Sunday, September 6, 2009

George Will Calls for Withdrawal from Afghanistan - Is Thomas Friedman Next?

This past week George Will wrote a piece advocating the beginning of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it definitely stirred up the journalism establishment to question anew the wisdom of Obama's policy there.

On Friday, the latest bad news came with reports that NATO and/or the United States military had dropped two 500-pound bombs on fuel tankers that had gotten stuck trying to cross the Kunduz River. According to today's Times (here), Afghan civilians had gathered around the trucks (which had earlier been hijacked by the Taliban) and were trying to siphon fuel from them. Reports are saying that between 70 and 130 civilians were killed.

Also in today's Times, Thomas Friedman (who I think has been a long-time supporter of the effort in Afghanistan) writes about the danger of expanding US forces there (the piece is here). He analogizes to the decision to adopt a baby:

"We are going from a limited mission focused on baby-sitting Afghanistan — no matter how awful its government — in order to prevent an Al Qaeda return to adopting Afghanistan as our state-building project...

[Nation-building in Afghanistan] may still be worth doing, but one thing I know for sure, it must be debated anew. This is a much bigger undertaking than we originally signed up for.

Before we adopt a new baby — Afghanistan — we need to have a new national discussion about this project: what it will cost, how much time it could take, what U.S. interests make it compelling, and, most of all, who is going to oversee this policy?

I feel a vast and rising ambivalence about this in the American public today, and adopting a baby you are ambivalent about is a prescription for disaster."

General Stanley A. McChrystal is the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and he continues to get overwhelmingly positive (Petraeus-like) portrayals in the press. Knowing that we have a respected leader in charge -- at least -- is somewhat reassuring.

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