Afghanistan

Afghan Realism

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As both liberals and neocons push for a greater American commitment to nation-building in Afghanistan, Benjamin Friedman disputes their premises:

Democrats argue that Bush has neglected Afghanistan and that its stability and US security require a bigger, better state-building effort. This is backward….

Defending American interests in Afghanistan requires nothing more than ensuring the absence of a haven for international terrorists and making an example of those who provide one. Those two reasonable goals justified the war in Afghanistan, unlike the Iraq war.

If the latter goal should fail, US forces can target terrorist camps and supporters through raids and airstrikes guided by intelligence, even if Taliban militias gain power in some regions. Those missions do not require a huge force structure, or that Afghanistan become a modern nation, a democratic one, or even stable.

Friedman isn't optimistic: "Instead of this realistic approach, the next president will probably move to expand a never-ending war meant to assert the control of a statelet in Kabul over an unruly territory. Afghanistan is full of arms and grievances. It lacks the basics of statehood: a road network, a working national energy grid, widespread patriotism, and tax collection. The notion that a 25 percent increase of Western forces and investment is enough to transform Afghanistan into a peaceful, centralized state shows idealism of stunning tenacity."

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  1. Didn’t the Soviets try that & we all know how well that worked out for them.

  2. I agree with Friedman. The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are very much inverse.

  3. Which is to say that we probably haven’t done much damage to Afghanistan. Although, like Iraq, it’s probably not possible to do much more.

  4. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 I wanted to carpet bomb Kabul. More and more, it seems that my initial reaction would have been the best course. If they misbehave, fuck ’em up and go home. Attempting to create a modern state out of the offal that is Afghanistan is a fool’s errand.

    Let them revert to the 8th century. It’s not that much of a journey.

  5. Friedman makes some good points, but there is also the matter of pulling people out of a river vs. stopping them from falling in in the first place.

    If Afghanistan reverts to the failed-state status that pervailed prior to the Taliban taking over, that could make it much more likely that the actual threat that justified the war to arise. Terrorist groups could re-establish themselves there, either in the absence of a government that can run them out, or with the active or passibe support of another jihadist government.

    That said, we’d better come up with a better strategy than nation-building a central government, because that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Maybe there really isn’t anything more we can do than whack the moles as they pop up.

  6. Dear Art–P.O.G.

    Suppose your village was bombed by the U.S. because someone said your village was harboring El-Qaeda Terrorists? But the terrorists had left a few hours before the bombing, and the bombs ended up killing your wife and kids instead? Under such circumstances, would you feel that “We probably haven’t done much damage.?

  7. The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are very much inverse

    I’d say they’re pretty similar.

    The problem with Afghanistan is nationhood trying to be forced upon people. The fact that warlords/governors exist pretty much means that the locals want some kind of autonomy and outsiders want to force a supreme central government over them. You’ve got the same militia dynamic happening in Iraq.

    Meanwhile, you’ve got no living people in the US who can remember living at a time when the central government was subservient to the states, and you’ve got European nations slowly losing power to the EU.

  8. If we would just get the fuck off the Afganis’ backs about the god damn poppies they’d be so busy raking in the cash and farming we wouldn’t have to worry about them. And as for the Taliban coming back–the Taliban didn’t really care for opium, and if the Afganis were now making a mint off it there’s no way they’d let the Taliban return.

  9. Can’t we make a desert and call it peace?

  10. Can’t we make a desert and call it peace?

    Sorry to be a Classics nazi, but the “Rome makes a desert and calls it peace” quote is from Tacitus, who coincidentally is an ancient ancestor of Taktix?

  11. Well, they do have one major road now, as I recall. I believe it was finished last year.

    Amsuingly, as many people here no doubt already know, the single best thing we could do for Afghanistan is to legalize drugs. The current gov’t, with its dependence on the U.S. cannot condone opium/heroin production, but it’s the perfect cash crop for Afghanis because they have so much less exposure to governance than farmers in other countries. The tension between farmers and Karzai gives the Taliban both support and cash flow. Legalization would end their cash stream by reducing those huge profit margins and stop pushing farmers away from the gov’t.

  12. Uh, Taktix, it was actually said by Calgacus and recorded by Tacitus.

    I guess I’m the classics nazi. Where are my five hookers?

