June 19, 2009

NEW AFGHAN STRATEGY (NOT A KNITTING POST)

Via CaliValleyGirl a few weeks ago when I first started this post:  New U.S. Afghan strategy will cost billions, take years

I'm sorry, but I've just never bought into the idea that Afghanistan is the "good war."  My husband has actually had someone say to him that at least his upcoming deployment is to Afghanistan, which serves a purpose and has meaning, unlike Iraq.  I wholeheartedly reject that idea.  I also disagree vehemently with Pres Obama when he said, "Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice..."  As Neal Boortz said recently, all wars are a choice.  None of the 9/11 hijackers came from Afghanistan, so please explain to me how Afghanistan wasn't a choice that was made.

I've been thinking about Afghanistan a lot lately, and I have a hard time feeling good about my husband going there.  Frankly, I am not convinced that country deserves his effort.

Ralph Peters:

[Petraeus] doesn't seem to grasp that, while al Qaeda was a foreign and ultimately unwanted presence in Iraq, the Taliban's the home team in Afghanistan. Afghan tribesmen just don't share our interests. And Iraq's a state. Afghanistan's an accident.

We'd need hundreds of thousands of troops and decades of commitment to attempt to nation-build where there's no nation to build.

Interestingly enough, my husband said the exact same thing this morning when I said I wanted to work on my Afghanistan post.  Iraq had a history of being governed; Afghanistan doesn't.  So what is our goal?

This very thing was discussed on the final panel at the Milblogs Conference this year.  Bill Roggio, Andrew Exum, and Bill Nagle all kinda shrugged their shoulders and expressed an inability to decipher what the Obama administration's end goal is in Afghanistan.  Even if you disagree with the shifting goals in Iraq, at least most people can articulate what they were: finding WMDs, bringing democracy, leaving Iraq with some sort of intact system of government.  Can the layman come up with any proposed goal in Afghanistan?  I can't, other than, um, kill al Qaeda?

And maybe that in itself is the goal.  It is according to Ralph Peters:

Getting it right in Afghanistan -- and across the frontier in Pakistan -- means digging fewer wells and forcing our enemies to dig more graves.

But when does it end?  Americans squawked that we had no "exit strategy" in Iraq, but holy cow, what is the exit strategy for a war of attrition?  Then you're in GEN LeMay territory: "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting."  Do we stay in Afghanistan until every terrorist is dead?  I don't think that is really a true goal, certainly not an attainable one.

And I don't even think that is the Obama goal, otherwise he would not be doing this:

President Barack Obama's choice to take charge of the war in Afghanistan Tuesday called "significant growth" of the Afghan army and national police the key to his strategy, but the annual cost of building and maintaining the existing Afghan force is more than four times larger than the entire Afghan economy.
[...]
"We are building an army they will never be able to afford," a senior U.S. military official told McClatchy.

I am by no means smart about these things.  But it seems to me that we Americans are being naive about Afghanistan, even more naive than we were in Iraq.

This Michael Scheuer excerpt (via Amritas) rings true and worries me:

At this point we again run into one of those quaint and always-wrong assumptions that the West operates on when it intervenes in a Muslim country. Whether in Washington, London, or The Hague, the most basic assumption of nation-building is that if poor, illiterate, unhealthy Muslims are given potable water, schooling, prenatal care, and voting booths, they will abandon their faith, love Israel, demand visits by Saiman Rushdie, and encourage their daughters to be feminist with a moral sense alien to most of the Islamic world--that is, they will try to become Europeans.

This, of course, has never occurred in the wake of a Western intervention in a Muslim country. Islam invariably becomes more, not less, important to the inhabitants of an invaded Muslim country, and while improvements in water, disease resistance, and schoolbooks are appreciated, they are not religiously transforming. We simply end up with Muslims who are better educated, healthier, and more militantly Islamic. This has happened in countries (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and several of the Balkan states) and in prison camps; in Guantanamo Bay, for example, we are building a truly dedicated and virulently anti-U.S. mujahedin battalion, the members of which will have the best-cared-for teeth in the Islamic world. But through it all, U.S. and Western leaders, the UN, and untold numbers of NGO spokespersons continue to sell shopworn lies to Western electorates-that nation-building will yield secularists who will desire only to live in peace with their Western conquerors.

I think we project too much onto a people and culture we simply cannot grok.  Our American mantra that all men desire to be free may just not apply.  (Read The Places In Between if you want to be horrified by the Afghan midset.)  And eight years into this clash, we still are making monumental and basic mistakes, even at the highest levels: US envoy Holbrooke just made an enormous cultural faux-pas.  Afghanistan bloggers caught the gaff and flipped out; how is the "Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama administration" making such mistakes while bloggers know better?  (To echo J.G. Thayer and my husband, please show us that "smart diplomacy" and distinguish yourself from yokel Bush whenever you're ready.)  How is it that my husband has arguments at work about the definitions of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, with the very people who are supposed to know the difference and carry it out?  How can "experts" still be so under-educated and naive about something that's been going on for eight years?

I am murky about what I should hope for in Afghanistan.  What are the benchmarks?  What does success look like?  What is my husband's role?

And how long will this take?

Steven den Beste a few days after 9/11: "The progress and spread of freedom worldwide will continue; this war won't end for centuries." [emphasis mine, because the enormity of that thought is horrifying]

I find the whole thing quite stressful, and I am not ready to send my husband to Afghanistan.  I personally thought Iraq was the battle of the long war I could get behind.  I am having a harder time working up the emotional investment this milspouse needs to send her husband off to fight.

I am not ready for my husband to join a new front in a war that won't end for centuries.

UPDATED:

I meant to add this originally and forgot.  I just wanted to put links to the blogs my husband's been reading that cover Afghanistan-related issues:

Registan.net
Ghosts of Alexander
Small Wars Journal
The Long War Journal

I probably need to start reading them too.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:44 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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June 05, 2009

MORE OVERSHARING

A bit more oversharing and more stuff that will make me look depressed.  And then I'll go back to working on my long Afghanistan post.

Yesterday morning, I remembered what deployment feels like.

My husband is again gone for training, his last week of it before he deploys.  And as I spent my fourth day without him, I remembered how bad it sucks.  I miss him too much this week, and it's a pain I had quickly forgotten after he returned in December.

I'm not really ready to let him leave again.

Posted by: Sarah at 09:08 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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