George F. Will Cuts and Runs

George Will is going to call for a ground troop pullout from Afghanistan. Is he right?

According to Politico, George Will’s next column will call for a withdrawal of US ground troops from Afghanistan:

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters,” Will writes in the column, scheduled for publication later this week.

So now it’s time for the real questions:

1) What do we know about this strategy’s ability to interdict Al Qaeda units? It sounds great and high-tech and sexy. Note: not just special forces units, but POTENT special forces units (as opposed to Limbaugh special forces units?). It relies on “intelligence”: do we have any human intelligence in Afghanistan? (Insert joke here: you know what I mean). But does it really mean anything?

2) In the pre-9/11 period, we would have loved to have done that, but could not get access to doing it. At times, Pakistan would allow flyovers, but the ISI is so infiltrated by Al-Qaeda sympathizers that it was pointless: Bin Laden would always be alerted. So that seems to imply a large presence in the participatory democracy of Uzbekistan. How confident are we of maintaining that presence?

3) And if the answers to these questions are 1) we don’t know; and 2) we don’t know, are we prepared to say, “yes, this will increase the chance of Al Qaeda reconstitution and the terrorism that would come with that, but that is a better deal than getting caught in quagmire”? The Republicans, who can reliably be counted to put party over country, will accuse Obama of selling out no matter what he does. So at least at some level the politics have to be considered.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.