Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank You, Cliff

I read this Letter to the Editor in the Sun which started out defending our troops from a claim that we're "swaggering around...with loaded weapons" and continued to spell out why -- and how -- Afghanistan is different from Vietnam. I started to wonder if Cliff Krieger was the author, so I scanned right to the bottom and saw that he was.

Obviously, Afghanistan is not a simple policy problem. Many smart people have dedicated countless hours thinking about the way forward, and they can't all come to consensus. That's because any proposed solution is going to come with tons of 2nd- and 3rd-order effects that we have to try to foresee and maneuver around ahead of time.

I find there are two equally idiotic ways forward that (sort of) come from the right, and the left, respectively. The first is the people who say, "Why can't we just drop a whole bunch of nukes on them and turn the country into a parking lot." That's terribly stupid, inhumane, and would give the rest of the world a righteous reason to hate us for generations to come. The second is the mirror-image of the first, which is some variant of, "Let's just pull everyone and everything out immediately, and leave those people to their own devices." That definitely comes from a FAR better place than the first, but to me it seems equally stupid, equally inhumane, and equally likely to lead to generations of resentment from yet another set of allies we'd leave twisting in the wind.

And you know what the funny thing about people who say the first (let's nuke 'em) and the second (let's abandon 'em) have in common?

Those type of statements never come from people who've been on the ground in Afghanistan or are close to those who have.

Because the people actually doing the work realize that it's never that simple.

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