Benchmarking Afghanistan War: Who Wants to Stay and Who Wants to Get Out

The Afghanistan Study Group has issued an interactive chart on key opinion leaders and their views on how far America's limbs should be plunged into the Afghanistan quagmire.  The US is currently on target to spend $119 billion in Afghanistan, which itself only has a GDP of $14 billion.

Although the Republicans rejected Senator Harry Reid's efforts to count as "savings" future unspent monies if the US was to draw down force levels in Afghanistan, it is clear that the Afghanistan War is now a big blinking red ink light in any serious future budget scenarios.

All charts have their flaws.  For instance, even though I helped found the Afghanistan Study Group, folks who put this chart together have me just one ring away from Bill O'Reilly and two from Thomas Friedman.  Not sure that's right -- but that's what these charts are good for.

Folks who are on them look at them and then complain about the fine-tuning of whether they should be more or less in favor of escalating and/or staying a 'long time' in Afghanistan.

I'm where Chuck Hagel is basically -- though he is a ring away.

This chart was inspired by the "Morse Target" on Japan, which measured US policy wonks on how hard or soft they were on US-Japan trade policy.  Did people want to get tough on Japan -- or go easy?  Japan-hand Ron Morse developed the target which was then popularized and distributed by Mindy Kotler, now the Director of Asia Policy Point in Washington.

It would be interesting to keep these charts on file to see how they change over time.  Whether people (like me) move from one ring to another -- and whether those committed to a full-on, high bore engagement of US forces into Afghanistan become less and less populated in the center.  That's where Max Boot and Tim Pawlenty are now. 

I'm not sure Dick Cheney is so committed to this war actually -- he might be in the next ring rather than in the center.  That's what makes this interesting.  Look forward to your responses.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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