Thursday, October 15, 2009

"But It's NOT True"

My friend the Afghanistan watcher acknowledges that Dr. Pape is an expert on terrorists' motivations but not on Afghanistan, where Pape thinks we could battle terrorist threats by aligning from over the horizon with better-trained local forces:
Afghan militias were willing to align with us because we were moving in. To assume they would align with us, as Pape does, when we are moving out is beyond counter-intuitive, it's just dumb. Who does that!? Militias and people in general will align in ways to preserve themselves, and that NEVER includes associating with an absquatulating power perceived to be flinching against the local insurgency. Not that we're any good at picking and choosing the right sides, as demonstrated in 2001, but to assume anyone would want to align with us is just plain dumb. And, I hasten to add, taking the reduced counter-terrorist approach (as opposed to the more comprehensive counter-insurgency approach) still requires local support (it's only done purely with technical operations in video games and Hollywood movies). Where will those people be when we've gone?
Here's the entire issue for me: Is the terrorist threat in Afghanistan worth the continued commitment of U.S. ground forces and the risk to their lives? Here's the same question, put another way: If the Clinton administration had had 20-20 foresight about the attacks of Sept. 11 (not the specific details, obviously, but an understanding that a concerted, massive attack would emanate from the terrorist communities and training facilities in Afghanistan that we knew about at the time), could President Clinton have diminished or eliminated that threat without ground forces? If he could have, then why do we need the ground forces today (leaving aside the interests and needs of the Afghan people and especially their Taliban-harassed women)? What has changed about our ability to discern terrorist preparations from afar other than (one assumes) our pre-Sept. 11 tentativeness about acting on what we learn?

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