No-Win in Afghanistan

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 12:29 PM PDT

Marc Lynch is unimpressed with conservative sniping that Barack Obama is "dithering" over Afghanistan:

The overwhelming odds are that if the escalation option is chosen, in a year or two we will be confronting the exact same questions. More troops will once again be needed, a new strategy will once again be demanded, we’ll still be reading about how the Taliban is out-communicating us and about how the corruption of the Karzai government poses a serious challenge. And then the exact same debate will recur... the Kagans will demand more troops, dark mutterings about tensions between the administration and the generals will roil the waters, the Washington Post editorial page will publish debates where everyone is on the same side, the smart think-tankers will agonize over the tough choices but ultimately come down on the side of escalation.  Might as well have this debate now, and get it right.

That's admirably cynical.  Welcome to the dark side, Marc!

But he's got good reason: the aims of the all-in counterinsurgency supporters are flatly unrealistic.  "If the goal is the creation of a functioning, effective, legitimate Afghan state," he says, "then I would say the prospects are close to zero. Not with 40,000 troops, not with 400,000 troops, not in twelve months and not in twelve years."

Probably true.  And it's why I'm glad I'm not president right now.  If Obama doesn't approve all the new troops the Pentagon wants, then he's caving in to the terrorists.  If he does approve them, he's hitching himself to a policy that's almost certain to drag us ever further into a quagmire without ever producing results.  If that's not a no-win situation, I don't know what is.

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