Saturday, December 19, 2009

It Won’t Work

It Won’t Work

Douglas Macgregor is a retired Army colonel. He is author of “Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting.”


President Obama may or may not realize that Generals Petraeus and McChrystal cannot fix Afghanistan. They cannot stabilize or control it. They cannot put a dent in the heroin trade, because we have nothing with which to replace it.

Adding more American troops to the Afghan morass merely diverts attention from the 120,000 U.S. troops languishing in Iraq.

Nor can the generals prevent Pakistan from moving ever closer to its nuclear showdown with India. What Petraeus and McChrystal can do is further entangle the United States, its resources and its forces in an unending war inside the ungovernable wasteland that lies between Iran and India.

For the political forces inside the Beltway desperate to keep the war going, adding 30,000 more American troops –- all we can realistically come up with at this point –- to the Afghan morass may be just enough to divert attention from the 120,000 United States troops still languishing in Iraq at the cost of billions we don’t have each month.

Mr. Obama must also know that widening the war inside Afghanistan to fight millions of Pashtun tribesmen is the equivalent of ending world hunger and poverty. It won’t work.

But it will help transform the Taliban’s fight with President Hamid Karzai’s corrupt narco-state into a Pashtun war of liberation against the unwanted American military presence that supports Mr. Karzai.

Still, pressing economic conditions at home combined with the realization that whenever the last American leaves Afghanistan it will look remarkably similar to the way it looked before our arrival may ultimately change Mr. Obama’s strategic calculus. However, until then, he will look a lot more like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, presidents who capitulated to the fear of seeming weak. Fortunately for Mr. Obama, his course in Afghanistan is not irreversible. Roughly 30,000 to 35,000 troops is not 300,000.

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