New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote yesterday about President Obama and Afghanistan. Brooks commented that the “experts” he consulted were not concerned with the time it was taking for President Obama to decide on the General Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops. They assumed he would make a reasoned decision. They were worried (lack of information) about whether Obama had the fortitude to stick it out in good times and bad.
There is something smug about that concern. It is like, “well anyone can see we need to be in Afghanistan, but I do not think he has the guts to stay with it when things look bad.” How do these people know what is “right” and in any case what is their argument for continuing to stay in Afghanistan?
President Obama is undoubtably familiar with the ordeal that Vietnam represented for three Presidents. Vietnam was like a tar baby, it could not be shaken away. We went to Afghanistan to capture and destroy al Qaeda, and to remove the Taliban lead Afghan government that provided sanctuary for them. For oh so many foolish reasons, the US did not focus on building a stable Afghan government, and here we are 8 years later with a corrupt regime ineffective in delivering basic services and lacking popular support. Why stay?
There are many reasons given. The most frequently heard is that the Taliban will overthrow the Afghan government and they will destabilize the region again. This is not a pleasant outcome but ask this question, “who are Afghan’s neighbors?” Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan (for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, read Russia).
The future stability of Afghanistan is a world problem and not that of the US alone. Someone is supplying the Taliban with plenty of weapons, munitions, and money. The Taliban has already shown that they share nothing in common with any of their neighbors and will sponsor suicide bombings where ever they choose.
I do not know whether President Obama will have the courage to stick by his decision in good times and bad. I do want him, however, to really think through “why are we there now”.