- PARIS - The Nation magazine's
Robert Dreyfuss has just published a fascinating account of Washington
establishment opinion about the war in Afghanistan.
- The four speakers at a Brookings Institution discussion
were Bruce Riedel, advisor to the President (and believer in the catastrophic
international consequences of a loss of the war in Afghanistan); Michael
O'Hanlon, an adviser to General David Petraeus; Tony Cordesman of the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, and Kim Kagan, head of the Institute
for the Study of War.
- The unanimous gloom expressed by these four speakers,
and the apparent absence of any sunlight shining from the attending (and
largely professional-political) audience, seems clear confirmation that
Barack Obama and his chosen advisors have wasted no time in placing themselves
and the country -- in a mere five months! -- into the same desperate situation
that it took the combined Johnson and Nixon administrations ten years to
arrive at in the case of Vietnam. This view would seem widely shared today
-- without visible influence on Obama policy.
- This is scarcely believable. Dreyfuss summarizes the
speakers' shared views: 1. "Significant escalation" is essential
"to avoid utter defeat." 2. If "tens of thousands"
of new troops were sent to Afghanistan, it would be impossible to know
whether this reinforcement changed anything until another eighteen months
had elapsed. 3. Even if the U.S. "turns the tide," no American
troops could be withdrawn before at least another five years.
- However the most dramatic unanimous opinion of the four
experts was this one: "there is no alternative to victory."
- Where have we heard that before? From Douglas MacArthur,
speaking to Congress on April 19, 1951, almost six months to a day after
his combined U.S., R.O.K. and UN army's drive to the Yalu river was defeated
by China's intervention in the Korean war. The Communists' complete reconquest
of North Korea followed.
- Two months after MacArthur spoke, the United States renounced
the military objective of reunifying Korea and expressed interest in an
armistice roughly along the 38th parallel, the prewar border. That was
the alternative to American victory.
- In Vietnam, the alternative to victory was the 1973 subterfuge
of "Vietnamization" of the war, with withdrawal of the last American
troops in March of that year. Saigon fell on April 30, 1975.
- Why is there no alternative to American victory in what
the president calls "AfPak"?
- When President Obama took office he might have said that
the Bush administration had made a dreadful mess of Afghanistan, but that
he was resolved to save America, NATO and Afghanistan itself, from this
Bush-era folly. He intended to put the U.S. on a new track towards peace
and reconciliation with the forty million Pashtuns of Central Asia -- who
provide the potential recruiting pool for the angry young men of the Taliban.
- He could also have said that it makes no real difference
to the United States whether the Taliban do or do not rule Afghanistan,
or whether Osama bin Laden is or is not in that country. Afghanistan is
on the other side of the world, surrounded by tough people who can look
after themselves. Terrorists do not need "safe havens" in Afghanistan.
The world is full of empty "safe havens." The terrorists are
being defeated by policemen and security forces in all of the western countries,
while Osama bin Laden releases largely ignored videos to Arab television.
- The people of Afghanistan have themselves defended their
country against all foreign interference since the time of Alexander the
Great. It wasn't the U.S. or NATO that defended them. They did it themselves
as an energetic minority of them are doing now -- but, unhappily,
against U.S. and NATO interference in their country.
- The Afghans have already experienced Taliban rule, from
1996 until the U.S. invasion in 2001. A great many of them did not like
it. If they don't want the Taliban, with their obscurantism, oppression
of women, and brutal interpretations of Islamic law, to come back again
and install their despotic rule, let the Afghan people defend themselves.
The U.S./NATO intervention simply gets in the way. As a foreigners' invasion,
it is objectively a source of support for the Taliban.
- Instead of reading ecology and novels on his vacation,
the president should read Charles DeGaulle. He ended the dreadful insurrection
in Algeria that brought him back to power in France in 1958. And Algeria
was legally a part of France itself, possessing energy resources that could
have made France energy self-sufficient, and it had a large colonial population
that wanted Algeria forever French.
- So did a part of the French army. A conspiracy of officers
tried to assassinate DeGaulle and overthrow his government. This wasn't
a puerile problem of armed bullies shouting abuse at congressmen.
- DeGaulle ordered peace negotiations, stopped the war,
brought the colonists and the army home, and turned to rebuilding France
after its generations of crisis.
- Please, President Obama: take a lesson in success. Don't
kill tens, or hundreds, of thousands more people in still another search
for a useless American victory that ends in defeat -- and ruins your presidency.
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