From CSIS: ‘Schieffer Series-A Discussion Of U.S. Policy In Afghanistan’

Full video here.  Anthony Cordesman and some thoughtful journalists have a discussion.

Matthew Hoh’s resignation here.

Stanley McChrystal’s original report here.

Still looking for alternative strategies beyond graceful exit (potentially without meeting our security goals) or further troop commitment that would meet the Afghan people and protect our interests (and our moral commitment to the Afghans but only through our military)…your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:  From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In AfghanistanFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

From The New Yorker-‘Close Read: Resigning Over Afghanistan’

Full post here.

I’m a little wary of the people who will use Matthew Hoh’s resignation (included at the link) to tell us “I told you so,” or to avoid the depth of the reasons we’re there.  In fact, at the very least, it should be incumbent upon all of us with any doubts to come up with other strategies to deal with the threats we face.  There are young men in the Arab world (from relatively successful all the way down to failed states), rallying to the cry of Islam’s defense.  I see many sources of continued conflict, and many points of contact, and also many opportunities for understanding.  Not just ‘understanding,’ as some would use it, but hard fought, hard won, vigorously debated ideas that require sacrifice on everyone’s part.

That’s enough glibness from me.

Related On This Site:  From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In AfghanistanFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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From Foreign Policy: Fabrice Pothier’s ‘Time For An Afghan Surge’

Full article here:

There are some good ideas, and suggestions at cooperation:

“For too long, the West has thrown troops and money at Afghanistan, without any clearly articulated objectives for the mission.”

And thinking on McChrystal’s report (who is also the head of NATO command):

“The real story is what the report only indirectly alludes to and what has been seldom debated until the electoral crisis: the Afghan political “context” in which Afghans will be given reasons to bet on their government rather than sit on the fence or support the Taliban.”

But it also seems to be a suggestion on how to pull out as gracefully as possible.   In fact, I suspect European public opinion may be even lower for the war right now that American public opinion.

But what about American national security interests?  European interests?

Islam is the main glue that unites the tribes together, likely deeper than most national interests.  The Taliban are Muslims, but also warlords.   This country has been in and out of war for decades.  It’s not exactly clear what Afghan opinion is of the Taliban, but I’m open to ideas on how to create a government that could work to serve the people in some way, as this is probably our deepest moral commitment to the Afghan people.

There is also enough anger and resentment across the Muslim world (for many reasons, some valid) that Afghanistan became a training ground for a radical, extreme and violent defense of Islam.   Such problems obviously can’t be addressed by U.S. and NATO military operations alone (think of all the points of contact), but neither are such problems fully addressed by a pull-out either…

…unless I’m missing something.

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From The Christian Science Monitor Via A & L Daily: An Interview With Francis Fukuyama

Full interview here.

So to Robert Kagan, Fukuyama might argue:

“…the pessimism about civilization that we had developed as a result of the terrible 20th century, with its genocides, gulags, and world wars, was actually not the whole picture at all. In fact, there were a lot of positive trends going on in the world, including the spread of democracy where there had been dictatorship. Sam Huntington called this “the third wave.”‘

And (particularly with Russia in mind):

“Clearly, that big surge toward democracy went as far as it could. Now there is a backlash against it in some places. But that doesn’t mean the larger trend is not still toward democracy”

Fukuyama also points out on what he bases much of his thinking; extending Samuel Huntington’s framework:

“Huntington’s argument was that democracy, individualism, and human rights are not universal, but reflections of culture rooted in Western Christendom. While that is true historically, these values have grown beyond their origins.”

And what about China?:

“You cannot solve the problem of the “bad emperor” through moral suasion. And China has had some pretty bad emperors over the centuries. Without procedural accountability, you can never establish real accountability.”

You can teach people to be moral in this argument, and instill moral values, but without levers and counter-levers, we’re only a step away from tyranny.

Related On This Site:  Kagan’s new book “The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams” seeks to challenge Fukuyama’s thinking…does it succeed?: Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Stanley Kurtz suggested Fukuyama’s Hegelian influence is too much to bear:  From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington

Also:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonA Few Thoughts On (Absolute) Idealism, Both Religious And Political/Philosophical

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From Outlook India Via A & L Daily: An Interview With Amartya Sen

Full interview here.

“I am a friend of the Left and my politics has been on the Left, but sometimes it’s difficult to recognise what is Left, what is Right. I am in favour of fighting today’s battles rather than yesterday’s battles. I think this gut anti-Americanism—don’t make it the headline (laughs)—is a problem. It is a minor problem, but one of the reasons why the Left cannot liberate itself from the Cold War. It made sense at some stage to oppose America for various reasons. But I think gut anti-Americanism is certainly pulling the Left back now.”

Of course, that’s the Indian left.  It seems that if you think deeply enough, you think through a lot of party ideas.  Yet, those ideas run deep in your own mind and childhood, and maybe you never stop really stop wrestling with them.

If you’re more familiar with Sen’s work, feel free to comment.

Also On This Site: Certainly the work he and Martha Nussbaum did is to better the quality of life in India, and create more economic opportunity there, but is there also global left-leaning international platform being built too…are these the best ideas to understand the range of American political and philosophical traditions?:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

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Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’

Full post here.

Journalism, of course, is going through some major changes, and Shafer puts his finger one of the main problems on the rising influence of nonprofit journalism:

“Nonprofit outlets almost always measure their success in terms of influence, not audience, because their customers are the donors who’ve donated cash to influence politics, promote justice, or otherwise build a better world.”

Slate, of course, is for profit, and its idealism at least must meet the demands of the market:

“To borrow a tidy phrase from the business world, donors to nonprofits seek not payouts from their investment but psychic income.”