  13. I have no enthusiasm for nation building, but I can imagine why, in such a place as Afghanistan, living in a small area more or less under American control would be better than living in “unruly territory”, “full of arms and grievances” and brutal fanaticism but lacking a road network, a working energy grid, etc.

    I think of the corruption and conditions in certain African nations that’s so bad it makes people seek Sharia as a relief, and it makes me wonder.

    Yeah, I’m no fan of cultural imperialism, but if it did any good anywhere, I’d doubt it would be in a place that recently enjoyed a relatively decent standard of living. Maybe the best place for “nation building” (if that’s what we want to call it) is where the stark example of life under our enemies is painfully obvious to everyone.

  14. Seems like we’re headed toward the bad end anticipated as one possibility in the satire On The Steppes of Central Asia, which was set in Mongolia.

  15. quote is from Tacitus

    I plead correctness on a technicality, as I simply said it was “from Tacitus” not “spoken by Tacitus.”

    To be fair, we’ll split the hookers, which half of the fifth one do you want?

  16. You see how we’re all discussing this reaonably, even though we have very different ideas about the situation and what to do about it?

    That’s what happens when you 1) make sure you have a genuine, deeply-held consent from the public before going to war, 2) base that consent on non-made-up facts, and 3) DON’T spend several years working to make that war into a wedge issue as part of a domestic partisan strategy.

    FDR and Marshall understood this. Bush and Rove didn’t.

  17. Maybe the best place for “nation building” (if that’s what we want to call it) is where the stark example of life under our enemies is painfully obvious to everyone.

    This is where that tricky definition of “is” comes into play…

  18. Someone stick a dirk in joe and see if he’s done.

  19. Suppose your village was bombed by the U.S. because someone said your village was harboring El-Qaeda Terrorists? But the terrorists had left a few hours before the bombing, and the bombs ended up killing your wife and kids instead? Under such circumstances, would you feel that “We probably haven’t done much damage.?

    If my village were harboring Al Qaeda terrorists, I would have the sense to get the fuck out before the bombs start dropping.

  20. You see how we’re all discussing this reaonably, even though we have very different ideas about the situation and what to do about it?

    Yes, it’s much harder for lefties to make the place Osama bin Laden called home a political football.

    That’s what happens when you 1) make sure you have a genuine, deeply-held consent from the public before going to war,

    You mean like 72% support?

    2) base that consent on non-made-up facts

    You mean like the consensus of the world’s intelligence agencies?

    3) DON’T spend several years working to make that war into a wedge issue as part of a domestic partisan strateg

    I hope Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi are listening, but I doubt it.

  21. The problem with Afghanistan is nationhood trying to be forced upon people. The fact that warlords/governors exist pretty much means that the locals want some kind of autonomy and outsiders want to force a supreme central government over them. You’ve got the same militia dynamic happening in Iraq.

    The best solution is a feudal arrangements where local warlords maintain autonomy and send tribute to Kabul.

  22. The problems in Afghanistan run very very deep. They have little conception of freedom.

    Remember when that Afghan converted to Christianity? He had to leave the country because everyone wanted to kill him. And those are the good guys.

    We have the same choice as in Iraq: we can stay and try to help them make the country better, or leave and watch the extremists take over portions of the country, from which they will likely attempt more attacks like 9/11.

  23. “Amusingly, as many people here no doubt already know, the single best thing we could do for Afghanistan is to legalize drugs.”

    Before you can legalize something, don’t you need a legal system?

    Do farmers in Afghanistan run into big legal problems with their poppy production? I thought production was going through the roof.

  24. Do farmers in Afghanistan run into big legal problems with their poppy production?

    They do when we and the EU burn their fields and spray pesticides. Which we do.

  25. Do farmers in Afghanistan run into big legal problems with their poppy production?

    Well, again, that’s part of the problem. The major reason why Afghani farmers are more likely to grow poppies than, say, farmers in Indiana or Greece is that the government has so little influence over what they do.

    But the Karzai gov’t has to at least pretend to oppose it, due mainly to our elected idiots in Washington, and so they periodically raid someone to make a nice show of taking our idiots seriously.

