There’s many stances Thomas Friedman has taken over the years that I’m really not crazy about. He’s pulled several about-faces on the Iraq conflict to be sure. But he’s one of the smartest writers out there, and I feel he’s dead right about the Afghanistan surge: It’s not a long-term solution. And with this McChrystal SNAFU bombarding the media, Friedman has another shot to lay out his thoughts on our presence in Afghanistan.
The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it — or had the courage to pull the plug. That is not a sufficient reason to take the country deeper into war in the most inhospitable terrain in the world. You know you’re in trouble when you’re in a war in which the only party whose objectives are clear, whose rhetoric is consistent and whose will to fight never seems to diminish is your enemy: the Taliban.
Which brings up this simple question, the one that made me most opposed to this surge: What do we win if we win? At least in Iraq, if we eventually produce a decent democratizing government, we will, at enormous cost, have changed the politics in a great Arab capital in the heart of the Arab Muslim world. That can have wide resonance. Change Afghanistan at enormous cost and you’ve changed Afghanistan — period. Afghanistan does not resonate.
Friedman’s bottom line is that who ever we have in command, whether it be McChrystal or another 4-star general that doesn’t blab to Rolling Stone, if we can’t answer the easy questions it doesn’t really matter.