Before I begin with this admittedly negative-toned article, let me first say that I have a great deal of respect for the men and women of our armed forces who have performed in any capacity to help bring about REAL "hope and change" in Iraq. Indeed, I think the remarkable turnaround there is proof that an invested, supported American fighting force can accomplish just about anything.
Now, with that on the table as my baseline statement, let me turn the other way and get all doomsday-y on you:
American forces will likely be ordered home from Afghanistan long before stability is brought to that nation.
My fear has NOTHING to do with the quality of man and woman on the front lines. Nothing.
Rather, my belief of a likely outcome in Afghanistan is a direct indication of my lack of faith that this administration has the fortitude for waging difficult policies.
So far, it has been easy for Obama to follow his campaign rhetoric vis-a-vis Afghanistan. He talked about the need for increased troop presence there, a policy that has a majority of support in the electorate after a similar move yielded such grand results in Iraq. Lo and behold, 17,000 additional troops are heading to Afghanistan.
And those troops will be wise in the way of building-to-building combat, so fresh are lessons that we learned in Iraq.
But here's the problem: it wasn't JUST more troops that led to a change in Iraq. It was a new strategy.
Troops alone are NOT a strategy. Especially in Afghanistan--just ask the Soviet Union. Oh wait, you can't--they're dead. (or is it just mostly dead?)
And about that strategy in Iraq: how does it apply to Afghanistan? The military is always accused of being perfectly ready to fight the last war. Since there's no reason to think the same isn't true now: how do you clear and hold the mountains?
There's no easy or clean way to do that--unless, of course, you just air-raid the region.
But then isn't that exactly what Obama said we CAN'T do? (Oct 2007: "We’ve got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." as reported in the USA Today
Now listen, I am all in the belief that GIVEN ENOUGH TIME, someone will develop the right strategy to help produce a victory in Afghanistan. It took about 3 and a half years of fighting the insurgency in Iraq before we developed a good manner in which to deal with the problems in that country. Given that same time--or maybe even something significantly shorter than that--I bet that the lightbulb is going to go off somewhere.
But our efforts in Iraq had one unquestionable foundation: we weren't going to start pulling the plug on that operation until at least November of 2008.
I don't think ANYBODY in the current administration would be willing to provide the same long-term foundation for the operations in Afghanistan. And it's that lack of definitive support that is going to doom our efforts.
You see, right now Afghanistan is the cause celebre on the left (inasmuch as any military action can ever garner support from those ranks). What better way to separate yourself from the policies of the last 8 years than to take a successful fight to the "right" country?
But let us not forget where Obama's "war" support comes from: from the anti-war crowd, which will eventually not be so muted as the sons and daughters of America are asked to march to another far-off land to fight for a reason that isn't easy to understand.
How do you characterize the war in Afghanistan? We aren't fighting a war on terror anymore, right? (To say such would be to validate Bush's war, which we know this administration will go out of their way at every stop NOT to do) So WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR IN AFGHANISTAN??? And is that mushy target (that's all you'd get from a mouthpiece in the administration) worthy of more American treasure? Really? (Think leftist now, not moderate. Spreading democracy is NOT a good answer, and, by corollary, neither is stabilizing the region)
Eventually, the difficulty with explaining our goal in Afghanistan is going to weigh too heavily on Obama's administration, probably regardless of whatever success we actually have on the ground.
And when operations there prove to be difficult--when, unfortunately but inevitably, some of those additional troops pay the ultimate sacrifice--I just don't think Obama will have the strength to fight "his" public.
First to go will be Secretary of Defense Gates, who is just the nearest man to the hatchet when the pressure gets too much for the President.
I wouldn't be surprised to see NSA Jones follow next.
And with those two men gone, Obama will play to the left with his nominees. And the advice he will receive: get out of Afghanistan.
I give it until about this time next year.
I hope I'm wrong. (And if you read this blog, you know that I frequently am totally wrong--hello, Mike Shanahan)
And may God bless every person called into the theater to support our actions there--I hope you are given a winning, employable strategy, and that you return home safely.
And hopefully with your head held high, with memories of victory in your mind.