Originally Sinless said...
"They said if I voted for Goldwater, I'd wind up with a large-scale war in Vietnam. They were right."
Yes. He's going to take the plunge to some degree. It would take a President much stronger and wiser (experienced is a double edged sword, as John McCain illustrates) to oppose the choices he's being presented. They don't know yet how big of a jump it'll be. As I said before - originally they had big dreams, but now they're extremely worried, realizing just how clueless they were, on the outside yelling in. Indeed, it is easy to be ignorant and responsibility-free, as the crew from Center for a New American Security, and like-minded, are about to find out.
The "review," probably the 3rd or 4th such review in the past year and a half or so (each of which predictably gets more pessimistic in its conclusions), is intended to buy them just a little more time to figure out some wonder solution. It remains to be seen whether they'll swallow the wild-eyed COIN dogmatists like Nagl and Kilcullen. Unfortunately, there isn't much pushing against it due to a lack of coherent alternatives being put forward. Even those who see clearly enough that a massively expanded presence is incredibly dangerous and probably not the answer haven't yet, or at this point are still unable to, come around to the realization of just how bad the strategic situation actually is. There's also precedent of partial success in Iraq tugging at them on a number of levels (which is actually to some extent a badly misunderstood model in Washington right now...but that's a story in and of itself). Working with locals is always a good idea, but it doesn't solve the mid or long-term problems with a nation-building strategy.
Even if they were being provided with level-headed advice they'd still have to deal with the problem of political feasibility and inertia. On that front, Gates and company are smart enough to realize that they need desperately to reduce expectations, but they were so unrealistic to start with that they can only go so far so quickly.
"The Germans are going to send 600 troops for security purposes. Germany would use more police than that for a gay rights parade."
They'd also be more proud of it. (Not that there's anything wrong with gay rights parades, as long as they keep their clothes on and stay orderly.)
"Pakistan has decided it would be a good idea to let a big chunk of their population be guided and ruled under Sharia law. Pakistan is folding to the Taliban and Islamists. Meanwhile President Obama is thinking thirty thousand more."
It certainly reflects the true weakness of the Pakistani federal government in the NWFP. Same is true in the rest of border areas. But then again, it's always been that way. It's occurred before that what went on in those areas threatened the rest of the state. Nonetheless, there were, and will continue to be some serious battles going on there, and the Pakistani Army generally isn't doing too good.
But at least it isn't Pakistan proper, yet. People who are complacent about Pakistan's general stability are idiots. It might hold, but it might now. Our predictive abilities there are shit. But our presence in Afghanistan has very little influence over Pakistan's health, and whether that influence is negative or positive is itself up for debate.
"I am old fashioned. I admit it. I remember another liberal president calling for more US troops in Asia, except then it was "fifty thousand more."
Except of course there's a hard ceiling on how high we can go. Because, as I said months ago, people who think we can supply everything for a major military effort through airlift are dreaming. The tonnage is not there and never will be.
Throw in a major counterinsurgency effort, complete with reconstruction, and it's even more unlikely. We are dependent on supply lines through Pakistan and whatever we negotiate with the Russians. Airbases in the Stans are not enough, you need rail or shipping. One goes through Russia, the other Pakistan.
And for historical perspective, even the Russians, when they had full control of the Stans, and an army that used much less supplies, couldn't sustain more than 130,000 troops or so in the area, the majority of which were occupied in maintaining those supply lines. Of course, they also were fighting the entire country. We're not there yet, but given a few years of major combat in the south and opportunistic "Afghan" politicians in the rest of the country, and it's possible. Picking an open fight with Karzai right now? Not smart, morons.
The dirty little secret is that despite the focus on the Taliban (which is far from a monolithic organization, though we certainly wish it was), much of the rest of the country is only secure to the extent we're not messing around with it. I.e., it's under control of warlords, who are inserted into the government at various levels.
The Taliban is simply what we we're currently focusing on. You could disappear it tomorrow and our prospects of creating a viable Afghan state at peace with itself would still be long.
"This is a cultural and political quagmire where we know nothing."
We're learning quickly. Unfortunately, the more we learn, the more realize just how long the odds really are.
"The Taliban did not attack the US, Saudis did."
Don't go down that road. The Taliban harbored, were partially linked at the hip with, and aided those who did. All of which are even more true today. There's a debate to be had over whether what's left of Al Qaeda is best dealt with, or worth, the current effort in Afghanistan. I WELCOME that one. But they are still who they are.
"Promise all the Islamists hell if they return to US shores."
Define hell. Define the targets. Strikes me as vague rhetoric that in any case will certainly never be acted upon by our current leadership.
My personal view? Our best best is stay for the short-medium term, ditch the nation-building strategy, heavily minimize our commitment, and work through the anti-Pashtun groups within the country, and with most of the neighbors. Put them on the hotseat. And let the Taliban and Al Qaeda fight their personal war and tear themselves up against whomever, backed by whatever support it is prudent for us to give them. Contra to the nonsense that's been spouted over the past however many years the transnational core of Al Qaeda, which is the most dangerous part for us, is not some magical regenerating networked organizations, but a unique (amazing) and somewhat fragile organization built on personal ties. Years of ongoing warfare and targeted killings won't treat it well. Certainly start laying the groundwork to get the hell out there, with the expectation that you are probably not going to leave a stable Afghan state. Focus on other goals.
Odds it's going to be implimented? Not anytime soon. But, provided things don't get better (and it should be said there is a chance the military situation in the south could get better, if you can have some series of fortuitous developments like those that that greatly aided the Surge), you're going to start having countries dropping out of the Coalition over the next few years. And that's going to put pressure on the rest, adn so on.
Then people might be open to some changes.
Oh yeah, and Wolcott's a fucking idiot.
Wed Feb 18, 12:21:00 AM EST