  26. Episiarch

    Your point about the poppies is a good one. I know it has been suggested to the Canadian government that they simply buy the poppies directly from the Afghanis, cutting the Taliban and the drug lords out of the process and gaining a supply of opium base for medications. However, both the Harper government and the Kabul City Council Afghan Government have rejected this option.

  27. We have the same choice as in Iraq: we can stay and try to help them make the country better, or leave and watch the extremists take over portions of the country, from which they will likely attempt more attacks like 9/11.

    You can’t bomb every hidey-hole in the world, and unless you do it won’t much matter whether the terr’rists hole up in Afghanistan, Libya, El Salvador or Montana.

    Can you say ‘whack-a-mole’?

    Also, I hear that families don’t much appreciate it when you kill their family members in pursuit of “rooting out terror.” Pisses ’em off, makes ’em radical and terr’risty.

  28. But the Karzai gov’t has to at least pretend to oppose it, due mainly to our elected idiots in Washington, and so they periodically raid someone to make a nice show of taking our idiots seriously.

    Isn’t that the M.O. of any local law enforcement agency?

  29. Isn’t that the M.O. of any local law enforcement agency?

    For the War on Drugs, yes. I doubt there are many people involved who really think they’re making a difference anymore.

    You can’t bomb every hidey-hole in the world, and unless you do it won’t much matter whether the terr’rists hole up in Afghanistan, Libya, El Salvador or Montana.

    Exactly, which is why you need to build free societies instead of bombing countries endlessly as we did until 2001.

    Also, I hear that families don’t much appreciate it when you kill their family members in pursuit of “rooting out terror.” Pisses ’em off, makes ’em radical and terr’risty.

    Again, very true, which is why we need local combat outposts from which soldiers can build personal relationships with locals and help defend them, rather than bombing from 50,000 feet.

  30. I think TallDave was proposing the legalization of drugs in the U.S. That would mean we could quit hassling several countries, including Afghanistan, to reduce or eliminate the production of what is actually a very useful crop. We would also cut the funding for illegal narcotics, which presently fuels drug-lord and terrorism related unrest all over the world.

    Oh, and the WoD isn’t working.

  31. Yes, it’s much harder for lefties to make the place Osama bin Laden called home a political football

    Uh huh, the lefties. You know, those darn lefties. Like the ones who scheduled the AUMF vote just before the elections. Or the ones who kept throwing around words like “coward,” “appeaser,” and “traitor” when people raised objections. If only they’d accepted the olive branches the administration kept offering!

    You mean like 72% support? No, I mean like the 35% support the invasion had BEFORE IT BEGAN. Three way split – invade now, don’t invade, and wait-n-see – was what the polls were showing throughout 2002.

    You mean like the consensus of the world’s intelligence agencies? No, I mean like actual evidence, as opposed to forging documents and redacting all of the qualifications and objections in the intelligence reports you selecitively declassify.

    Who, exactly, do you think you are fooling here? Everybody reading this remembers the political situation in the run-up to the war.

  32. The evidence is being fixed around TallDave’s narrative about the war.

  33. Or the ones who kept throwing around words like “coward,” “appeaser,” and “traitor” when people raised objections.

    Yeah, I remember that Bush speech where he called anyone against the war a cowardly traitorous appeaser. Oh wait that didn’t happen — but Ted Kennedy claimed the war was cooked up for political gain, and Dick Durbin compared Bush to the Nazis.

    No, I mean like actual evidence

    There was lots of evidence. Hence, the consensus.

    Who, exactly, do you think you are fooling here? Everybody reading this remembers the political situation in the run-up to the war.

    Apparently you don’t. We had large majorities in favor of military action. Even Hillary voted for it.

  34. joe, you are right, but by bringing it up you just turn it into an Iraq thread. And yes, you are right about Iraq, but it isn’t worth arguing about Iraq because the only people who are still willing to argue in favor of the war are the stupidest people on the planet. And they aren’t worth arguing with.

  35. because the only people who are still willing to argue in favor of the war are the stupidest people on the planet.

    See? People against the war can discuss the topic reasonably.

  36. Can we get back to the poppies and opium now?

  37. Yes, TallDave, we can. You can’t.

  38. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 I wanted to carpet bomb Kabul. More and more, it seems that my initial reaction would have been the best course.

