I just have an uneasy feeling that this is too similar to the policy discussions Johnson went through, except those were mainly out of public view and these are not. The whole notion that we can speed up the training of the Afghan armed forces and this will do the job is unrealistic—another numbers game. I guess not being in the meetings puncturing balloons is what is really frustrating me. That and the fact that nobody seems to factor in our moral obligation to the Afghan people. We abandoned them twice. Will this be the third time? What does that say about us? It seems more convenient to equate [President] Karzai with the Afghan people. Maybe it will all come out for the best—but the process, and what I see from the outside being discussed so far, doesn’t pass my gut check.
The outcome of the Afghan struggle is ultimately going to be determined not by our unilateral actions or geopolitical moves, but by whom the Afghan people wind up supporting, even reluctantly. Vietnam—Lesson One.
I'm having difficulty discovering my sense of our moral obligation to the Afghan people above and beyond the obligation all wealthy, powerful peoples have toward those who aren't. We're at war because Afghanistan's Taliban government nurtured and empowered a terrorist movement that mounted a devastating attack against the United States. President Bush's 2001 intervention was for our sake, not Afghanistan's. If we had focused more single-mindedly on the Taliban rather than going to war in Iraq as well, the situation might be better today, or perhaps not. Afghans are famously resistant to foreign influence and manipulation. As President Bush once understood, nation- and democracy-building should not be the goal of U.S. military and foreign policy. As far as I'm concerned, Obama should have just one question for his panel of experts, whoever they are: "What's the best way to decrease the chances that another terrorist movement or attack against us or our interests emanates from Afghanistan?"