The following posts are all related to the thinking of George Kennan during the Cold War era, substituting for the Soviet Union Al Qaeda.
Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our armed services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan – the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my Administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It is an honor for me to do so here – at West Point – where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.
To address these issues, it is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.
As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda – a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban – a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.
Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al Qaeda and those who harbored them – an authorization that continues to this day. The vote in the Senate was 98 to 0. The vote in the House was 420 to 1. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 – the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. And the United Nations Security Council endorsed the use of all necessary steps to respond to the 9/11 attacks. America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy al Qaeda’s terrorist network, and to protect our common security.
Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy – and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden – we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed. The Taliban was driven from power and pushed back on its heels. A place that had known decades of fear now had reason to hope. At a conference convened by the UN, a provisional government was established under President Hamid Karzai. And an International Security Assistance Force was established to help bring a lasting peace to a war-torn country.
Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq War is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention – and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world.
Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of our men and women in uniform. Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance , we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.
But while we have achieved hard-earned milestones in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe-haven there. Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it has been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient Security Forces. Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people.
Throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. That’s why, shortly after taking office, I approved a long-standing request for more troops. After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan, and the extremist safe-havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian effort.
Since then, we have made progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and we have stepped up the pressure on al Qaeda world-wide.
In Pakistan, that nation’s Army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and – although it was marred by fraud – that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and Constitution.
Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe-havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan Security Forces and better secure the population. Our new Commander in Afghanistan – General McChrystal – has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short: the status quo is not sustainable.
As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you have fought in Afghanistan. Many will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. That is why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war. Instead, the review has allowed me ask the hard questions, and to explore all of the different options along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and with our key partners. Given the stakes involved, I owed the American people – and our troops – no less.
This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.
I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.
Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you – a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have travelled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.
So no – I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.
Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war. Since 9/11, al Qaeda’s safe-havens have been the source of attacks against London and Amman and Bali. The people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are endangered. And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them.
These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.
To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.
We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.
The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.
Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility – what’s at stake is the security of our Allies, and the common security of the world.
Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.
Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.
This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai’s inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas – such as agriculture – that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.
The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They have been confronted with occupation – by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand – America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect – to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.
Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.
We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border.
In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned. The Pakistani Army has waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy.
In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.
These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.
I recognize that there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the prominent arguments that I have heard, and which I take very seriously.
First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now – and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance – would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.
Second, there are those who acknowledge that we cannot leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan Security Forces and give them the space to take over.
Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort – one that would commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.
As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, our or interests. And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I do not have the luxury of committing to just one. Indeed, I am mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who – in discussing our national security – said, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”
Over the past several years, we have lost that balance, and failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our friends and neighbors are out of work and struggle to pay the bills, and too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars.
All told, by the time I took office the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan approached a trillion dollars. Going forward, I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly 30 billion dollars for the military this year, and I will work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.
But as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan responsibility, we must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That is why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended – because the nation that I am most interested in building is our own.
Let me be clear: none of this will be easy. The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world. And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies.
So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict. We will have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power. Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold – whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere – they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.
And we cannot count on military might alone. We have to invest in our homeland security, because we cannot capture or kill every violent extremist abroad. We have to improve and better coordinate our intelligence, so that we stay one step ahead of shadowy networks.
We will have to take away the tools of mass destruction. That is why I have made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to pursue the goal of a world without them. Because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever-more destructive weapons – true security will come for those who reject them.
We will have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I have spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World – one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.
Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades – a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
As a country, we are not as young – and perhaps not as innocent – as we were when Roosevelt was President. Yet we are still heirs to a noble struggle for freedom. Now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.
In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms. It derives from our people – from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.
This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue – nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.
It is easy to forget that when this war began, we were united – bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment – they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, one people.
America – we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes. Thank you, God Bless you, God Bless our troops, and may God Bless the United States of America.
But we are pouring lives and billions down the drain all over the world and money could accomplish a whole lot more with less expense and fewer (or even no) lost lives.
I’m serious. Dig this.
