/09 Daily Presidential Tracking Poll

Remember, despite the fact that we’ve all been treated to six years of “Iraq is the wrong war…Afghanistan is right!“, Afghanistan was certainly the wrong war in late 2001 and 2002. Now that things are dying down in Iraq and, for the time being, we appear to be nearly totally victorious, Afghanistan will become a bad war again.


  1. I think it’s inevitable. The surge Obama sent was obviously not nearly enough to effect the changes in strategy that need to be made, but more of a token gesture to back up campaign promises. A political hedge that he can take either way depending on the future political climate and the winds of war. Its obvious the winds of war aren’t going to favor any kind of useful victory on a political timescale, so I’d be highly surprised to see too much of an escalation of force in Afghanistan in the near to medium term, and I fully expect a plan to draw down the troop levels before the 2012 election.

    Maybe something like a crash plan to secure the few urban areas in Afghanistan that we can sort of control by recruiting and standing up police and ANA forces in those areas as rapidly as possible. Start a heavy bombing campaign in the wild and woolly Taliban areas that is to be wrapped up before “handing off” Afghanistan to those native forces. Get out as quickly as possible before things completely fall apart, and declare that we did our best. Something along those lines anyway.

    Even if Obama has the strength and fortitude to to what needs to be done to get this won, his party doesn’t and never will. They are still the same party that cut off funding to South Vietnam and watched it fall to the north. And they are in charge of all branches of the federal government with a full head of steam to remake domestic policy in their image. Afghanistan is an annoying distraction to that dream.

  2. I don’t think anyone in the Obama administration has made an effort to define victory.

    Unless Obama forces the Afghans to clean up their corrupt government, police, and army, we are going to lose. We are spinning our wheels there without local support.

  3. Bram,

    With all due respect, I fear the U.S. nor any other Western power will ever be able to transform a “stone-age”, 8th century culture into what we accept as a “civilized 21st century society.

    Back in the late 60’s we thought Vietnam was the asshole of the world. HAH. Afghanistan makes the 1960’s Vietnam look like a lush paradise populated by Silicon valley types. I believe it has to do with several factors such as:

    1) Afghanistan is a country where a dominant, very militaristic Islamic religion is the only game in town. Religion was not a factor in the Nam.

    2) The country’s very barren inhospitable terrain and a non-existant centeral infrastructure. At least Vietnam had centers of civilization and fairly modern cities along with a climate and terrain that was much easier for humans to tolerate and inhabit than the Afghan roast/freeze dust bowls and horrific mountains that even goats find miserable.

    3) No adherence to a “National Unity”. (It’s tribal) The North Vietnamese were highly decicated to their leader (Uncle Ho) and highly motivated to die for a united Vietnam.

    So, the only American alternatives to countering the threat in Afghanistan are:

    1) Pull out the grunts and use covert methods such as Predators and cruise missiles to keep the lid on the al-Quaeda cells. But that would be a very long and protracted process.

    2) Carpet Nuke the entire country totally flat. But that would mean wiping out civilians as well as the bad guys. And the use of Nukes for any reason other than self defense is not realistic.

    I figure Obama will eventually pull out and Afghanistan will revert back to an Islamic terrorist haven just like it was 15-years ago.

    The Frogs failed in Vietnam and the U.S. jumped in.

    The Ruskis failed in Afghanistan and the U.S. jumped in.

    What’s next on the agenda?

  4. Toejam, I agree.

    I didn’t say cleaning up the corruption and getting the Afghans on our side was possible, just necessary.

  5. Gentelmen: It seems to me that this is the only War we have going now. I think we need to think about winning [however you want to define winning] because even a nitwit like me can see what will happen if we give up and walkaway. Pakistani Nukes are the real problem. So in less we want to spirt the Paki. Nukes out of the country, kill all that had anything to do with the design or construction, destroy all facilities
    burn all papers and computers . In other words a Nuclear lobotomy So lets put are thinking caps on before we start losing some cities.

  6. Think of it like this. On 9-10-2001, no one in the country would have supported a protracted war in Afghanistan, where we overthrow the Taliban government and try to install a new government. We sure as hell wouldn’t have had the support to attack Iraq in a world where 9-11 had never happened. The support was there because the memory was immediate, and the repercussions of not acting were fresh and obvious. The intervening eight years, six and change since the Iraq invasion, have washed away a lot of that urgency in thinking. The average American has forgot, and they don’t want to deal with the GWOT, or overseas contingency operations, or whatever else it is being called, anymore.

    The only thing that could save an Afghanistan war policy is strong leadership, especially from the President. A definite definition of victory has to be articulated, and the leadership of the nation has to unite behind that and stand firm, even in the face of setbacks and terrible casualties. And it has to be fought for a long time and to the end.

    While in abstract most can agree that Af-pak policy is crucial for future global security, the political sell is the hard part, and it’s where I have little hope for the future here.

    With the overthrow (even if temporary) of the Taliban, and the de facto destruction of Al Qaeda, the average American is not going to be in this one for much longer. Its a tough sell, and the present civilian leadership has not shown any inclination to take up the torch. The history of the last forty years in American policy don’t really make this look like a success story in the making. The Iraqi surge and its success are are the exception to the rest of the historical narrative.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

  7. The battle is Pakistan not Afghanistan. Pakistan gains control of its borders (by whatever means) and the Taliban dies. Anything we do in Afghanistan is a holding action pending the outcome of the Pakistan conflict.

    That said, if we drop about 200K troops we could “win” in about a year or two, but once we leave the Taliban would just march back in and take over.

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