Wednesday 26 August 2009
An Afghan election worker rests on a ballot box. (Photo: Getty Images)
The official results of
As we continue to watch and wait for the final results, this focus on
Can't Get There From Here
In a primetime speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in
This strategy does sounds less grandiose than President George W. Bush's articulation of the
But whether the goal is an Afghan Marshall Plan that turns
In the VFW speech, Obama did acknowledge that "military power alone will not win this war" and he has dispensed with the Bush-moniker 'Global War on Terror." But he continues to rely on slightly upgraded (and very costly) versions of the same set of tools used by the Bush administration - troops on the ground, military training for Afghan security forces, and technology (especially drone strikes in Pakistan) - to "win" in Afghanistan.
Defining what success looks like is proving just as difficult in the 44th White House as it was in the 43rd. As Af-Pak Special Representative Richard Holbrooke said, "We'll know it when we see it." That is not an acceptable matrix for success - not when the price-tag is $177.5 billion and counting. Historic elections or no, Obama finds himself just as lost as any other would-be conqueror.
Disrupting, dismantling, and irrevocably defeating al-Qaeda and the Taliban cannot be done with remote-controlled drones, counter-insurgency forces, NATO troops, and private contractors training the Afghan security forces. It cannot be accomplished through increasing the number of doctors, dentists, and nutritionists in the country, or sending more city planners, engineers, and communication experts - all during an occupation and a war. Democracy, education for girls, development - none of these laudable and critical goals can be achieved through military operations or external efforts protected by military operations. They can be temporarily delivered. Elections can be held, schools can be built, and girls can be protected on the way to school. But this no more than photo-op, fleeting kind of change.
Rick Reyes, a retired Marine corporal who served as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently wrote in Roll Call magazine: "As a Corporal in the U.S. Marines - who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who remains willing to give my life for this country - let me say from experience that our current strategy will not bring security to Afghanistan or to America." U.S. military efforts, he continued, have created "too many civilian casualties, too many children without food and women without husbands, too many innocent Afghans becoming anti-American because of our action."
Being effective means beginning from a different position. We need to start by saying that the Taliban and al-Qaeda do not represent an existential threat to the
"Al-Qaeda consists of a few hundred people running around Pakistan, seeking to avoid detection and helping the Taliban when possible. It also has a disjointed network of fellow travelers around the globe who communicate over the internet," writes John Mueller, a professor at
Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate at The New
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs