NOTE: Also posted at Huffington Post Your comments there would be appreciated. Huff has a habit of submerging posts in rapid fashion and has done so with this.
Focus, not surges, is what is needed in Afghanistan.
Surges is what Joe Lieberman is proposing, in a widely praised speech given at the Brookings Institution. READ IT HERE
The first surge that Lieberman proposes is in coherence. The final reason that the Senator gives for all his surges is that Afghanistan is the center of global Islamic terrorism. And that we must overcome it there.
There are several problens with Lieberman’s approach besides the fact that terrorism has no geographical limits and that it is more a mindset than the province of any group or religion.
1. We cannot defeat the Taliban militarily. Lieberman suggests we could, with a coherent strategy. We can no more beat the Taliban than we could beat the willing suicide soldiers of Ho Chi Minh. We need to talk, not merely to the Taliban but all terrorists.
President Obama has been doing this in his own utterances.
The battle against “Islamic terrorism” is a code word for unilateral military conquest.In reality, terrorism is a mindset that has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with an exit from tolerable civil behavior, wherever it occurs.
2. We cannot ensure that the coming elections in Afghanistan will go our way, whatever that might be. A fight with the Taliban to ensure “fair” elections assumes that Afghanistan is a functioning democratic state that can exercise central control over its disparate centers of leadership. Karzai with his corrupt associations has demonstrated the weakness of an effort that is completely reactive to the Taliban.
3. We cannot “nice” our way to any good end in Afghanistan. The notion that a benevolent approach would result in sowing love where there is now resentment is as fatuous as assuming that Iraq will operate on anything other than the conflicting self-interests of its various factions.
What then is an honest answer for Afghanistan?
Talk to the Taliban.
Make the quest for Al Queda, which is itself fraught with ironical dangers when it comes to preventing even more terrorist activity, dependent on an invitation from Pakistan.
Figure out an exit strategy from Afghanistan.
If we are going to play an active role in a global effort to counter terrorism and genocide, do it through acceptable channels.
The Lieberman route is the neocon route and violates every Niebuhrian caution in the book. The only protection against this is the instincts of Barack Obama and of the military observers who are not afraid to utter the word quagmire.
We do not need the Lieberman surges. We need sage disengagement coupled with a tough assault on terrorism, where and when we are invited to do so. Not an an Islamic phenomenon, but as the unacceptable action of any group or individual who believes they have the right to take innocent lives to further political ends.