Saturday, October 10, 2009


A while back, General Stanley McChrystal gave a speech that created a little flap about whether he was putting too much pressure on the President to endorse his strategy. Less noticed, but called out here by Joe Klein, was his assessment of how difficult it is going to be to defeat the Taliban:
He gave two examples. The first was digging a well: "How could you do anything wrong by digging a well to give people clean water?" Well, you could create new enemies by where you dug the well and who controlled it. You could lose a village by trying to help it. And then there was the matter of what he called COIN mathematics. If there are 10 Taliban and you kill two, how many do you have left? Eight, perhaps. Or there might be two, because six of the remaining eight decide it's just not worth fighting anymore. Or you might have 20 because the brothers and cousins of the two dead fighters decide to take vengeance. "When I am asked what approach we should take in Afghanistan," General Stanley McChrystal concluded, "I say humility."
But sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan isn't humility, it's hubris. We cannot, and I say absolutely cannot no matter how many troops we send, turn Afghanistan into some kind of model democratic state. It's a fairy tale. We may, if we hang around long enough, see a decline in violence for a while, but then few wars stay hot continuously for a decade. We cannot resolve the underlying conflicts. We should be focusing all our attention on getting out as fast as possible.

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