As Shafer points out, such idealism comes with costs (the Christian Science Monitor is nonprofit for example…and provides good reporting but may still want something from you, despite its depth).

Even NPR isn’t excluded, as Shafer quotes James Ledbetter:

“[NPR’s] quirky mission statement stabs at the coarseness of modern American life; it reads almost as if it were written by a team of existential psychologists. NPR pledged it would “serve the individual: it will promote personal growth; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy rather than with derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of active, constructive participation rather than apathetic helplessness.

What was that again?

It’s not that NPR doesn’t provide quality coverage (and the most popular argument being ‘better than the the mindless inanity on the rest of the radio’) but it’s simply that such idealism comes with other costs.  As Shafer’s argument goes, perhaps as in a bureuacracy, under such ideals and vague language huddle all sorts of people protected from the demands of the market…which regular newspapers had to deal with in the past before many of them also became overtly ideological and also had to deal with the internet.

Personally, I get worried when I listen to NPR and hear the moral good too easily confused with politics, or an artist’s actual achievement confused with social programs that will be promoted on the taxpayer’s dime…and whose efficacy is questionable.

When was the last time you saw a for-profit company not showing a public face of moral concern for some cause anyways?

Also On This Site:   Idealism is working at for profit companies too, like Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty:  Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?Who Reads The Newspapers?

Classic Yellow Journalism by malik2moon

Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon

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From Newsweek: Henry Kissinger ‘Deployments And Diplomacy’

Full article here.

“The prevailing strategy in Afghanistan is based on the classic anti-insurrection doctrine: to build a central government, commit it to the improvement of the lives of its people, and then protect the population until that government’s own forces are able, with our training, to take over.”

But despite our efforts (we have been misallocating resources…largely due to the Iraq War ), the central government we helped to build is mired in corruption. And I suspect it isn’t just the Karzai government that’s corrupt, but the corruption is due to other more fundamental issues which our military may not be able to address.  The basic levels of national identity, economic and educational development as well as infrastructure (the ring road?) may not have been met to build a functioning government for which the worst Afghans can lay down their weapons (or be forced to by an Afghan military)

Kissinger finishes with:

“For the immediate future, it is essential to avoid another wrenching domestic division and to conduct the inevitable debate with respect for its complexity and the stark choices confronting our country.”

But our domestic political divisions include a reasonable debate about whether or not the broader goals (a viable Afghan government, or something holding Afghanistan together beyond the Taliban’s version of Islam) can be reached by the military (and those who likely have the best understanding of what’s going on on the ground).

It’s still stark…and can any sitting U.S. president allow the chance of Al-Qaeda (and even Bin Laden) to come back…?

Addition:  Pakistani troops take action in South Waziristan.

Related On This Site:  From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In AfghanistanFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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George Packer At The New Yorker: ‘Why Rufus Phillips Matters’

Full article here.

“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.”

Well, our unilateral actions and geopolitical moves will affect the outcome…but as Rufus Phillips argues, maybe not as much, and in the ways, we think.  There are those who bristle at any Vietnam comparison, because too many abuse it for their own reasons.  

Also On This Site:  From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In Afghanistan’From John Richardson at Esquire: Six Signs That Afghanistan Could Be Another VietnamFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

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From World Affairs Via A & L Daily: Jagdish Bagwhati’s ‘Feeble Critiques: Capitalism’s Petty Detractors’

Full article here.

Bagwhati is a professor at Columbia, and claims Americans need to regain social mobility against the tide of current populists (on the left), thriving during the recession:

“Capitalism works best when those who do not succeed, and are buffeted by the vicissitudes of life, still believe in success—believe that those who do succeed put their wealth to good use, and do not merely engage in self-indulgence. Remember that the Calvinists and the Jains of Gujerat accumulated wealth but spent it not on themselves but on promoting social good.”

So we need moral lights (religious), or at least moral sacrifice on the part of those who are successful.  But, do you get into bed with organized religion politically as a practical matter?  How closely?  What about where individualism, religious idealism, and politics meet?

Bagwhati does have to adjust to the current political landscape a bit as well:

“We have to respond by improving education and by relieving anxiety through reforms that make health care part of a basic provision for the poor. These reforms strengthen capitalism. Without them, the economic populists will enjoy a success that they do not deserve.”

Politically, it’s very difficult to go against some form of health-care bill, and rising costs are a problem.  Do you have to beat the public option’s supporters at their own game?  

Also On This Site:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis…A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

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From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’

Full post here.

The third post in a row on Afghanistan…:

I suspect some on the political right unequivocally support any plan, though many reasonable people support McChrystal’s thinking, which should be given a chance to succeed they argue, and is designed to correct 8 years of misallocated resources and misguided strategy.  Some on the left support the equality of opportunity for women (as in the video above, which is well done and reported)…perhaps even enough that some could be convinced to support the war.  

Here’s a quote by Samuel Huntington, which might shed some light:

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.

So…why does the Taliban keep coming back?  What political, social, and economic conditions allow for this to happen?  Where is Afghan public support strong enough to prevent the kind of Islamic rule supported by the Taliban and set up their own governance, if a majority of Afghans, in fact, reject the Taliban (or at least their reactionary form of Islam)?

What common goals and mutual interests do Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States share that justifies our military presence in the face of these odds?  

Addition:  What can we do to alter our strategy to address the threat of radical Islamic terrorism that finds a home in Afghanistan?

Also On This Site:  From The Washington Post: Andrew Bacevich ‘Let’s Beat the Extremists Like We Beat the Soviets’From Foreign Policy: ‘Evaluating Progress In Afghanistan-Pakistan’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In Afghanistan’

Anthony Cordesman At CSIS: Resourcing For Defeat

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