Monday, September 28, 2009

New Thinkers Needed for Afghanistan

Let me get this straight: what we're doing in Afghanistan is not working; the President has been presented with options, basically double down or go for a minimalist approach; the leading commander in Afghanistan says we could be there for 100 years and still fail; we're promising continued support for Karzai even though the main problem is that Afghanistan's central government is corrupt, incompetent, and generally refuses to pull any weight; and the main argument for adding additional troops is that we tried the alternative (a "counter terrorism" approach) under Bush and it didn't work. Really? Only two options exist? The President is right to think about this one long and hard.
Where are the real alternative ideas? Better yet, where are the alternative thinkers, preferably someone under 50 who has actually been on the ground in Afghanistan without a huge protective escort. Gates, Jones, Petraeus, McChrystal, Holbrooke, Clinton, Riedel... all over 50. Is it any wonder that all of their reviews said basically the same thing -- Afghanistan is critical, but we can still win -- without offering a real strategy or real solutions?
Give me someone really outside the box. How about we make Joshua Foust think of solutions instead of criticizing others. Let's get Fred Kaplan in the room. Why isn't someone asking Katherine Tiedemann for new ideas? Ask Craig Mullaney what he would do. Maybe Greg Mortenson could add an outsider's opinion of what to do. For all the talk about how the Obama Administration is full of young go-getters his Afghanistan team is full of old retreads with the same old ideas. I'm far from the first person to say we aren't fighting an eight-year war in Afghanistan, we're fighting a one-year war eight times in a row. You think going back to the same ideas is going to break that cycle?
Fighting in Afghanistan will die down in a few weeks, as it does every winter. That gives us the luxury of a real debate for new ideas. We don't need another strategic review, we need a real strategy, and we should include new thinkers and new ideas in the debate.

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