Obama Fights the Logic of Escalation in Afghanistan

I think there’s a good case to be made for something resembling the Obama administration’s approach to Afghanistan. The problem, however, is that it might not work. And I worry that if we run into problems, the administration will find itself caught up in the logic of escalation, which holds that if the initial effort to pour more resources in failed, then we need to pour even more resources in. I think that’s wrong. I think it’s smart to make an effort to put the kind of resources into Afghanistan that we should have sent in years ago. But if 12–18 months from now it’s not working, we need to scale back our goals not further escalate. That’s why I was glad to see Obama talking about benchmarks on Friday, and very glad to read this from Amanda Terkel:

Today in an interview with CBS’s Bob Schieffer, Obama underscored this point. He pointed out that the reason he has increased troops in Afghanistan is because levels there are “greatly underresourced.” However, he is not going to “simply assume that more troops always result in an improved situation.”

Watch the clip:


He says specifically that “just because we needed to ramp up from the greatly underresourced levels that we had doesn’t automatically mean that, if this strategy doesn’t work, that what’s needed is even more troops.” I think that’s exactly right. There’s reason to believe that this will work, but if it doesn’t work we don’t want to keep trying the same thing. This is very heartening stuff. I still wonder if this kind of clear thinking will hold up once we’re deeper into the situation, but for now the thinking is clear and that’s important.