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Humility in Afghanistan

Joe Klein's got a good column on Afghanistan this week that begins with an anecdote from a different part of Gen. McChrystal's now-famous speech:

A few weeks ago, a well-known U.S. military expert gave a wise speech about the near impossibility of making a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy work in Afghanistan. He gave two examples. The first was digging a well: "How could you do anything wrong by digging a well to give people clean water?" Well, you could create new enemies by where you dug the well and who controlled it. You could lose a village by trying to help it. And then there was the matter of what he called COIN mathematics. If there are 10 Taliban and you kill two, how many do you have left? Eight, perhaps. Or there might be two, because six of the remaining eight decide it's just not worth fighting anymore. Or you might have 20 because the brothers and cousins of the two dead fighters decide to take vengeance. "When I am asked what approach we should take in Afghanistan," General Stanley McChrystal concluded, "I say humility."

This is a funny kind of humility, though: it's humility towards a task of such scope, ambition, and difficulty that it has broken every superpower that attempted to complete it. It's not so much humility about our capacity to stabilize Afghanistan, secure it a functioning government, tamp down its drug trade, and leave it with a decently trained army so much as it is humility about our approach to those goals.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 9, 2009; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Afghanistan  
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Comments

Ezra, the Afghans don't have the money for a government or an army. They have a bunch of bullies who go around and dispense sharia law. We are going to have to pay for their government and their army. No way do the American people sign off on that.

When McChrystal says humility, that's actually bravado. He should say hopeless.
From what I've read about McChrystal, he's a shoot from the hip kind of guy. And he's been burned for it multiple times. The wrong leader for a hopeless war. We should draw down and go home.

Posted by: bmull | October 9, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I second bmull. For McChrystal to leak a report that should have gone to Gates and then from Gates to the President is unconscionable. Probably deserves firing.

Fareed Zakaria estimates the army/police force the Afghans would have to have would be 300% of current GDP. Seems unlikely that that model would work.

India is using its foreign aid to build power transmission lines and roads so Afghanistan has access to ports. Seems like a better way to make friends than bombing them.

Posted by: scott1959 | October 9, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

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