Guy W. Farmer: President Obama dithers on Afghanistan
For the Nevada Appeal
Now that Afghanistan’s tainted election has been resolved in favor of President Karzai, President Obama must now decide whether to send all or some of the 40,000 additional combat troops that have been requested by his hand-picked military commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Enough dithering; it’s decision time.
This will be one of the most difficult decisions of Obama’s presidency. No matter what he decides, part of his political constituency will be extremely disappointed, if not completely disillusioned.
Although the president retains much of his personal popularity, many of his policies, such as corporate bailouts and government-run health care, aren’t nearly as popular as he continues to deal with the difference between running for office and actually governing this fractious and all-too-often polarized nation.
On the question of what to do about Afghanistan, there are three main options:
1. Send Gen. McChrystal the 40,000 troops he says he needs in order to restore order and combat al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents;
2. Adopt the so-called Biden Option, which calls for a gradual drawdown of our troops combined with a high-tech anti-terrorism strategy to disrupt al-Qaida and the Taliban, or
3. Order a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which is favored by anti-war Democrats and the Nobel Prize Committee.
Personally, I favor the anti-terrorism plan advocated by Vice President Joe Biden, who has more foreign policy experience than anyone else in the Obama Administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who talked tough to the Afghanis and the Pakistanis earlier this month. I applaud her straight talk and her call for the leaders of those countries to take responsibility for their own destinies by democratizing their institutions and cracking down on corruption.
At first glance, it’s easy to opt for Gen. McChrystal’s troop increase. Give the generals what they need and stay the course (sound familiar?), you might argue. But those of you who remember Vietnam will recall what happened when President Johnson gave his generals what they wanted, and the situation on the ground rapidly deteriorated because of the lack of political will in both countries, the U.S. and South Vietnam.
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Tom Friedman sees Obama’s dilemma this way: “We simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan.”
And that’s exactly what the McChrystal plan implies, a 20- to 30-year nation-building exercise designed to turn a tribal nation into a U.S.-style democracy. No thanks.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a retired diplomat who served on an inter-agency task force during the first Gulf War.