In Pakistan they figure if they more than double certain sorts of aid (the kind that educates people not to be terrorists) it becomes economically viable for corrupt officials to gravitate to our side. Yes, I am talking bribery. Carrots. The point is, it is cheaper than making weapons and training soldiers to become targets. And I bet it accomplishes more.
I propose a contest.
Try using money for a month to do what you want to get done militarily. Compare the costs. I will bet you that a million spread here and there, say to build a needed bridge or purchase 100 donkeys or buy some seeds, will outperform a bunch of soldiers with guns every time. You get what you want on the cheap.
I am not saying disband the service. I am saying have a fair contest. If money (aka smart bribery, aka targeted help) works better than ammo and soldiers, then turn the soldiers into smart bribers. It’s that simple.
Money has worked forever to buy peace, i just has not penetrated the military mind or, for that matter, the political mind. If we can bail out a bunch of Wall Street good for nothings with billions, we can surely risk this experiment.
Face it, you will do the same thing I am proposing anyway. The only problem is you will combine it with military stuff and that will more than cancel out the positive effects. You will say you are doing the money thing, but you will be cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Get the hell out of AfPak militarily. Stop playing that this is a war. It is a slow suicide mission. Every military thing you do strengthens the will of a proud and stubborn people. How smart do you need to be to figure that out?
Go the cash route. Cash with strings. Cash with observers — soldiers who are learning to function in some other way than as killers and targets. I am not saying do not defend against the Taliban. Sure, set up a perimeter that is clearly not part of an offensive maneuver. Or begin to withdraw to the point that it will be obvious that you do not intend to fight.
President Obama is very wrong on one single point. (I never say such things. You read this and forget it.) He is wrong in saying that the only way we can stop Al Qaeda is by doing what we are doing, wasting millions of dollars and daily lives on a pipe dream. The way to stop Osama and Company is with a combination or ridicule and proportional retaliation for any actual attacks.
For example, if Osama, or whoever is in charge, launches a killing attack somewhere, do something bad enough in the area where the planning is going on so that they will think twice about their strategy. No one is going to fault a proportional response. A teargas in the caves sort of thing.
What we have now is not proportional. It is silly.
We need to unite geeks and soldiers and play this like a non-lethal war game. Money has a value. It can be used to achieve lots of things. We are pouring it down a bottomless drain if we think we can win AfPak without going through a major attitude adjustment.
I already tweeted this but it is worth underlining. Obama has placed a jihadist-killing, counter-insurgency intellectual, former Green Beret in charge. going well beyond ordinary replacement protocols. The article in SLATE warrants close perusal.
This May 10 Washington Post piece by Pamela Constable suggests that, contrary to my own sense of alarm about the Talibanization of Pakistan, there may be strength in a simple reality within Islam, its tolerance and affirmation of differing approaches to how one acts. Here is the paragraph that underlines that:
“Islam is our identity and our system of life, but variety and choice are part of it. People should dress modestly, but women don’t have to cover their faces and men don’t have to grow long beards,” said Khurshid Ahmad, an Islamic scholar and national legislator. “The Koran is very clear that there should be no coercion in religion. You cannot cram it down people’s throats. This is where the Taliban destroyed their own case.”
Apparently Al Qaeda is now seeing Pakistan as its theater of operations, hoping to chip away at the country’s pluralism and presumably to win the prize that would come with the victory of Talibanization — a nuclear arsenal.
If these things are true, it underlines the following as likely US responses:
1. Vocally back the forces of religious tolerance. Vocally meaning so the whole world hears.
2. Move toward a radically international and updated peace-keeping posture, eschewing our largely unilateral and therefore Herculean posture. We will cut of our nose to spite our face if this is simply a continuation of Charlie Wilson’s War.
3. Develop cooperative strategies with Pakistan for the targeted diminishing of the Al Qaeda infrastructure. Alias: Making any drone efforts cooperative and not just us.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan situation has pressed me to consider something that can hardly be original, but which needs to be articulated now. When I have spoken of a U.N. peacekeeping force for the 21st Century I have no interest in encouraging the sort of after-thought, rag-tag forces of the past, despite the fact that their presence has often been positive and saved lives.
We need to envision and create an international force that is capable of minimizing the effect of terror efforts and protect zones where weapons of mass destruction are present.
