Thursday, July 30, 2009

Taking stock of Obama's war

You probably have been watching the health care bruhaha in DC if you were paying any attention to politics in these lazy summer days -- but for too many people, both U.S. soldiers and their involuntary hosts and allies, we've got a war on. (Two actually, but this post is about Afghanistan.)

George C. Wilson has been a print reporter for more than a half century. He has some cautions to offer as the U.S. digs a deeper hole in central Asia.

In Afghanistan today, as in Vietnam yesterday, American military leaders are stressing the need to win the hearts and minds of the people. But as I saw for myself as a combat correspondent in Vietnam in 1968 and 1972, the job of keeping the bad guys out of remote villages day and night -- espe­cially at night when it is easy for guerillas to hit and run under the cover of darkness — is a constant, uphill struggle requiring thousands more troops than combat commanders think they can spare for pacification.

This is why the front page, off-lead story in The Washington Post of July 11 rang so true to me. It said Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new field commander in Afghanistan, “has concluded that the Afghan security forces will have to be far larger than currently planned if President Obama’s strategy for winning the war is to succeed … "

Here we go again.

If Obama defines the U.S. mission as pacifying the Afghan countryside and propping up a viable Afghan government, the mission's own logic will have him sending more and more troops until people in the U.S. get sick of casualties and expense in a faraway place. The peoples of NATO allies are already in this state. Meanwhile Obama will have become a failed President.

The only semi-rational mission for the U.S in Afghanistan is to define a doable victory and get the hell out as soon as possible. Killing Osama bin Laden or some other prominent plug-ugly would serve. But Julian Barnes reports in today's L.A. Times that's no longer our agenda:

U.S. military leaders have concluded that their war effort in Afghanistan has been too focused on hunting Al Qaeda, and have begun to shift Predator drone aircraft to the fight against the Taliban and other militants in order to prevent the country from slipping deeper into anarchy.

There's a proven recipe for failure in this trajectory. Sad for those, Afghan and U.S., who will have to suffer before this horror plays out.

1 comment:

Darlene said...

I know we can't be responsible for the woes of the world, but I do wish there were a way to reform the Taliban with their medieval beliefs.

My heart goes out to the women caught in their male dominated society and the cruelty imposed on them. I feel that fighting the Taliban comes under the same kind of morality we should have shown when the Nazi's rounded up the Jews or should be showing in Darfur.

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