The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


All presidents inherit problems—often significant problems. Donald Trump is no exception. His reversal on the Afghan war and his proposed approach to it may be well-intentioned, but I believe it's doomed to failure or at best, a prescription for a never-ending American presence that accomplishes little.

The 17-year "war" in Afghanistan is, in my view, an intractable problem. The Islamic extremists (i.e., the Taliban) in Afghanistan, coupled with a uniquely tribal culture, difficult geography, a corrupt government, and a powerful Muslim neighbor (Pakistan) makes any attempt at solving the problem almost impossible. Soviet brutality didn't work to defeat the Taliban in the 1980s, our presence after 9/11 was far too sensitive to local participation (often duplicitous) and also failed, and the past administration's passive aggressive approach in the country did little. It's not clear that the strategy proposed by Trump and his military team will work to achieve a "change in conditions" on the ground.

Ralph Peters comments:
We have a magnificent, well-led military, but rare is the general who understands the economic principle of “sunk costs,” that you can’t redeem a bad investment by investing even more. When money is gone, it’s gone. The same applies to lives.

A fundamental problem in Afghanistan is that Americans have been dying for a woefully corrupt succession of governments in Kabul for which young Afghans have been unwilling to die. Our new strategy includes a tougher line on corruption, but the damage has been done. What seemed expedient to ignore turned fatal.

Our self-absorbed counter-insurgency strategy assumes that the people will rally around the government we support. But that didn’t happen in South Vietnam, and it didn’t happen in Afghanistan. In both cases, a flood of American wealth turned petty thieves into crime bosses with cabinet posts, while the national army stumbled along and the common man with an empty purse had faint hope of justice.

In Afghanistan, illiterate farmers in remote valleys see their country far more clearly than we do.

As for justice, the Taliban’s religious courts provide it, free of change. It may not be our kind of justice, but it’s better than brazen theft by local officials backed by Kabul. The Taliban are barbaric, woman-hating pederasts, but they’re the home team for Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority, fighting for religious truth, Sharia justice and the Islamist way.
To be blunt, Afghanistan is a cesspool of Islamist tribes that cannot be trusted as allies. It is a prima facie case of "sunk costs."

Trump's statement that we out of the national building business is laudable. Hiss policy of putting pressure on Pakistan is a good one. His suggestion that we develop closer tied to India is also strategically sound. And it may be that we'll have to keep a small presence in Afghanistan to coordinate pin-point attacks on Islamic terror groups and the Taliban when they are visible. But Afghanistan is a no-win place. Any additional investment of lives and treasure is highly questionable.