Comments: Have the terrorists won?

I've got to object to your claim that the Administration has lost interest in Afghanistan. While there has been far less media coverage on Afghanistan, a brigade from the Oklahoma National Guard will arrive at Fort Carson next week to begin their training for an Afghanistan rotation. Their mission: helping to train the Afghan National Army to become a professional force. Those soldiers, who will spend their Thanksgiving and Christmas in Afghanistan, give the lie to the notion we've given up on Afghanistan.

Posted by Andrew at September 18, 2003 09:18 AM

I think it would be hard to support that claim, Andrew.

Certainly the soldiers still there and the miltary leaders tasked with keeping the country under control care, and no doubt care deeply about what's going on, but the Administration doesn't share their concern.

I have to say that if the Bush Administration really cared about Afghanistan, they wouldn't have taken on a second war before the one in Afghanistan was finished. They would have moved to improve the civilian infrastructure, secure the peace, and support a (popular) government before they moved on to invading other countries.

As it is, we're still devoting resources to Afghanistan but far, far fewer of them than we've been devoting to Iraq for the past few months and if you read the international news, there are constant reports of the Taliban regrouping and gaining strength in Afghanistan. In addition, there are multiple reports of a resurgence of the religious extremism that goes with such repressive, religious regimes.

The government we installed was far from popular with the Afghan people and with the various tribal leaders in the country, so it had two strikes against it from the beginning. We don't have the manpower to cover the outlying areas of the country, leaving plenty of space for our ostensible enemies to regroup and strike against not only our soldiers, but against civilians trying to enjoy their new 'freedoms.'

You might say that we had a (real) coalition in Afghanistan and that those other countries need to take their share of the burden, and you'd be right. But they are taking the burden. Every coalition country has troops in Afghanistan, working to secure the country, but none of them have the kind of standing army that the USofA does, nor can they be expected to replace the might of the USofA military.

We led the coalition in Afghanistan and we're abandoning our responsibilities there in order to move more and more troops into the mess that we've created in Iraq.

I object to, I abominate the way we do half the job, okay? If you're going to go in remove a repressive government and promise people freedom, then do it and deliver on those promises. And use half your brain while planning it. Don't expect that people who have been oppressed and repressed for years are going to blossom into a fullfledged, peaceful democracy two months later.

I think more than anything else, it's the lack of intelligence about the way this Administration has prosecuted this phantom "war on terror" that infuriates me.

Little if anything they've done here on our soil has actually improved our security. Nothing they've done overseas has made any lasting difference to the threat of terrorists acts, here or anywhere else.

They're committing human rights abuses and violating the Bill of Rights every single day and apart from specious semantic arguments about the "force" of our law overseas, I think any sane person would have to agree that morally, if in no other way, our laws should govern our people, military and civilian, no matter where they are.

It's a stupid waste of resources. It's a criminal waste of human lives.

Posted by Anne at September 18, 2003 10:21 AM

Or, to put your argument in a more succinct form, the Administration doesn't care enough to suit you. That's fair enough, but it's a far cry from your bald claim that the Administration doesn't care. If they didn't care, they could easily pull all American support from Afghanistan and get it to Iraq, where we surely could use it. Instead they're trying to do both. By all means, argue that trying to rebuild two countries at once is a bad idea, and may not be possible (although we seemed to manage it in Japan and Germany a few years back). I agree with a number of your concerns regarding how the Administration has handled both Iraq and Afghanistan. But that doesn't change the fact, the Administration clearly cares enough about Afghanistan to continue with the nation-building efforts there.

Posted by Andrew at September 18, 2003 11:13 AM

Okay, you're right. They don't care enough to suit me. That's certainly what I should have said.

I have a suspicion that they "care" about Afghanistan because it's the only legitimate "war on terrorism" target that they have at the moment, at least in the eyes of a lot of the world, and they think staying in there adds credibility to what's happening in Iraq, but that's almost a different topic.

Certainly I think almost anyone could accept that the on-going instability in Afghanistan before we announced the invasion of Iraq, not just today, would suggest that the Administration was in far too much of a hurry to take on a second war.

I would, at least, like to think that rational planning of allocation of resources would have suggested to people whose job it is to think of these things, that invading a second country before we were half done with the work in the first one was kind of a stupid idea.

Also, I've seen the Germany/Japan analogy before, and I don't think it works. The situation was quite different then. I've done a lot of reading and thinking about this in the last month and hopefully will get time to compose a decently thought-out post on it soon.

Posted by Anne at September 18, 2003 12:29 PM

I don't object to the timing of the invasion of Iraq, except in the other direction; I think we should have gone in much faster, to minimize the time Saddam had to prepare. But I have been very disappointed with the job we've done thus far reconstructing Iraq. I know it will take a long, long time to get it where it needs to be, but it certainly seems like we just didn't have a good plan going in, and that didn't help our cause at all.

As for the Germany/Japan analogy, no two situations are perfectly analogous, but they at least give us a reasonable baseline of past experience.

Posted by Andrew at September 18, 2003 01:14 PM

My point, Andrew, is that I doubt that the Germany/Japan situations are really analogous at all, not that they're not a perfect match. Wish I had more time to explain now, but those people who sign my paycheck :) are expecting me to actually work today....

Posted by Anne at September 18, 2003 02:35 PM