Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Plan for Afghanistan

Well, I suppose it's nice that there's some kind of plan for the continuing US involvement in Afghanistan, even though I'm afraid it was shaped at least as much by domestic politics as by any sort of strategic considerations or overriding international objectives. As usual, the President weaseled down the middle: he offered up three-quarters of the troops the military (and the Republicans) wanted, plus a probably futile attempt to get the other 10 thousand from NATO; a promise to start drawing down troops in 18 months; and an unenforceable threat against Hamid Karzai that is very unlikely to persuade someone quite so corrupt to crack down on corruption.

Here's my prediction: eighteen months from now, the usual warlords will continue to be the real rulers of the Afghan countryside, although, if we're lucky, some will be nominally on our side rather than nominally supporting the Taliban. If we're really lucky, the major population centers the administration plan seeks to protect will be a little safer, although protecting a city like Kabul against suicide bombers requires a degree of authoritarian rigor likely to be beyond the powers of Karzai and McChrystal.

The generals, as usual, will be whining for more troops. Generals don't understand "relatively positive outcomes" — they're taught to believe in an obscure 19th century concept called "victory." Of course, even in the 19th century, nobody achieved that in Afghanistan.

Most important, though, the 2010 elections will be over, and the 2012 elections still will be roughly half a year away. There will be time to maneuver around both contests. What else matters? Both parties are committed to enhancing the prospects for their major contributors, so, of course, the rest of us are left eating their shit.

As for how to go about financing the new Afghan "surge," Obama was totally vague. Here's a suggestion: how about a tax surcharge on war profiteers? Some have done extraordinarily well, especially with their connections to both government and military decision makers. To me, it makes sense to spread some of the pain to those who raked in the profits from Bush's wars.

Want to end all the current bullshit? Easy. Bring back the draft.

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