Ralph Peters had an excellent editorial on Afghanistan this week that I think lays out the problem with Obama’s half-surge:
Initially, Afghanistan wasn’t a war of choice. We had to dislodge and decimate al-Qaeda, while punishing the Taliban and strengthening friendlier forces in the country. Our great mistake was to stay on in an attempt to build a modernized rule-of-law state in a feudal realm with no common identity.
We needed to smash our enemies and leave. Had it proved necessary, we could have returned later for another punitive mission. Instead, we fell into the great American fallacy of believing ourselves responsible for helping those who’ve harmed us. This practice was already fodder for mockery 50 years ago, when the novella and film The Mouse That Roared postulated that the best way for a poor country to get rich was to declare war on America then surrender.
Even if we achieved the impossible dream of creating a functioning, unified state in Afghanistan, it would have little effect on the layered crises in the Muslim world. Backward and isolated, Afghanistan is sui generis (only example of its kind). Political polarization in the U.S. precludes an honest assessment, but Iraq’s the prize from which positive change might flow, while Afghanistan could never inspire neighbors who despise its backwardness.
This sounds right to me and accords with my own counsel in favor of a punitive raid concept of operations and my criticism of the facile distinctions made between Iraq and Afghanistan by Obama and other Democrats seeking to appear hawkish but also sensible and nuanced.