The reason this should be a new international force that operates with U.N. approval is that our present NATO form of internationalism is a charade. We have nothing like the international commitment needed to actually sort out the issues of global terror and move beyond ineffective and potentially disastrous military solutions to the problem. NATO does not include Japan, China, Russia or India. It does not suggest to the world a full international commitment.
I am talking about a stepped-up operation that will be capable of making it very hard for nations like Sudan to run roughshod over its people and for countries like Pakistan to risk the loss of control that would protect the world from terror-sponsored nuclear blackmail.
People will say that this is a silly idea because of their sense of the U.N. as an ineffective bureaucracy, but this ignores such realities as the organization’s good performance during recent years in facilitating elections in difficult situations. It also ignores the fact that the U.N. is a key player in two huge sectors of international activity which are, themselves, problematic and in need of radical reform. I mean the refugee and humanitarian missions. The former in particular represents a solution which is itself the cause of many ills. The latter has obvious problems, among which is a demonstrable failure to do more than create holding actions in the face of genocidal forces.
There is another issue I wish to note. It is true that drone attacks on Al Qaeda in Pakistan are hardly popular, but we are dealing with an open, criminal ideology which employs religion and resentment and hatred to motivate a still-growing movement that can only be defeated by understanding and facing down its absurd premises. This cannot be done unilaterally and it cannot be done without the exercise of superior power. A military, on-the-ground solution is hardly superior. Even if the Obama troop escalation should prove efficacious, it would only be a temporary chip off a block where every chip creates double the volume in lethal response.
It is said that most Pakistanis abhor the Taliban. While this is true, it hardly means that the bulk of Pakistanis will resist a force which has shown the ability to simply take over whole regions by ousting the landlords and creating alliances with leaders — community organizing, in a word. Power in a vacuum. Fear in the face of weak resistance.
The ideology of the Taliban and Al Qaeda is what needs to be attacked. And drone attacks represent a better avenue than on the ground warfare. If that becomes a chosen method of a fully internationalized movement which is as committed to fighting the legitimate causes of poverty and resentment as to thwarting terror, then we will have reason to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, FATIMA BHUTTO SKEWERS PAKISTAN PRESIDENT ZARDARI AND ACCUSES HIM OF FEEDING THE TALIBAN
Her salient conclusion:
In the year that Zardari has been president, Pakistan has become a third front in the war on terror. We are not safer, our neighbors are not safer, and we have not made any strides toward fighting fundamentalism.
Just as the world is beginning to see that there is an Afghanistan and a Pakistan, the Taliban (the local terror group) sees its mission as conducting one war in two countries. Protected by people, geography and the Taliban, Al Qaeda conducts a patient, long-term global war.
If you want a snapshot of this situation, the New York Times has obliged today.
CLICK HERE TO READ Porous Pakistani Border Could Hinder U.S.
CLICK HERE FOR THIS COMPANION PIECE FROM WASHINGTON Advances by the Taliban Sharpen U.S. Concerns
I find it impossible to arrive at any conclusion that could spell:
Wisdom in throwing troops into ground war on unfamiliar and hostile ground;
Wisdom in believing that we can pay our way to victory by essentially bribing folk to be on our side;
Wisdom in believing that we as a nation can turn this thing around by ourselves.
We’ve demonstrated that Pakistan has not told the truth about its nuclear program. READ HERE
Successive posts at Huffington Post and here have argued that Afghanistan is impossible to control by military means. The British have failed. The Russians have failed. And we will fail.
What is most needed now is an immediate effort to create a UN force that will see as its mission the containment of terrorist aggression and the protection of nuclear properties. This should require at minimum an emergency Security Council meeting and a declaration by us that the situation has changed in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. We cannot approach this unilaterally. And as I point out in the piece referenced above, we cannot run this as yet another peace keeping mission.We need an evolution — a new and better-trained force that can deal with 21st Century reality.
Ultimately we may have no recourse but drone attacks and international supervision and protection of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Neither can be achieved as a unilateral act of the US. The only way is to give this situation the gravity it deserves and focus urgent international attention on a war that is now preparing for a fighting season in two adjacent nations.