The Wrong Force for the ‘Right War’
By BARTLE BREESE BULL, New York Times, August 15, 2008
BARACK OBAMA and John McCain have plenty of disagreements, but one thing they are united on is promising a troop surge in Afghanistan. Senator McCain wants to move troops to Afghanistan from the Middle East, conditional on continued progress in Iraq. Senator Obama goes much further, arguing that we should have sent last year’s surge to Afghanistan, not Iraq, that Afghanistan is the “central front” and that we must rebuild Afghanistan from the bottom up along the lines of the Marshall Plan.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on board, too. He has endorsed a $20 billion plan to increase substantially the size of Afghanistan’s army, as well as the role and numbers of Western troops there to aid it. Polls show that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with the idea of an Afghan surge. A recent Time magazine cover anointed the fighting there as “The Right War.”
But what are the real prospects for turning fractious, impoverished Afghanistan into an orderly and prosperous nation and a potential ally of the United States? What true American interests are being insufficiently advanced or defended in its remote deserts and mountains? And even if these interests are really so broad, are they deliverable at an acceptable price? The answers to these questions put the wisdom of an Afghan surge into great question.
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