Sunday, September 06, 2009

On Afghanistan

A couple years ago I asked on this blog what the strategy was, exactly, for the war on terror in Afghanistan. I'm still asking. One question I've asked for years is "How, exactly, is this not just like Vietnam?"

Joshua Foust has been pretty critical of the recent Afghanistan strategy, he's been trying to make sense of strategies for years.

Nick Kristof reveals some Afghanistan experts' analysis in his column today. "Nonsense" is one adjective used to describe U.S. policy.

George Will has come out in favor of withdrawal and has drawn criticism from the right-wing.

The arguments for staying in Afghanistan from people like Thomas Friedman look, to me, like this:
"There are some good things that have been done. Peace in cities, schools for girls, much more we can't leave yet or these 'triumphs' will become tragic stories rather than fragile glimmers of hope."

I think President Obama needs to be honest with the American people:
1. We will never eliminate the Taliban.
2. We need billions of dollars in spending on infrastructure, education, and agricultural development (just to name a few) and a commitment of thousands of troops for decades if we want to get serious about an Afghanistan that looks like it belongs in the 20th century (much less the 21st).

We need to do some serious marginal analysis. Does the marginal benefit outweigh the marginal cost of an additional soldier, an additional aid dollar, an additional day in Afghanistan? Because the sunk costs don't matter.

FWIW-- I'm for pulling out. Doing nothing is sometimes better than not doing everything that needs to be done and the NATO alliance clearly has shown no willingness to do that.

For any Christians interested, the underground Church in Afghanistan and Pakistan was very active (maybe even flourishing?) there before 9/11 and our large commitment. I'd talked to people who had seen it. Very very quietly, with no Western hands on it. So, if you're sad about the Western missionaries who will have to pack up and leave if we pull out, please remember that God works in His own ways, not ours.

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