Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In defense of dithering

*** Update ***

I'd also like to add something about general strategy. This isn't about whether or not we are going to fight against Al Qaeda. Its about how we are going to fight Al Qaeda. And if people believe that a war against a decentralized, polylithic entity like Al Qaeda, which is at this point more of an idea than an organization, will best be served by performing counter-insurgency in pretty much the most inhospitable country ever, in the absence of a credible local political ally, I think they are mistaken. There is opportunity cost. Every dollar spent fighting in Afghanistan is a dollar that could be spent doing something else (deploying 1 additional US soldier costs enough to build 23 schools). Every soldier in Afghanistan is a soldier that could be doing something else.

And, "something else for our soldiers to do" includes nothing at all! One reason that Iran and North Korea suddenly got so uppity in 2003 is because all of the sudden 150,000 US troops were tied up in counterinsurgency in Iraq, and half that number in Afghanistan. Bush couldn't have attacked another country if he wanted to, because we didn't have the ground forces. Remember, a huge, conventionally invincible American army with nothing to do IS a serious deterrent.

*** End Update ***

Lets make the right call.

Of course, my main criticism of the dithering is this. Clearly, Barack Obama doesn't want to send more troops to Afghanistan. If he did, there wouldn't be a reason to wait beyond the Afghan Presidential Election (which I think should be central to the decision). And yet the election came and went, Karzai was elected by fraud against a weak challenger, and we haven't a decision.

At any rate, I've had certain expectations about Barack Obama and I've always felt that I have a great read on his thought process. And my read is that he does not want to send more troops to Afghanistan. If he does send more troops, I'll be pretty disappointed, because I'll have to believe it was for political purposes. Unless there is some really juicy game-changing intel that I'm not privy to, but I doubt that.

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