Tuesday, September 01, 2009

George Will’s Uncle Walter moment

Or: George Will cuts and runs. Here’s what Will says in a recent column:

Allen [a Marine quoted in the column] and others of America's finest are also in Washington's hands. This city should keep faith with them by rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan, where, says the Dutch commander of coalition forces in a southern province, walking through the region is "like walking through the Old Testament."

Curiously, this puts George Will and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer in the same camp on Afghanistan. This is from an interview with Jack during the spring of 2008:

So you’d like to see troop withdrawal from [Afghanistan]?

Yeah, and I would like to see a fundamentally different approach. If you look at the history, any country that has tried to occupy Afghanistan has been bankrupted or defeated. You don’t occupy other countries and win. [Afghanistan has] issues, for sure, but they’re not going to be resolved by bombings that kill civilians, they’re not going to be resolved without a willingness to actually sit down and listen to people who don’t want us there. This notion that there are military solutions to this problem needs to be fundamentally challenged.

Well, not exactly the same camp; Will wants to continue to use bombs, missiles, and drones. But still.

And here’s Juan Cole on the “new” American strategy:

I have some basic questions about the "take, clear and hold" strategy that seems to be recommended in Afghanistan by Gen. Stan McChrystal, and which is modeled on the alleged lessons of Iraq.

The Sunni Arabs of Iraq, who produced most of the insurgency against the US presence and the rise of a new Shiite government, amount to less than 20 percent of Iraq's population of 27 million. In other words, they are about 5 million strong. The compact Sunni areas such as al-Anbar Province have been special challenges.

The Pashtuns of Afghanistan, in contrast, are probably 44% of the population of 34 million, or a little over 14 million.

In other words, pacifying the Pashtuns from whom the Taliban emerge is three times more difficult than monitoring and pacifying Iraq.

A considerable challenge, indeed. Lotta people been kicked out of Afghanistan over the years.

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