Monday, October 6, 2008

Winning In Afghanistan

Developments in Obama's war the United States must win took an interesting turn, as Talibanis sat down with representatives of President Karzai's elected government in Saudi Arabia. This seems to be a development from earlier use of King Saud as an intermediary in discussions between the Taliban and the Afghan government led by President Karzai.

Now that the word is out that the Taliban have parted company with Osama, the theory of winning has become interesting. Is the conflict in Afghanistan about the ascendancy of Islamist militancy (a fight in which the U.S. has a dog), or is it now a conflict about which Afghan factions will collect taxes, in which case presumably Obama's thesis has weakened?

This piece suggests that Obama's position on Afghanistan isn't based on a theory of how to achieve victory, but on the recognition that in the post-9/11 United States one needs to claim to win a war to get elected.

The pessimistic view that U.S. soldiers can't attain victory in Afghanistan at any force size may be misplaced. If the Taliban have sworn off the export of terrorism and will talk terms with the legitimate government of Afghanistan, there may be peace without surrender on the horizon -- a peace that we didn't win with bullets, but which was made possible by refusing to allow the elected government to be overrun by bandits.

In the end, didn't we all know the only way for freedom to exist anywhere is for people to demand it? If Afghani or Iraqi people aren't willing to draw a line in the parched earth and refuse to be bullied beyond it, they will be bullied into the sea the moment we pull up our tent stakes and there's nothing we can do about it regardless how much blood we spill before we come home. Freedom is a condition that persists in the face of oppression only when enough people refuse to live on their knees, and make it clear they will die before being pushed aside. Oppression faces the Middle East from would-be Islamofascist governors in Iran, nameless apparent anarchists bent on blowing up progress where elections give women rights, and long-time autocrats carefully tending police states all over the region.

The question is whether the Middle East has enough good people left after all these years to do what's right for their children. The United States can't offer fee-free police protection across the globe forever. The whole mission was predicated on the notion that locals preferred liberty to oppression.

Now it's time to find out if that belief was warranted.

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