President Obama is about to announce his new policy on Afghanistan. Early reports suggest he has opted for a “surge” strategy which I will call “Iraq II.” In response to his commander on site he will be sending more troops to the fray. To placate the critics within his own party, oddly enough Republicans support the president on this one, he will send less than the total number of additional troops requested by the commander.
I have two comments. First, to paraphrase the familiar saying, “either evacuate or remove yourself from the facility.” Obama should either opt to fully implement the military strategy, or withdraw completely from the field of combat.
Second, Afghanistan ain’t Iraq. The two countries differ in several major ways:
1. Afghanistan is basically a land of nomads with their pastoral economy. Iraq is the cradle of sedentary agriculture, the pivotal shift in the world’s economy that determined the course of history for the next 4000 years.
2. Afghanistan is a poor, agriculture land. Iraq has a well developed economy based on a valuable asset, petroleum.
3. Afghanis are the least educated and most illiterate people in the world. Iraqis are fairly well educated.
4. Afghanistan has had a weak central government with most rule and control left to local chieftans. Iraq has had a strong central government.
President Bush’s much criticized “surge” policy has been largely successful, Iraq is in the process of establishing a viable new government. Our troops will be able to leave in the next year or so. So far there is no indication that the country will return to being a dictatorship, but continue with its new found vibrant political scene, matching the various ethnic groups in the election hustings, instead of in trenchs.
But this came at tremendous cost, and I do not mean just blood and purse. It has cut through our whole society, setting up divides where unity is needed. We will eventually patch over the gulfs and gaps, afterall we did recover from our Civil War. But the cost of Iraq will be with us for a long time.
Does President Obama really want to put us through the same wringer for Afghanistan? Because of the key differnces between the two countries I note above, the cost of making Afghanistan a viable democracy will make our expenditures in Iraq pale in comparison. Where is the man who was the response to, “War is not the answer?” Does he really want, “Obama’s War?”