We Must Fight to Win in Afghanistan
By: Craig Chamberlain
General Stanley McChrystal has requested an additional 40,000 troops for and Afghan “surge” and has said that without the additional forces it is likely that our mission will fail. This isn’t earth shattering news, the request has been debated for months, and President Obama has yet to make a decision. The left, which proclaimed that Afghanistan was the necessary war, the war they would fight at all costs, are now proclaiming that it is time to change strategies. They want to get our troops out and rely on special forces and predator drones, while leaving the Afghan army alone to defend themselves against a resurgent Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
The right is no better. Men like George Will and Ralph Peters want us out of Afghanistan, now. This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone as both men are committed isolationists. Both argue that nation building is a complete waste of time in Afghanistan, and that since we can’t turn Afghanistan into a Jeffersonian republic our mission is a lost cause. Of course Peters also argued that Iraq was a lost cause, that the surge wouldn’t work, democracy wouldn’t survive a year, and that the best thing to do was find a pro American dictator and put him in charge. How’s that argument sound today?
Mr’s. Peters and Will are right when they point out that there is corruption in Afghanistan (we could make the same observation about our own government) and that it’s unlikely that a secular republic is going to take root in the Hindu Kush. The observation is right, but there argument is wrong. We didn’t go into Afghanistan to create Utopia. We didn’t go into Afghanistan to right all of the wrongs of Afghan society. We went into Afghanistan because the country was ruled by a bunch of bloodthirsty, medieval minded, barbarians, who allowed the country to operate as a base of operations for terrorist groups. In case anyone needs reminding one of these terrorist groups was Al-Qaeda who was able to stay safely in Afghanistan while they attacked America with impunity.
What the left and the right are essentially arguing is that we should go back to square one. That to leave Afghanistan is strategically permissible. If we leave, we are right back to where we started. The Taliban will be back in control, Al-Qaeda will have it’s base of operations back, and our troops will have fought and died for nothing. That might be ok for Vice President Biden, and Ralph Peters, but it shouldn’t be ok to the American people.
Yes, as George Will points out, we’ve been in Afghanistan for a long time. So what? Compared to other wars we’ve fought this one has been historically low in casualties. October was the bloodiest month in the entire war so far and we lost 55 soldiers. Tragic but hardly comparable to the thousands that died every week in World War Two, or the hundreds that died every week in Vietnam. Counterinsurgency takes time. It takes time to hunt down the terrorists, it takes time to get the native population on your side(that’s what the nation building is for) without them on our side we really would be fighting in vain.
If we leave what have we accomplished? All we show is that (once again) we are an unreliable ally(and I thought the Democrats were going to restore our reputation with the world) that we can’t take a long war, and that all you have to do is wait us out and you can beat the greatest military in the history of the world every time.
The terrorists get a major victory, a huge propaganda boost, and waves of new recruits who will be willing to fight the jihad. All this does is put more American lives in danger, and further destabilizes an already unstable region. We haven’t had a terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11, that’s because ever since then we’ve been fighting the terrorists on their ground, forcing them to go on the defensive. If we leave Afghanistan the terrorists will be free to go on the offensive as they will have sanctuary in Afghanistan to plan and launch their attacks.
And don’t deceive yourselves into thinking that the Afghan national army is capable of holding off the Taliban. They’re not. They have improved a great deal, but if we leave it will cripple what morale they have. Kandahar and Jalalabad will fall quickly, and the way to Kabul will be wide open. It won’t take them long for them to be back in power. We’ll be right back to where we started with an empowered terrorist network safe from enemy attack, free to attack us. How’s that a good thing?
Who cares if it’s slow work, or that the Afghan government isn’t a model for republican efficiency and competence? Those things are secondary. What we should care about is whether or not we are in command of the battlefield and whether we are preventing any new terrorist attacks. Currently we can answer both questions with “yes”, but that changes drastically if we leave, and then what. What good does it do to give the enemy the battlefield and what do we tell the American people when Al-Qaeda launches another attack from Afghanistan “sorry we just didn’t think it was worth the time to protect you.” Or ” We never dreamed that they would launch another attack.”
This fight is slow, but it’s worth it. It can’t be won by predator drones and it certainly can’t be won if we run away with our tail between our legs like George Will and Ralph Peters want us to do. The American people need to trust the troops and their commanders that they are capable of doing their job. If General McChrystal says another 40,000 troops are needed then we should send them. President Obama has wasted too much time as it is, a decision must be made. He can’t fiddle while Kabul burns.