Thursday, January 22, 2009

Muddling through ain't no way to conduct a war

The Politico has an excellent article today about the problems confronting the new president with some speculation on how the Obama Administration might handle them. The most interesting part was the section on Afghanistan:


The new president has strongly signaled that he thinks the answer is yes. But neither his rhetoric nor his policy proposals so far have fully reckoned with the implications.

If he intends to win in Afghanistan, he is not going to be a Peacemaker President. To the contrary, he is committing himself to being just as much of a War President as George W. Bush, certainly for the first term and very possibly for a potential second.

Most military experts think a decisive win in Afghanistan — as opposed to a muddle-through strategy leading to a gradual withdrawal —will involve a major surge in troops and a willingness to tolerate high costs and high casualties.

...Joe Biden’s first trip abroad as vice President-elect included a stop in Afghanistan. When he returned home, he told Obama: “The truth is that things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they’re going to get better.”

If that’s true, Obama may in the end find muddle-through more attractive than victory.

"Muddle-through" is a recipe for disaster. War cannot be won unless there is a commitment to victory. "Muddle-through" was the formula Johnson used in Vietnam and it was the formula Bush used in Iraq before he finally committed enough troops and resources to win. We have been muddling through for far too long in Afghanistan and we run the risk of throwing the whole theatre of operations away. If Afghanistan is lost, or even if the deterioration continues without resolution, we run the risk of greater destabilization of neighboring (and nuclear) Pakistan.