RepMan and I take pleasure in discussing geopolitical issues with each other. Though we agree on many issues, President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has led to the most profound disagreement we’ve had in recent memory. RepMan is staunchly against sending the troops while I am vociferously in favor of it. Though we have amicably agreed to disagree, our debate translates to the wider dispute throughout the nation. Getting this decision right will directly impact the image and reputation of our country and our president.
RepMan, like many Americans, opposes Obama’s escalation of the war for several valid reasons. First, he argues that if we couldn't win the war in eight years, why do we think we can now? Why continue to sacrifice young American lives? Second, RepMan points to the difficulty of sustaining attacks across the border into Pakistan. His third argument is that the liberal base will turn against Obama for escalating the war. Finally, perhaps the most convincing reason he cites is that the continuation of the war will drain more money from an already badly damaged American economy.
Rather than attempt to refute this logic, I believe one has to acknowledge it has a degree of validity. Yet when compared to the other end of the spectrum I am firmly in favor of the troop escalation. One must first recognize the war in Afghanistan is a war waged against both those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and their supporting ideology. The Bush administration, however, diverted the resources necessary to succeed away from Afghanistan and toward an irrational invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hence the reason we have not seen success in Afghanistan. Now, with Iraq beginning to stabilize and a competent American leader finally at the helm, we have the chance to rethink and formulate an approach to successfully wage the war. A pull out would destabilize the region, sink the country into bloody civil war and embolden a highly dangerous Islamic terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans.
Rather than allow that, Obama can set right what Bush so disastrously got wrong. Resources can now be allocated to the correct theater of war. Furthermore, a newly reworked and adopted military strategy stresses the protection of civilians which, in my opinion, is the only way to success. Instead of alienating the populace with indiscriminate drone strikes that kill civilians and insurgents alike, the proper course to victory is true nation building. Many politicians throw around the term “winning hearts and minds” as if it is easily attainable. Instead, it requires an investment of time and resources into the Afghan people who, in turn, will ultimately have to decide between radical Islam and Western civil rights. The only way to “win” this war is to facilitate a secure atmosphere in which such a choice can be safely made. The additional troops will provide that security, train the Afghan army to eventually take over, and simultaneously allow elite units to strike terrorist strongholds.
I very clearly understand why RepMan and many other Americans think a complete withdrawal is the best course of action. Yet, in the end, I believe a full scale withdrawal presents more problems than it solves. First, it would be a clear declaration that we have conceded defeat. An emboldened and reinvigorated Al Qaeda would wage a successful propaganda war and thereby win over many new adherents. And that, in the end, is the real problem. This is ultimately a war of ideologies, not of weapons. Islamic fundamentalism, not combated at its epicenter, would proliferate and gain ground. But, by making the necessary investment in time, material and lives, America may be able to provide safety to Afghan civilians, build the country’s infrastructure and provide the populace with education that does not revolve around extremism. That is no doubt a difficult task. It is also the only way to win the war. Obama rightly recognizes that we can no longer assume a vacillating posture. He saw that a complete pullout from Afghanistan would create more dangerous consequences than it would resolve. Now if I could only get RepMan to see that.