    Umm, J sub D, you do realize that obliterating a city full of noncombatants, rather than bombing the terrorist training camps where the actual terrorists were largely located, would be expensive and counterproductive (and arguably an unlibertarian initiation of force), likely causing the survivors to become terrorists themselves?

    I mean, I had the same initial reaction, but gut reactions are no substitute for calm reflection upon likely consequences — unless you’re the pundit played by Stephen Colbert.

  39. In other words: I’m rubber you’re glue! Na na na na!

  40. That wasn’t my intent, thoreau, but given the understandable defensiveness in some quarters at this point, I probably sould have realized that it would inevitably become one.

  41. [I]t isn’t worth arguing about Iraq because the only people who are still willing to argue in favor of the war are the stupidest people on the planet. And they aren’t worth arguing with.

    You ought to just post this on every Iraq thread that gets contentious.

  42. Can we get back to the poppies and opium now?

    There are poppies and opium available ?

    Oh you meant just talking about poppies and opium? Bummer!

  43. joe, the problem is that at this point the only people willing to defend the war are either morons, amoral, or bloodthirsty. Everybody else has figured out that this thing was not worth it.

    Yes, TallDave, some things really are that cut and dried. The sun will rise in the east, and the war was a bloody and unjustifiable mistake. Deal with it.

  44. given the understandable defensiveness in some quarters at this point

    Yes, I can understand your defensiveness at having your ridiculous statements debunked.

    People can discuss Afghanistan reasonably because it polls well. If it didn’t, you’d be telling us how Bush ruined everything.

  45. joe, the problem is that at this point the only people willing to defend the war are either morons, amoral, or bloodthirsty.

    I don’t know where anyone gets the idea we can’t discuss the war reasonably.

    The sun will rise in the east, and the war was a bloody and unjustifiable mistake.

    Then why do most Iraqis say it was the right decision?

  46. the problem is that at this point the only people willing to defend the war are either morons, amoral, or bloodthirsty.

    Iraq is a necessary stepping stone to support the removal of the current Saudi government. Talking about Iran is merely a smokescreen for the true goal of dominating the middle east and securing oil for our grandchildren.

  47. Oh you meant just talking about poppies and opium? Bummer!

    Well, talking about it is good. I’ll take a Vicodin shortly, and then I won’t just be talking about it.

    But I think this thread is well and fully joeDave-jacked.

  48. There are poppies and opium available ?

    Dude, two words — internship program.

    Hey come on, this is Reason after all.

  49. . . . fully joe {any-of-usual-suspects} jacked . . .

    The common element of all war-related threadjaking is joe.

  50. Defensive, TallDave?

    Political junkies watching their opponents being case onto the scrap heap of history are many things, but “defensive” is not among them.

  51. Since this is a rather ho-hum day on the Reason blog, allow me to link to a critique of Reason by Kevin Michael Grace: http://www.affbrainwash.com/archives/010004.php

  52. Then why do most Iraqis say it was the right decision?

    Um, because the Iraqis who think it was the wrong decision are too busy killing us and each other to sit down and answer poll questions?

  53. TallDave | April 4, 2008, 2:06pm | #

    In other words: I’m rubber you’re glue! Na na na na!

    TallDave | April 4, 2008, 2:11pm | #

    given the understandable defensiveness in some quarters at this point

    Yes, I can understand your defensiveness at having your ridiculous statements debunked.

  54. The war in Iraq will end as soon as one of the democratic candidates takes office next January. The police action to protect the human rights of some chosen ethnic minority in Iraq will commence the next day.

  55. it’s so nice to see that progressives and pro-war libertarians can agree that at least SOME wars are good wars. even more touching is the faith you share in BushCo’s honesty in the run-up to Afghanistan (in an aside… it’s amazing that they became such liars right before Iraq, huh?)

    Joe is certain that we all remember the political climate pre-Afghanistan… when there was “consensus” that invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do ’cause those dirty Taliban bastards wouldn’t hand over the practically-convicted mass murderer Bin Laden. AND they blew up a couple Buddah statues.

