None of the above

That seems to Obama’s response to the Afghan option his advisers offered him.

That seems to be the President’s response to the Afghanistan options offered by his advisers. I haven’t a clue about the best strategy, in part because none of the ones I’ve heard proposed seems to have much of a chance of success. But at least it’s some comfort to have a President who, handed a menu consisting of nothing but sh*t sandwiches, refuses to order from it.

The Afghan war is a “war of necessity” in the sense that it was thrust upon us by the Taliban’s decision to allow Afghan territory to be used to plot the 9/11 attack. But that doesn’t mean that anyone knows how to “win” that war. It’s possible that we’re in a hole – due in no small part to the feckless decision to install Karzai as “our sunuvabitch” and then let the Afghans twist slowly in the wind while we fought a war we didn’t need to fight in Iraq – and that the only sound move right now is to stop digging.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

10 thoughts on “None of the above”

  1. My purely speculative thought here is that this is about process as well as substance. Bush/Cheney's lack of coherent management process (a product of Bush's inability and Cheney's secrecy and disrespect for anyone else's input) resulted in all sorts of disasters. There was obviously a lack of due diligence in vetting strategies and plans that the military put before the administration, and they may have become very sloppy in this process themselves as a result. Why put together a genuine set of options and argument when no one upstairs will really look at it anyway? So it's utterly a guess, but I get a kind of intuition that Obama has been forcing them to do the work over again because he doesn't find the level of thinking to be acceptable. They guy ran the Law Review at Harvard: he knows how to analyze and critique an argument.

  2. I doubt Larry is entirely correct in his assumption. The military is largely right-wing–especially at or near the top of the chain. Many of them are smart enough not to wear their politics on their sleeve, but their politics are in part why they are in the positions they are in. Over the past eight to twelve years, people were elevated to a increasing extent by their fealty to right-wing issues. I experienced this over my 24 years in the AF.

    Couple that with another thought I'm sure is not lost on them–how will the military be employed if they are not in Afghanistan.

    Larry has it right otherwise but is inadvertently soft-pedaling it a bit. Remember that Rummy told the Pentagon staff that planning for what happened after Iraq was toppled was forbidden. There wasn't just a lack of diligence at the top, there was an attempt to limit the Pentagon staff role in planning in the first place. To assume that both the lack of diligence and Rummy's limitations had no future effect on ability–and desire–is to not know the military very well.

  3. But on a level of substance, there haven't been a lot of times, historically speaking, when Afghanistan was a coherent nation-state with a single rule of law recognized across its entire territory.

  4. Its this sort of infantile emotional expression that shows the disordered nature of the left's relationship to President Obama. It's not the proper relationship between the citizen of a republic and his president, but the admiration that that a child expresses for his father: "I don't know what he's doing, but I tuck myself in at night knowing that daddy protects me." That's not to say that everyone ought to be popping off about Afghanistan. Lord knows there's too much of that. But to have a warm, fuzzy feeling of security in the absence of any content is too much hero worship for me.

  5. We already know about you, Brett. The only reason that I don't think that you're actually Horseball is that the language is different.

  6. What amazes me about Horseball is his blithe, incredibly dishonest freudian projection. I've often said that the main tactic of the right is accusing others of what they do themselves.

    In this case, after 8 years of screwing things up, somebody decides that they will wait a few months to figure out what will work, rather than plunge on in. The right, of course, denounces this as treasonous/evil/blind worship of the leadership. Precisely the opposite of what's going on, and precisely what the right has done for the past 8 years.

  7. Barry, Obama, could starve to death between two aisles at a Chinese buffet, and you folks would find some way to call it decisive.

  8. Cute line but what is its applicability here. Figuring out what our strategy in Afghanistan ought to be is not the same as deciding what to have for dinner. The entire point of this discussion is that the notion that the President's job is simply to check off a menu item offered up to him by the bureaucracy is a serious misconception, fortunately not one that our current President shares.

Comments are closed.