Some very interesting walk-back from some of the more maximalist interpretations of yesterday. The war-aim does seem to be focused more minimally on al Qaeda (I suspect Obama would love to capture bin Laden) but with maximalist means - civilian, military, diplomatic, regional, Afghan, American. This is either a brilliant compromise or it will fall between two stools. Still, since I failed to predict the success of the surge, I don't really have much standing to warn of failure. The strategy also seems somewhat front-loaded. The Obamaites are going to join the battle this summer using somewhat different tactics and tools, see how they fare and regroup as winter approaches. Obama does have some off-ramps. My skepticism remains; but a chance to see if a smarter strategy - and a Pakistan-inclusive approach - works is not crazy. It would be great if we could avoid a resurgence of Islamist power there. My fear is that resisting it effectively may require a far deeper commitment than we can afford or that's consonant with wider national interest.
Peter Bergen also has an almost-moving piece defending intervention's possibilities in the NYT today. Peter knows what he's talking about, was opposed to the Iraq war, and deserves a real hearing. I ws, however, not that thriled to discover that Afghanistan has too been successfully occupied:
Since Alexander the Great, plenty of conquerors have subdued Afghanistan. In the early 13th century, Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes ravaged the country’s two major cities. And in 1504, Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, easily took the throne in Kabul. Even the humiliation of 1842 did not last. Three and a half decades later, the British initiated a punitive invasion and ultimately won the second Anglo-Afghan war, which gave them the right to determine Afghanistan’s foreign policy.
So we either act like Genghis Kahn (don't give Cheney any ideas) or we're there for decades of budget-draining occupation in order to "determine Afghanistan's foreign policy". Not exactly encouraging, Peter.
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