OK, be clear…
…but you'll have to try again, because clarity seems to have eluded you this time. Adam Bink writes at Open Left…
Let me be clear: I'm for having the necessary amount of troops on the ground to win the war, within reason. My problem is with the Administration's refusal to lay out what is victory and how we will achieve it.Of course, it's not really fair to pick on Mr. Bink. It wouldn't take long to come up with a list of similar expressions, but his is both timely and exemplary. It's based, I think, on the longstanding progressive critique of the Bush/Rumsfeld administration's abandonment of the "good" war in Afghanistan in favor if the Iraqi adventure. It's a critique that President Obama himself advanced during his campaign, and has been the base of his policy in office. As the conditions on the ground have changed over a period of eight years, though, it's led too many to the kind of self-contradiction expressed above.
How, I wonder, can you be in favor of having any force, necessary and/or reasonable, if you don't first know what victory is and how we will achieve it. Isn't the size of the force, it's need and rationality, dependent on the goal, the definition of victory?
They say the memory is the second thing to go, and I'm getting on, but as I remember we entered Afghanistan with three identifiable and arguably defensible goals. The first was to destroy it's capacity as a training and operational base for Al Qaeda. We accomplished that swiftly and handily. The second was to punish the Taliban government that had given them safe harbor by deposing them. That, too, was the matter of a brief and decisive battle. Finally, in the wake of an unconscionable attack on American sovereign territory and the death and destruction attendant to those attacks, we set out to kill or capture as much of the Al Qaeda high command as possible, and in particular their spokesman, strategist and financier, Osama Bin Laden.
The second goal, though apparently swiftly achieved, continues to be a stumbling block for adherents of the disgraced former Secretary of State Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn rule." The rule fails in Afghanistan, though, because we didn't break it. It's been broken for centuries, and centuries of outside interference have caused the debris to spread far beyond Afghani borders. Some of it spilled into ours, and we swept it out of our path. If Afghanistan were to organize itself in such a way that it could accept and distribute humanitarian aid, it would certainly be a candidate with other countries that receive American largesse, whether publicly or privately provided. The level of American military force that would be required in order to effect and enforce such an organization of Afghanistan, though, in time, treasure and blood, would defy any possible conception of "within reason." Its impossibility, by the same token, renders its need moot. We didn't break it. We needn't buy it. And we're only making it worse.
Still there's concern. AT Vet Voice, Richard Smith expresses some of the resulting frustration, writing that…
...the status quo is unacceptable, and allowing a Taliban faction which would again allow al-Qaeda free operation is as as well.Smith's hardly the only one concerned that the Taliban are the most, or the only, likely candidate to fill the vacuum of an allied withdrawal. Less often mentioned, it seems, is what that says about the prospects for any "victory" that would produce a Taliban-free Afghanistan. Why anyone, especially the Taliban themselves, who have been the direct targets of the shock and awe of American brute force, would imagine that they would, or could, "again allow al-Qaeda free operation" particularly puzzles me. Any Afghani government should by now be very aware that.
Finally, there's Osama. The missed and missing target. The guy Bush let go when he went after Saddam. While killing or capturing Bin Laden and his leadership cadre wouldn't address any of the actual causes of international fundamentalist terror, it would produce the promised pony that so many Americans have shoveled so much manure in search of. The problem with the search for Osama et al is that it's no longer an Afghani problem, but a Pakistani problem, and his presence in Pakistan, ostensibly an American ally, presents a different, and in some ways more difficult, set of problems. None of those problems can be solved by sending more Americans to kill more Afghanis who will in turn kill more Americans.
The "necessary" number of troops approximates zero. Victory seems to looks just like withdrawal.
The right way in Afghanistan is out.