Thursday, October 15, 2009
Still hoping that President Obama brings peace, but not overwhelmingly optimistic
This sign on the Bellevue Apartments on East Wilson Street reflects the hopes of so many people that President Obama would bring peace. Now, as his administration is about to complete its review of his Afghanistan strategy, decisions are being made that will determine whether the sign will turn out to be merely a savage irony or a prophecy. Either we step up our involvement, or we start to pull out. There really is no middle ground, because that's just another way to prolong the conflict. I'm not optimistic.
Tonight the BBC reports that the British government has been told the decision been made to approve McChrystal's request for more troops and that it will be announced next week.
Last night's much-touted Frontline documentary Obama's War played it both ways in a manner I recall from the Vietnam years (you can view the documentary at the link if you missed it). Those viewers who oppose the war (and they're in the majority) saw much to reinforce their view in the footage on the ground that included a tragic Marine fatality and showed the vast gulf of mistrust between the troops and the Afghan civilians they were there to help and protect. Meanwhile, the consensus of the expert talking heads -- including McChrystal and Holbrooke -- seemed to be that, no matter what we do, pulling out would have disastrous geopolitical and security consequences.
This has more in common with Vietnam than Iraq. The latter was definitely a Bush administration war. But the Afghanistan (and Pakistan) conflict is rapidly turning into a liberal (albeit hawkish liberal) Democratic war, conducted for all the most impeccable motives by the "best and the brightest."
Trouble is, they're too bright to recognize that we should cut our losses instead of pursuing a failed strategy that has already cost too many lives. Nation-building on behalf of brutal, corrupt local elites in a country whose culture we don't begin to understand was a recipe for disaster in Vietnam, a tragedy that took years to reach its tragic conclusion. It will be the same in Afghanistan (and we'll be lucky if our effort to impose our will on Afghanistan doesn't also throw Pakistan into the kind of chaos we brought to Cambodia). What a recipe for disaster.