Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Case for Staying in Afghanistan

It feels good to be smart.  We all want it.  We all want to be experts, just as we all want to be rockstars and superstar athletes and sexy pornstars that everyone wants to sleep with.  Unfortunately, that's just not the case for the vast majority of us.  And whereas it's obvious to people when they're not rockstars or athletes or pornstars, too many people fall into the delusion that they're experts.  That they have some piece of inside information that the majority of folks don't know, and this is what sets them apart from the rest of the heap of humanity.

But...this is simply a delusion and becoming an expert isn't as simple as making up your own facts or agreeing with people who you think are experts.  No, being an expert takes hard work and just as we can't all play guitar like Jimi Hendrix or slamdunk like Michael Jordan, we can't all know what we're talking about.  And if you go stumbling through life imagining yourself to be an expert, then you probably aren't one.  Sorry, but that's just life.

And so I had to laugh when reading about Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and saw this comment at TPM:
10,000 is definitely not enough at this point. I understand the fear that some may have about violence breaking out again with a more significant draw down and the instability it may cause, but Afghanistan is going to have to do it on its own at this point. The country needs to transition from the "nation builder" model that the neo-cons wanted us to be, and move into the arena of military activity that netted us OBL.
Ah, of course.  Obama has been working on this plan for some time, with the best military experts who have real world experience both in managing troops and understanding the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, yet Hobbes83 knows this isn't enough.   Damn, why couldn't the Pentagon have hired him?

And hey, I'm not trying to pick on Hobbes, but come on.  This is a dumb comment.  Seriously.  There's no real thought behind this at all, as it's nothing more than a confirmation of what he was already thinking.

Fixing What You Broke

And what bugs me about all this is the people who insist that we need to leave immediately as if that's the liberal pro-peace position.  But it's not.  We're not there because we're war-monger invaders exploiting their country.  We're there because we invaded and are now responsible for fixing the country.  Those are the rules: You break it, you bought it.

Now, if someone wants to argue that we simply can't afford to fix their country, that's fine.  That's an argument I can understand.  But that's not a liberal argument.  That's not in support of peace.  Because if we leave, there won't be peace.  There will be fighting and death.  Sure, it won't be American lives or American money being lost, and it might even be less violent than it is now.  But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that peace will break out the moment we leave.  That's simply not the case.  There will be violence whether we're there or not, and our purpose there is to make it as painless as possible.

And so we're pulling out 10,000 troops now and another 23,000 by next summer. That's the plan drawn up by the experts we've got.  And maybe they're full of shit war-mongers who simply like killing people.  And maybe Obama's a sellout who won't remove all the troops for political purposes.  Or maybe this is the best plan possible and it'd be better for the world if we put more troops in.  I don't know.  I'm not a psychic or a military expert, so I'm not in a position to say.  I'm a smart fricking guy, but even I've got my limitations.

But I will say this: If we had unlimited funds and an all-volunteer army willing to do the job, I think we should stay.  While I always opposed the Iraq War and am glad we're still on track for our withdrawal there, I always supported the war in Afghanistan.  Partly, that's because Afghanistan's leaders were responsible for attacking us and Iraq wasn't, and partly because Iraq had a stable government and Afghanistan didn't.  And I believe that all humans have a right to a decent society and truly believe that America could help that become a reality.

That's what liberalism is all about, and if we're pulling out of Afghanistan because it's too costly for money and men, that's fine.  If we must, we must.  I'm a pragmatic liberal and don't believe in fighting fights I can't win.  But we still must remember what liberalism really is, and it's not just about helping America or opposing all military interventions.  It's about helping everyone, and sometimes a military intervention can do that.

If the troubles in Afghanistan are too much for us to handle, we should leave.  But that's not to say we should like it.


Lancelot Link said...

"Partly, that's because Afghanistan's leaders were responsible for attacking us"
Actually, no, they weren't. The problem was, they protected the people who were responsible.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Not to be endorsing the Bush Doctrine or anything, Lancelot; but in this case, I'm not sure there's a real distinction. It'd be one thing if Al Qaeda hadn't had training camps in Afghanistan or if they hadn't already had a history of attacking us. But in this case, the Taliban wasn't merely giving them asylum. They had played a functional role in allowing Al Qaeda to continually attack us. To act as if they weren't intentionally facilitating Al Qaeda's attacks on us is a touch naive.

Davis X. Machina said...

Someday, maybe not in your lifetime or mine, there'll be a supra-national body, tasked by the nations of the world to send in what amount to the receivers-in-possession, or at least a fire brigade, when a nation-state is seriously destructive towards its own people, or its neighbors.

After a lot of jaw-jaw, of course.

We could call it 'the United Nations' or something equally inspiring.

Until then, though, the only logical policy is a reflexive defense of the Westphalian nation-state. Because that's worked so well this far...

Mike Kay said...


The nutroots have become the mirror image of the teabaggers.

The teabaggers believe government can't do any good in the US.

The nutbaggers believe the government can't do any good overseas.

Thankfully, the nutroots do not represent the actual base of voters who cast ballots in snowy presidential primaries.