Posted by: cousindampier | 6 October 2009

More thoughts on Afghanistan

The debate now? Excellent, for the main reason that it is a debate. I wish the news coverage here would be more about the options rather than the political bickering though. At the moment, the television seems to be more concerned with republicans versus democrats rather than all the options on the table as well as how Russia, India, China, Iran, etc. influences the country.

Outside of that, there is a clear delineation between options. A full on counterinsurgency strategy – getting 60,000 more troops in-country – means a commitment to rebuild the state (if not the nation, because that is something that either will come in time or not). A strategy based on buying time means we are there to help the state put studs in the ground, then we’re out and the Afghani’s get to finish the rest of the house. Anything less is purely in American interests (ie, wait offshore and hunt down terrorists).

The question begs – what is the American interest there?

It’s tricky, because it all depends on the conception of American interest. If the interest is purely American national security then the short term answer is to get involved in Pakistan, or something revolving around the idea of finding the terrorists and killing them.

But anything beyond the short term strategy means a presence in Afghanistan for a while. The United States is not threatened by states, at least at the moment. The national-security threats revolve around some organization bringing a nuke into the country or spreading ebola. So, for purely national security reasons, that seems to imply that a functioning state is in our interests, even though it may take longer and require more resources.

As I feel I’m bordering on the argument of ‘if we leave, they will come back’, I think that is more preposterous political nonsense than anything else. There is really nothing to indicate that as a 100%, guaranteed scenario; my statement above is based on the reality that leaving a barely able Afghanistan, bordering on the risk of collapse again, is probably a terrible idea. The United States can deal with hostile states because it presents a recognizable entity. Dealing with a collapsed state is many degrees more difficult.

Beyond that, Afghanistan represents the ability to do something good. The United States has done a lot of dumb things and probably will for a long time to come. Getting over the ego of being an American (which usually trends into the Ugly American syndrome), recognizing the local nuances of Afghanistan and working with them to create an Afghan state, as opposed to an American-style nation-state, is some lasting legacy the United States could leave.

Moral reasons probably won’t play a real big role in decided what to do there.

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