The New York Times greeted the impending ninth anniversary of the U.S.-Afghanistan war with a collection of remarkably empty verbiage from ten pundits. Only of few of them were people who have or have had any active responsibility for the murderous morass now reaching yet another Presidential decision point. Here's a run down:
- David Killcullen, an Australian former counter-insurgency advisor to U.S. General David Petraeus, was dubious and realistic. He thinks "progress" requires a legitimate, functional Afghan government. There's no such thing now -- and not much chance of one as the completely fraudulent August election showed.
- Robert A. Pape, an expert on suicide bombings: "end suicide attacks." How?
- Linda Robinson, author of a book on Petraeus: hire the insurgents into local forces, as in previous wars in Columbia, South Vietnam and Iraq. All those are models for murderous "government" militias. Just what Afghanistan needs more of.
- Anthony Cordesman, Washington think tank perennial: create and train a police force. What does he think our troops have been trying to do for eight years on and off?
- Nader Nadery, Afghan human rights campaigner: kick out corruption. How? Many Afghans complain about how much MORE corrupt this government is than the Taliban.
- Gretchen Peters, a journalist who has covered the opium poppy economy of Afghanistan: collect taxes.With all due respect to someone whose seen a lot, how? And who would manage/walk away with the cash if it were collected?
- Andrew M. Exum, another Washington security thinker: get the troops out among the people and risk taking casualties. Probably Afghans would respond better to U.S. troops who made an effort to understand them and who interacted without pointed guns and body armor. But can any responsible authority ask troops to risk their lives when the mission remains so undefined?
- Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, professional neo-conservatives: escalate, escalate, escalate. Leading us into an aggressive war on Iraq wasn't good enough -- they lust after more blood and guts not only in Afghanistan but also in Iran. Imperial sickos, those neo-cons.
- Paul Pillar, former CIA spook turned security academic: get Pakistan on board with the project. How? That would take solving the India-Pakistan stand off over Kashmir, a legacy of colonialism long predating current U.S. pre-occupations.
The truth is, the U.S. public is done with this war, just as it was with the Iraq morass by the beginning of 2006.
Will the President find a way out that responds to where his own people are at? That's his job these days -- we are waiting to see how he does at performing it.