Thursday, December 10, 2009

Afghanistan "Surge" (2)

Gene Lyons is a bit more optimistic about the prospects of Obama's plans in the Afghanistan War than I am. But that's partially because he assumes that Obama is looking for an exit strategy. But Gene emphasizes that the whole Afghanistan Surge is based on a shaky faith in the triumphalist interpretation of the 2007 "surge" in Iraq:

Petraeus, of course, conceived and executed the vaunted 2007 "surge" in Iraq that's touted as the Bush administration's greatest (perhaps only) success in that misbegotten war. While the strategy's ultimate success won't be known until U.S. combat forces actually leave Iraq, it's seemingly made an orderly withdrawal possible, which appears to be all Obama hopes for in Afghanistan -- an interval of relative stability enabling the Karzai government to get its act together.

Or not, which is where things could get tricky. Reportedly, Gen. Petraeus cautioned Obama to think of the current Afghan government as essentially "a crime syndicate." That is, a hierarchical, semi-conspiratorial organization based on tribal and familial loyalties rather than abstract ideals of patriotism or public service -- basically the only way Afghan society has ever run, and realistically the only way it's going to function after Americans leave. ...

The success of Obama's plan further hinges on Pakistan's ability to confront jihadist elements on its side of the border. Essentially, the president is like a poker player trying to draw to an inside straight, gambling that his troop buildup can buy enough time to bribe Taliban fighters motivated by dislike of foreign invaders more than jihad into changing sides, another Afghan tradition.

It's definitely a long shot. The hopeful part of Obama's policy, however, resides precisely in the calculated ambiguity of the July 2011 date.
And Gene Lyon's view is very much on the optimistic edge of a realist view of the prospects.

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