    I guess we all also remember that the Taliban indicated their willingness to extradite Bin Laden?
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2001/11/03/extradite.htm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1539468.stm

    And that we had nothing to give them, aside from assurances that we were “sure” he was guilty?
    http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/fugitives/laden.htm (where’s the 9/11 attack on this page, which was revised in November of 2001?)
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A29666-2001Nov14&notFound=true

    Why, any civilized country in the world would extradite a terrorist based on such rock solid evidence (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6637481.stm)!

    fact is, folks, we were sold an invasion of a weak enemy based on flimsy evidence to satiate the bloodlust of folks like J sub D.

    Bin Laden and Al Qaida may have inflicted great damage on 9/11 but they were not, and are not, threats to “national security.” They may be a threat to the personal safety of us citizens, but what politician really gives a crap about an individual life here and there?

  56. LOL Once again, joe demonstrates an inability to grasp irony.

  57. Political junkies watching their opponents being case onto the scrap heap of history are many things, but “defensive” is not among them

    It’s good to have a rich fantasy life, I guess.

  58. Um, because the Iraqis who think it was the wrong decision are too busy killing us and each other to sit down and answer poll questions?

    That’s odd, we currently have some of the lowest casualties of the conflict, both among Iraqis and our troops. And casualties this month, even with the Basra operation, are 1/7th the average of the Hussein era.

  59. joe, the problem is that at this point the only people willing to defend the war are either morons, amoral, or bloodthirsty.

    Well, many are, obviously. But a much larger problem is that they are, in a sense, very intellectually disciplined. They have a skill at making themselves believe or not believe things based purely on whether it advances the narrative they want to project.

    For example, I don’t think TallDave is pretending to believe that Democrats spent the two years after 9/11 striving to make war and terrorism into wedge issues, while the Repubicans worked to build a broad bipartisan consensus. I think he actually remembers it that way.

  60. I’m sorry, I think I’ve missed a big chunk of Iraq debate over the past six months or so, but am I to understand people are still arguing about whether the Iraqis are glad we bombed, invaded and occupied them?

    Really?!

    There’s no question about whether we’re glad we bombed, invaded and occupied them, is there? …I mean, are there still people out there who think everything’s going according to plan?!

  61. Here’s some examples of the process of being tossed onto the scrap heap of history:

    A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010 … In “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010

    Success?!!?! He must be one of those amoral bloodhthirsty delusional people I was reading about in the thread.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/washington/04intel.html?_r=1&ex=1364961600&en=879990604b508c80&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=login

    A new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq cites significant security improvements and progress toward healing sectarian political rifts,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/washington/04intel.html?_r=1&ex=1364961600&en=879990604b508c80&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=login

  62. Oh, it’s going to plan all right, Ken.

  63. am I to understand people are still arguing about whether the Iraqis are glad we bombed, invaded and occupied them?

    It may seem hard to believe, given the news coverage, but a majority of Iraqis believe the decision to invade was right. Most also say their lives are going well.

  64. TallDave is pretending to believe that Democrats spent the two years after 9/11 striving to make war and terrorism into wedge issues, while the Repubicans worked to build a broad bipartisan consensus

    Republicans campaigned on Iraq when it was popular, Democrats campaigned on it when it wasn’t. Politics.

  65. …I mean, are there still people out there who think everything’s going according to plan?!

    I don’t think we exactly planned for Afghanistan to be going the way it is either.

    There’s an old saying about plans and contact with the enemy…

  66. Another perfect example:

    A week ago, TallDave spent an entire thread arguing against the adjustment of polling data to known demographic figures, when the population that was sampled doesn’t reflect those figures.

    Now, he links to a poll which recoded a 49% yes response, but which is adjusted to cut the number of Sunnnis in half, in order to make it look better.

    When we denounced this procedure, he believed every single word he wrote.

    And now, he believes exactly the opposite.

    It’s a discipline, it takes effort, and he’s willing to make that effort.

    THAT is the intellectual failure to keep your eye on, thoreau. There are plenty of insane people, bloodthirsty people, and morons who have figured out that things aren’t going well in Iraq.

  67. would you feel that “We probably haven’t done much damage.?

    Well, I’m used to looking at things from the perspective of the Army. We don’t bomb people from 20,000 feet (that’s the Air Force). Not to downplay the fact that, frankly, shit happens. I’d likely say the same thing if I were the victim of friendly fire.

  68. It’s a discipline, it takes effort, and he’s willing to make that effort.

    It’s called paying attention to reality.

