Friday, September 18, 2009

Analogizing the Afghanistan War

Reasoning and arguing by analogy has been a dilemma for American foreign policy, as Jeffrey Record has explained at some length in his books Making War, Thinking History: Munich, Vietnam, and Presidential Uses of Force from Korea to Kosovo (2002) and The Specter of Munich: Reconsidering the Lessons of Appeasing Hitler (2007). Learning from historical experiences means at some level making judgments about what situations do present analogies from which we can gain perspective. But in practice, analogies that become major symbols can also lead to shallow and stereotyped thinking.

Besides the "Munich analogy" and the "Vietnam analogy", we also know have the "Iraq analogy", even though the war is still going on. These two takes on those analogies are very worthwhile: Juan Cole, Is Afghanistan Vietnam or Iraq? Arguing with Obama and Rubin Informed Comment 09/17/09 and Tom Hayden, What is Obama's real plan for Afghanistan? 09/14/09. Cole's explanation of what happened in 2007-8 in Iraq, when the Shi'a largely won at least that round of the Sunni-Shi'a civil war there and how they did it, is particularly interesting in light of how the Republicans have adopted the magic of The Surge to justify destructive and highly risky counterinsurgency wars.

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