Ramp-up in Afghanistan

Just as he promised in the campaign, President Obama is ratcheting up the American commitment in Afghanistan, doubling the number of troops there. The Prof and I talk a lot about Afghanistan on the show, because it’s such a fascinating country and crossroads and potential quagmire for foreign occupiers going back 1,000 years.

Kevin Drum, seeing this whole thing as the potential to Be Obama’s Vietnam, writes, “at a gut level something about this whole plan makes my blood run cold. It’s so McNamara-ish I can practically see him making the announcement in my mind’s eye.”

When pressed about the comparisons to the USSR’s decade-long effort to control Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesperson said (via The Plank):

And I would just further add that there’s absolutely no valid comparison between the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which was an occupation to control a country, repress a population, install their own sort of puppet leadership. We are there to, first and foremost, combat terrorism and protect our own interests and our own people from attack. But we’re also there to help the Afghan people and enable them to reclaim their country. There is absolutely no comparison that’s valid between the two.

That’s all well and true, but the real reason that the U.S. has a shot at pacifying Afghanistan is that there’s no global superpower arming the resistance, as we did with the mujahedeen in the 1980s (or as the Russians and Chinese did in Vietnam).

Unless, of course, that’s not true, and there is a country providing Taliban insurgents with funding and arms and making the war unwinnable. A nuclear-armed state, say, that shares a large, porous border with Afganistan.

Which brings us to the real rub: what to do about Pakistan. Joe Klein rounds up the “Af-Pak” strategy and finds the President’s approach acceptable on that score.

Wait and see, I guess.