Sunday, June 13, 2010

Afghanistan and the Future

(Updated below)

I was really enjoying Kevin Drum's reading of recent articles about fact, I was trying to decide whether to add it to my tab dump for the week, but then I was stopped short by the last six words:
My prediction: a couple of Friedman Units from now, Obama and Karzai are going to find some colorably face-saving way to declare that America has done everything it can and it's time for Afghans to take responsibility for their own future. Our longest war will draw to a sputtering close with neither victory nor defeat, and a decade from now we'll all be wondering why we were ever there (emphasis added).
Wow.  I'm not even to the point of disagreeing -- just real surprised.  I guess I'd like to hear more of what he's thinking.  Is it that in a decade, the September 11 attacks will fade from memory?  That they'll be remembered, but we'll think less of their importance?  That we'll think the decision to go into Afghanistan didn't follow logically from those attacks?  That we'll think that deployment in Afghanistan made sense at first, but that the troops should have been gone as soon as the Taliban was first defeated?   And one of those won't just be a fringe left (or right) position, but what "we'll all" be wondering? 

I'm very confident that in a decade most people will think that going into Iraq was a major blunder.  But Afghanistan?  I guess I want to hear more.

(Again, the rest of the piece is well worth reading).

Update, in two parts:

First, Drum clarified...he was talking 2003 and on.  Okay, although I'm not sure I buy it.  Should the US pull out soon and things go badly in Afghanistan -- especially if there are terrorist attacks in the US or Europe from people based in a post-occupation Afghanistan -- then I think the argument will be more "who lost Afghanistan" than why we were there.  If things go real well, then I think there will be an argument over who gets credit.  If things are muddled...well, I guess I'm not sure; perhaps that's where his prediction makes the most sense.  By the way, I'm not saying he's wrong about whether the US should have been there, just about how the debate will go about it ten years from now.

Second...via Marc Ambinder, potentially game-changing news about the long-term future of Afghanistan: apparently they're sitting on a lot of important minerals over there.  Ambinder tweets that "We ain't leaving Afghanistan for a while."  I'm not sure, but I had the same "wow" reaction he did.


  1. I mean, "why we were ever there" and "why we stayed past 2003" are just utterly different questions. Yet I hear it put that way all the time. It makes me take whatever case the person is making far less seriously.

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    Only recently discovered your blog and recently started myself. I thought this topic warranted a longer comment. If you have time pleae check it out.