Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Has America Become Neurotic Superpower?
What will I do...What will I do.....
Thomas Barnett steps up to declare that Afghanistan is about more than just the United States. To media driven, war weary Americans who seem to believe that all we have to do is bring all the troops home tomorrow for a return to the heady days of either the late 60's for the Great Society crowd, or the boom times of the 80's or post Cold War 90's for Yuppies and dot.Com's. Compared to other wars, like World War II where some weeks casualty lists exceeded the total for eight years of Iraq and Afghanistan, or Vietnam with some years yielding over 10,000, our human cost touches far fewer, but is used in geometric illustrations The dying marine: What the hell was the AP thinking? to shape policy.
Barnett writes in this week's World Politics Review that the debate over our strategy in Afghanistan has taken a decidedly self-centered tone. He notes that defections are coming from all corners of the political spectrum.
Nonetheless, defections from the "good war" are occurring across the ideological spectrum. On the right, Washington Post columnist George Will has declared it's "time to get out of Afghanistan," while on the left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi warns that congressional support for more troops is fast dwindling. Most tellingly, that avatar of the American middle, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, now confesses that he fears our "babysitting" job in Afghanistan has morphed into a full-fledged "adoption." In sum, our nation's elite are finally grasping just how far into the future a counterinsurgency/nation-building effort in rugged, backward Afghanistan may extend -- i.e., way beyond the 2010 midterm elections.
But what's especially odd about this debate is its stunningly self-centered tone: What are America's national interests? How long can America last? How much will America be forced to spend in blood and treasure? What will happen to America's standing if we withdraw? The whole conversation feels like a neurotic superpower talking to its therapist.
At least it took Will, eight years to abandon his support of the current engagement strategy and opt to go the route of off-shore punishment and containment to contain the unruly tribes and suppress the Taliban. Tom Friedman is another story. He went from Teacher, Can We Leave Now? No., By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, New York Times, July 18, 2009 featured in my earlier post, It's The Schools Stupid!
Where he said:
I confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.
But every time I start writing that column, something stills my hand. This week it was something very powerful. I watched Greg Mortenson, the famed author of “Three Cups of Tea,” open one of his schools for girls in this remote Afghan village in the Hindu Kush mountains. I must say, after witnessing the delight in the faces of those little Afghan girls crowded three to a desk waiting to learn, I found it very hard to write, “Let’s just get out of here.”
And them finish with
So there you have it. In grand strategic terms, I still don’t know if this Afghan war makes sense anymore. I was dubious before I arrived, and I still am. But when you see two little Afghan girls crouched on the front steps of their new school, clutching tightly with both arms the notebooks handed to them by a U.S. admiral — as if they were their first dolls — it’s hard to say: “Let’s just walk away.” Not yet.
To his current stance this week.
It may still be worth doing, but one thing I know for sure, it must be debated anew. This is a much bigger undertaking than we originally signed up for. Before we adopt a new baby — Afghanistan — we need to have a new national discussion about this project: what it will cost, how much time it could take, what U.S. interests make it compelling, and, most of all, who is going to oversee this policy?
Looks like Friedman has joined Will in asking God to make more cruise missiles to shoot from offshore. Kind of sad to see him go from sticking to our commitment to let's talk about leaving, in less that 60 days.
Back to Barnett, he recommends that we broaden our tent to include Afghanistan's next door neighbors, Russia, India, Iran and China who each have a vested interest in seeing Afghanistan stable and peaceful.
He pulls no punches in criticizing our current path.
Given all that, why don't we hear any American politicians or experts arguing about how we need to spread ownership of this problem regionally, instead of further burning out our own forces and those of NATO? Because for them, that would be handing "victory" over to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or the "axis of diesel" -- signaling, no doubt, the onset of a "post-American world."