Monday, August 17, 2009

Buchanan on the Emerging Afghan Debacle

Things are getting worse in Afghanistan. Each month brings more dead Western troops, and fresh evidence that the Taliban is restoring its influence and control to more and more provinces of the country. NATO forces have been spectacularly ineffective, and NATO's European members have been openly unwilling to commit additional forces or money to "America's War" in Afghanistan - which should send a strong warning to Washington regarding the ongoing viability and strenght of the Alliance.

In a recent column, Buchanan notes that the U.S. is now faced with two equally unpleasant options: 1) either committing tens of thousands of more soldiers for many more years of fighting, dying and nation-building, at a huge cost in lives and money, or 2) withdrawing from Afghanistan and facing the derision of America's enemies.

If, after eight years of fighting, the Taliban is stronger, more capable and closer to victory than it has ever been, what will it cost in additional U.S. troops, casualties, years and billions to turn this around? And what is so vital to us in that wilderness land worth another eight years of fighting, bleeding and dying, other than averting the humiliation of another American defeat?

From Secretary Gates to Gen. Petraeus, U.S. military and political leaders have been unanimous that the Afghan war does not lend itself to a military victory. Unfortunately, the Taliban does seem to believe in a military victory and triumphal return to power, and imposing upon the United States the same kind of defeat their fathers imposed upon the Soviet Union.

Whatever we may say of them, Taliban fighters have shown a greater willingness to die for a country free of us Americans than our Afghan allies have shown to die for the future we Americans envision for them.

The truth is that the U.S. really doesn't have any choice in the matter. As a nation, we are now bankrupt. Our Treasury isn't simply empty, its floor has a sink hole that runs straight through to China. The U.S. cannot afford to keep fighting in Afghanistan. Or Iraq. Or maintain large numbers of troops even in places where the locals are friendly - or at least not shooting at us. The towering deficits that have resulted from unrestrainted government spending over the last decade, will inevitably force massive reductions in the U.S. military. It may take some time for U.S. politicians - even the traditionally anti-military Democrats - to admit this, but financial pressure from America's creditors will eventually force their protesting hands.

Without naming names, Buchanan does lay the blame for the debacle amongst the Pashtuns squarely where it belongs.

Had we gone into Afghanistan in 2001, knocked over the Taliban, driven out al-Qaida and departed, we would not be facing what we do today.

But we were seduced by the prospect of converting a backward tribal nation of 25 million, which has resisted every empire to set foot on its inhospitable soil, into a shining new democracy that would be a model for the Islamic world.

Now, whatever Obama decides, we shall pay a hellish price for the hubris of the nation-builders.



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