Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Clear Goals or Strategy in Afghanistan

Ralph Peters has an excellent op-ed in the New York Post today. I don't agree with everything he says but the bottom line is important. Vietnam-like the US seem to be fighting without a big picture strategy and are not setting goals.

Will Afghanistan be President Obama's Vietnam, with Pakistan as Cambodia on steroids?

I like that line: "Pakistan as Cambodia on steroids."
The bitter truth (as in Vietnam) is that we still haven't decided what we really want to achieve. We babble about nation-building where there's no nation to build, just a premedieval mosaic of tribes that hate each other. And the Taliban are homeboys.

We want Afghans to be like us. They never will be. (Good morning, Vietnam!)

If we want to alter the strategic environment amid a foreign population, we must be clear on three things: what we want to achieve, what the target population wants - and how much of what we want that population's willing to accept.

Washington is vague and naive on all three points.

Another 30,000 US troops? Fine. As long as they have clear, achievable missions. More nonmilitary aid? OK. Tell us specifically what it will accomplish. And mark the bills.

We can't bear any more of the Bush-Clinton-Bush approach of sending troops and mountains of aid in the nebulous hope that something good will happen.

Can anyone in the Obama administration articulate what we intend to achieve in Afghanistan? The Bush folks couldn't. I doubt this bunch can either.

I agree with most of what he says, but later he thinks we should fight tougher and meaner. This is true but then you run into the "we had to destroy her to save her" paradox.

I've been posting a lot on this issue recently because I feel the issue is being swept under the rug by the government. Recently, diplomat Richard Holbrooke was appointed by Secretary of State Clinton as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the press conference he was asked about the Pakistan issue, to paraphrase what he said: "That's a complicated issue that I can't get into." Oh.

The lessons of Vietnam are within recent memory, was nothing learned by them? The one lesson they did learn was to stifle the press. This is why this conflict has dragged on so long before people started noticing that it wasn't going well.


  1. There is a lot more going on here then a few bad guys. The Russians were after a warm water port, back in the 1980s. A lot of people feel the US is after access to Asian oil reserves. Someone changed Obama`s mind about Afghanistan. Remember how he was against any US war campaign. Then after winning his party`s nomination, suddenly switched to wanting more troops in Afghanistan.
    This mess looks like it is going to get a lot worse before anything is resolved.

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  3. Yes, it will get a lot worse. I feel they are really blowing their chance.

    As for the Asian oil reserves, I have no idea. If that's true then they are insane. There is no outlet to the sea that isn't blocked by hostile countries. (Except for Pakistan, which is not working out.)