Let me join Kevin Drum in expressing concern about reports that the military officials in charge of the war in Afghanistan are getting ready to ask for more troops. I don’t think anyone should find such a request surprising. I bet if you asked Faiz whether or not his team’s budget should be increased so that he can hire more ThinkProgress bloggers he’d conclude that, in fact, it should. What’s needed is a broader strategic judgment.
When I look at the situation, I see a United States of America that’s economically battered and continues to badly lack credibility in the Muslim world. This makes me want a strategy aimed at figuring out what there is we can accomplish in Afghanistan on a reasonably short time frame before heading out. Instead, the wheels of national security policy seem to be spinning in the direction of escalating goals leading to escalating demands for resources, all in a manner that seems oddly detached from concrete considerations about costs and benefits.
I’ve been a bit distracted by the fights in congress over domestic policy, but Spencer Ackerman never takes his eye off the ball and says “it seems fair to say that the balance of evidence favors an interpretation that Afghanistan strategy is coming unmoored from the actual objectives of the war, and the actual interests at stake, and the White House is being either deluded or outright dishonest about what’s happening.” That’s a harsh judgment, but the sense of drift I get is very real. Inability to achieve relatively concrete low-level goals (“kill Osama”) seems to be leading us to escalate our objectives in an unhelpful way. Note that Hamburg, Germany was and is a lot better-governed than Afghanistan will ever be and that didn’t stop al-Qaeda from using it as a “safe haven” from which to plot attacks.