Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Congressional + Progressive + Afghanistan = Predictable Results

I just attended a Congressional Progressive Caucus event entitled Afghanistan: A Road Map for Progress "Historic Perspective on Afghanistan, its People and their Cultures" and found it to be pretty much exactly what you would expect from the title. Three experts discussed the topic, members of Congress stopped in briefly between votes to not listen to the experts and discuss how important they and this project are and how many times the have been to Afghanistan and how the military is not the answer.
The experts themselves weren't half bad. Afghani journalist Nabi Misdaq gave a very good introduction of Pashtunwali, which the Representatives should have been around for, preferably six or seven years ago. Kennedy Administration staffer William Polk discussed a book he wrote on how counter insurgency never works and so we should just get out now, saying "any increase of our presensce will not be effective," and that we are "asking for another Vietnam." Retired Foreign Service Officer Edmond McWilliams disagreed, saying we need a full-scale counter insurgency campaign in order to secure the population.
Missing was any direct discussion of actual policy, such as whether to go for the minimalist counterterrorism (CT) approach of merely trying to make sure Afghanistan does not fall back to being a safe haven for terrorists or to try the full-on, long term, expensive counterinsurgency (COIN) and trying to develop Afghanistan into a unified, democratic, functioning country. Too bad; a discussion of which option is more progressive would have actually been interesting.

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