Middle East Studies at Middlebury
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December 5, 2009 in Uncategorized by haidun
Does President Obama’s decision-making process leading up to the surge in Afghanistan give you hope in the mission and the administration?
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Justin Stearns December 7th, 2009 at 10:51 pm
Over at his blog “Presidential Power,” Midd prof Matt Dickinson has an insightful post on this very article, questioning its depiction of the decision making process as one which was truly transparent, and instead suggesting that Obama was taking time to put together a good case to defend a surge more than he was ever really rethinking the basic reasoning behind America’s presence in Afghanistan. See: http://sites.middlebury.edu/presidentialpower/2009/12/07/a-laywer-in-the-white-house-and-the-surge-in-afghanistan-why-they-are-linked/#comments
As I’ve already expressed to Hillary, I am deeply unhappy with the “surge” in Afghanistan and believe that we should pull out considering the level of corruption in Karzai’s government, the poor track record of our military when it comes to nation building, and our president’s inability to clearly articulate what exactly we’re doing in there (and no, I don’t think Obama was able to do this). But what is troubling to me about Dickinson’s observations—all of which ring true to me—is that they speak to Obama having made the decision he did due to his desire to be perceived as having “failed” in Afghanistan. That is to say, this decision was more about American politics than it was about developing a coherent and long term strategy for an American policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I agree with this assessment, but want to add that I’m just not at all convinced that the US government understands how to strengthen the Afghani government enough so that it can convince the majority of the Afghani people and the Taliban that Karzai is a better option than Mullah Omar. Mark Lynch is a little more optimistic than I feel these days, but not much (http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/12/02/the_afghan_decision).
Justin Stearns December 8th, 2009 at 10:35 am
Matt was kind enough to refer me to the follow-up Q&A between Times readers and the reporters who wrote the initial story. As he notes on his own blog, the ultimate policy was shaped by Gates as much as if not more than anyone else:
Justin Stearns December 9th, 2009 at 10:54 pm
And I’ll just tack on Mark Lynch’s musings here, which include the possibility that the Afghan “surge” could lead to a global strengthening of al-Qaeda:
Justin Stearns December 9th, 2009 at 11:01 pm
And I thought I was a pessimist. Take a look at Stephen Walt’s take on where Obama’s decision will take us:
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