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Quagmire Thinking

Michael Crowley catches Bruce Riedel offering this justification for ramping up the fight in Afghanistan:

The triumph of jihadism or the jihadism of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in driving NATO out of Afghanistan would resonate throughout the Islamic World.This would be a victory on par with the destruction of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. And, those moderates in the Islamic World who would say, no, we have to be moderate, we have to engage, would find themselves facing a real example. No, we just need to kill them, and we will drive them out. So I think the stakes are enormous.

Riedel isn't some nobody. He led the White House's Afghanistan review earlier this year. Crowley says that "this rationale carries more weight at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. than people realize," and if that's true, then color me terrified. This is the sort of thinking that makes it impossible to abandon Afghanistan if the fight looks unwinnable, because the mission itself is to prove that the fight is not unwinnable. This is the kind of thinking, in other words, that leads to quagmires.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 27, 2009; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Afghanistan  
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We should just accept that we're going to have bases in Afghanistan for at least the next 50 years, just like the U.S. Army bases here in frontier days.

The real question is what to do now that Al-Qaeda is moving to Somalia. There wasn't much appetite for sending soldiers there back in the 90s. How do we deal with this?

Posted by: bmull | August 27, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I guess Afghanistan really is the new Vietnam - this is the domino theory redux.

Posted by: ostap666 | August 27, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Call me naive, but I still think the war is winnable and I'm extremely heartened about our chances for victory when I hear the top commander in Afghanistan say things like this:

Posted by: y0ssar1an | August 27, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

i used to think that war was about the cost in human lives and suffering, the destruction of property and of the earth.
a friend of mine from afghanistan, said the other day, that if the russians could not win there, no-one can win there.
i thought this was going to be primarily a humanitarian effort, about rebuilding and education and aid.
after viet~nam and iraq, i cannot imagine how obama could possibly drag us into another bloody, terrible war.
with the economy suffering, so much discontent and anger, what a risk he will take to do this. besides, he will lose all of his support. the opposition to a full~blown war in afghanistan, with casualties and suffering, will be overwhelming.
i dont see how he can commit to a full-blown war in afghanistan.
it doesnt make sense.
it would be tragic.

Posted by: jkaren | August 27, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Obama appeared to be smart enough to have the insight that you can't defeat ideas with guns. How can you defeat even a guerilla group that can melt into Pakistan?

Could the sheer inertial weight of habitual military thinking be enough to drag Obama along? Perhaps. Pity us all if so.

Posted by: jozzer | August 27, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

How can I possibly be the first person to make the in-poor-taste-joke: "Giggidy!"

Posted by: MosBen | August 27, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, I'm just not buying it. The jihadists will spin anything as a victory and the only way around that is to kill every man, woman, and child in the area so no human could make that claim.

Since we're not going to do that, someone will make that claim, it will resonate with some people, and in a couple of months it will be forgotten and the region will be back to it's Islamic purity and poverty of material goods and thought.

Posted by: satrap | August 28, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

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