Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thomas Friedman on "The Class Too Dumb To Quit"

In this morning's Times, Thomas Friedman praises the US officers -- many of whom are on their third, fourth, or fifth deployment to Iraq and/or Afghanistan -- who are leading the current American surge in southern Afghanistan. The piece is here.

Friedman says that one of the key insights of the officers was to focus less on the number of enemies killed in action and instead focus on "R.B."s (relationships-built):
"One relationship built with an Iraqi or Afghan mayor or imam or insurgent was worth so much more than one K.I.A. Relationships bring intelligence; they bring cooperation. One good relationship can save the lives of dozens of soldiers and civilians."
Unfortunately, Friedman argues, the nation-building project on which the Obama Administration is embarking (by way of its expansion of the US role in Afghanistan) will be extremely long and difficult, and Friedman doubts whether the US public will have the patience and willpower to see it through.

Friedman's analysis is spot-on. Americans are unlikely to support the Afghan surge for long, particularly in light of the various domestic reform projects (health care, climate policy, financial regulation) on which Obama also wants to focus.

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