Tom Friedman says we need a lighter footprint in Afghanistan, offering some arguments I disagree with, but an observation about costs and benefits that I endorse: “China, Russia and Al Qaeda all love the idea of America doing a long, slow bleed in Afghanistan. I don’t.”
Meanwhile, as I’ve observed before, Rep Jane Harman (D-CA) is normally a very hawkish Democrat but seems quite skeptical about Afghanistan. She elaborated on her view yesterday talking with Matt Duss:
Stan Collender also did a nice piece on why Fred Hiatt is out of his mind when he thinks that deficits induced by Afghanistan-related expenditures somehow don’t count in the budgetary scheme. Some people worry about deficits because of concerns about their actual economic impact. Others — like, it seems, Hiatt — only like to talk about deficits as a reason for why we should cut Social Security benefits. Other deficit control measures, from the health care bill in the senate to the idea that we should fight fewer wars, are dismissed out of hand.
Meanwhile, Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti, and James Risen report that for all the shiny talk about counterinsurgency the CIA has been running an old-school operation in Afghanistan, paying bribes to Hamid Karzai’s opium trafficking brother “for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.” Leading COIN theorists do not approve but this raises, in a very pointed way, the issue of whether COIN-in-practice stands any realistic chance of resembling the theory and rhetoric.