    No one who knows anything about Iraq believes there are 30% Sunni Arabs; you can check every population estimate online.

    The other situation is different. Pollsters in the U.S. are split over whether adjustments based on party make sense.

    Nice try though joe. But the delusion is, as usual, in your head not mine.

  69. I’m not arguing with you, TallDave.

    You don’t realize it, but you’re not one of the scientists anymore.

    You’re the lab rat.

  70. Also, even without the adjustment, it’s still about half. Given the statements by those opposed that the war was absolutely, beyond any debate, a mistake, you would expect to find it closer to 90% saying it was the wrong decision.

  71. You don’t realize it, but you’re not one of the scientists anymore. You’re the lab rat.

    I don’t know where anyone gets the idea people can’t discuss Iraq reasonably.

    Well, you stick with your style, I’ll keep pointing out the facts.

  72. I’m not trying to be glib. I know war’s a terrible thing, but given Afghanistan’s history, I think its people are probably less horrified by American bombs and bullets than 90% of the world.

  73. The fact that warlords/governors exist pretty much means that the locals want some kind of autonomy and outsiders want to force a supreme central government over them. You’ve got the same militia dynamic happening in Iraq.

    I don’t think anyone really knows or cares what the “locals” want. I think the whole warlord/militia dynamic has a lot more to do with a power vacuum being perpetuated and maintained by local strongmen for their own benefit than it does any kind of Jeffersonian devolution of power.

  74. TallDave:

    Was Iraqi government an active threat to the citizens and cities of the US in 2003? Yes or no and please explain why,

  75. I have a cunning plan.

  76. Well, you stick with your style, I’ll keep pointing out the facts.

    And we’ll keep taking notes, and discussing amongst ourselves how to avoid such a sad fate.

  77. I’ve been waiting for joe and TallDave to tangle on Iraq. Finally!

  78. So, anyone seen RCP lately?

  79. Funny, ProGLib, cuz I think you’re probably a member of a punning clan.

  80. the only people willing to defend the war are either morons, amoral, or bloodthirsty

    With such crystalline logic presented, why bother, fellas?

  81. Pro Libertate | April 4, 2008, 3:08pm | #

    I have a cunning plan.

    If it by any chance involves standing at dockside in Kabul with a flower behind your ear, it won’t work.

    Afghanistan is landlocked.

  82. thoreau @ 2:09pm

    Amen, brother.

    QTMFT

  83. Wrong, highnumber, and not quite, Aresen. No, my cunning plan is this: Colonize Afghanistan.

  84. Exactly, which is why you need to build free societies

    I can remember a time when social engineering was a term of derision in libertarian circles.

  85. Also, I hear that families don’t much appreciate it when you kill their family members in pursuit of “rooting out terror.” Pisses ’em off, makes ’em radical and terr’risty.

    So how many families were radicalized by the bombing of Dresden- nevermind Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

  86. Umm, J sub D, you do realize that obliterating a city full of noncombatants, rather than bombing the terrorist training camps where the actual terrorists were largely located, would be expensive and counterproductive (and arguably an unlibertarian initiation of force), likely causing the survivors to become terrorists themselves?

    How many survivors of Dresden became terrorists?

    How many survivors of Hiroshima and Ngasaki became terrorists?

  87. Defending American interests in Afghanistan requires nothing more than ensuring the absence of a haven for international terrorists and making an example of those who provide one. Those two reasonable goals justified the war in Afghanistan, unlike the Iraq war.

    Wait, wait, wait, “ensuring the absence of a haven for international terrorists?” It’s absolutely incorrect that Saddam was involved in 9/11. But can you really claim that he never provided a “haven for international terrorists” of any stripe? I don’t see anything in that limiting it to Al Qaeda specifically, direct attacks on the US as opposed to any country, etc.

    Sheesh, by that judgment, it seems like Ben Friedman would be joining in those seeking war against Iran and Syria. Both have pretty definitely provided havens for international terrorists. (And perhaps saying that Ecuador was giving Columbia a casus belli.) Is that the case?

  88. John: I think we can chalk that up to infelicitous phrasing on Friedman’s part.

  89. A more interesting question, one that Schweich never asks: Why is Afghanistan a narco-state?

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