Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bachevich and Af-Pk

Andrew Bachevich, Professor of International Relations at Boston University and one analyst whose judgment I really respect, writes about Obama's Af-Pk policy:

The Obama approach differs from the Bush approach in that Obama defines US objectives somewhat more modestly than Bush did--he'll settle for stability, whereas Bush insisted that we sought to democratize. And Obama understands that relying entirely on hard power won't work--hence, his greater emphasis on economic development. But in Afghanistan, at least, Obama still seems to think that the United States can and must remake the place.

I'm not optimistic about our ability to "strengthen Afghan governance and economic development." Given the current economic crisis, I don't believe we have the money for such an enterprise. When it comes to Afghanistan, I'm sympathetic to economic support and security assistance only in the sense that the Bush approach was even worse. Let me speak plainly: we can't remake Afghanistan and don't need to.

Obviously Obama has ratcheted down US objectives in Afghanistan--there's no more talk of converting it into a liberal democracy. Still, the project he has in mind is an enormous one. It will last many years and cost many tens of billions of dollars, not to mention a considerable number of lives. That project is simply unnecessary. There are less expensive and more effective ways to secure our limited interests in Afghanistan.

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