Friday, August 21, 2009

Peters' Latest on Afghanistan

Ralph Peters has a new article up on Afghanistan, "Blood Investments," which I think is one of the best he's written. As many are doing, he questions our strategy in that country, and makes some key points, drawing a clear analogy to business investment decisions.
Consider Afghanistan as an investment proposition. Initially, we had to make a short-term outlay to shatter a cut-throat competitor's business model. But then, without even reviewing the books, we conducted a hostile takeover of a huge derelict factory (where our rival had briefly squatted) that had been a chronic money pit for every previous owner. 

As we try to modernize the Afghan plant, local managers steal us blind and the workers sabotage our efforts. Even if we break the Taliban "union," the labor is unskilled and the product line is worthless. We'll have to subsidize this factory forever. 

Does that make sense to you?
He asks again what many wonder. Just what exactly do we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan? And is it worth it?
Our troops can beat the Taliban every time, and we can remain in Afghanistan as long as we want, but where's the return on our investment?
Here's his conclusion,
We shouldn't leave Afghanistan entirely. But we need to balance our investment with the potential return, maintaining a compact, lethal force to continue killing our enemies. But let's not sacrifice more soldiers because our leaders decline to think things through.

In war, soldiers die. But our soldiers shouldn't die because politicians put less thought into our wars than you put into your retirement account.
I highly recommend the whole article. Although I don't always agree with Peters, I think his criticism of our lack of a coherent Afghanistan strategy is right on the mark, and somewhat unusual in that it comes from the right. Most on the right support President Obama's escalation of the war, even as they oppose almost all his other policies. But this support is misplaced, and based mainly on reflexive patriotism, hope that a surge in forces will produce similar results to Iraq, and of course the desire for victory.  In my opinion, these beliefs tend to obscure the fact that Afghanistan is much different that Iraq, and that hope & support for higher troop levels isn't a substitute for a strategy based on well-thought out and defined U.S. national interests. If such a strategy exists, it has yet to be articulated by the Obama administration, any more than it was by his predecessor.

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