Questions about Afghanistan
Now that President Obama has committed 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, it might be a good time to revisit some basic questions about what the hell we're supposedly doing there.
i) Isn't it kind of crazy to think that the U.S. can transform the nation of Afghanistan into something we like better?
ii) Even if we assume we can turn a pre-industrial tribal society into a stable developed country, it's going to take a really long time. The official line is that we're there to defeat terrorism by making the people like us better than the terrorists. It seems like this strategy has a major flaw: People hate having us around! We're making enemies in Afghanistan at least as fast as we're making friends. There's a long history of colonial powers bringing technological, institutional, and economic progress (insert scare quotes, if you like) and being reviled anyway. Why should we assume that the Afghans will ultimately be more grateful to the U.S. than resentful? It seems like we're creating at least as many terrorists as we're mollifying.
iii) Afghanistan is a huge and largely empty country. Even if we succeed beyond our wildest dreams, how can we be sure that Al Qaeda won't set up training camps in remote locales anyway, regardless of what the central government thinks?
iv) Is this just whack-a-mole? NATO has driven al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but they just relocated to Pakistan. If anything, that seems like a worse outcome. Pakistan is a politically unstable regime with nuclear weapons.
v) Isn't our continued presence in Afghanistan a recruiting beacon for al Qaeda? Their core brand idea is kicking Americans out of Muslim countries. They got their start attracting young men from the Middle East to kick out the Soviets. Aren't we just repeating the pattern, and thereby assuring their continued relevance? I bet there's a lot more popular support for kicking out occupying armies than there is for suicide terrorist attacks on the model of 9/11.