Once more into the breach?

As someone who decided to vote for Obama as soon as he threw his name in the ring for the election, my wife was very surprised to hear me ask her to turn off his speech the other day.

While I think it will end up having been a very important speech for his presidency, I just couldn't bear to listen. I knew once he started talking about adding another 30k troops, that I'd just get really mad, and probably start yelling at the TV.

The one bad part about not listening to the speech was that I missed him talking about withdrawing in 18 (or so) months. And as long as that's a drop-dead date, I think it's very encouraging. Of course, the White House itself can't decide whether or not that's the case.

What I've read elsewhere, though, suggests that the "strategy" consists of: take control of the population centers (with those extra troops) and train more Afghanis so they can defense themselves.

The question the administration failed to ask, however, was whether or not the Russians tried the same thing. And the first part of that is a yes. And how did it work out for them? Well, they succeeded in that mission, but it obviously didn't help them all that much.

As for the second part, while it's a great theory, there's something missing there, as well. The Afghan army's desertion rate over the last couple of years has varied between ten and thirty percent. In fact, twenty-five percent seems a good estimate.

That being the case, a) we're wasting a lot of time training people who won't be around for long and b) we're likely training more than a few Taliban sympathizers (or, at least, would-be insurgents). How is that likely to work out for us? I'm thinking that it's more tens of billions of dollars of money down a hole.

Finally, let's consider this. Assuming that everything goes right for the administration, there's still two huge problems. If everything goes right, and we pull out on schedule, what's to keep the illegitimate government (really: we've made a lot of mistakes in dealing with Afghanistan, but allowing the last election to be blatantly fixed was probably the biggest) from immediately collapsing.

And even assuming that it doesn't collapse, and Afghanistan becomes a stable, prosperous nation, who benefits? It ain't us, except, perhaps, in the most peripheral of ways; it's the Russians and Chinese (and Pakistanis, I suppose, which could redound some slight benefit upon us).

So what are we doing spending these tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars in extra money?

Am I forgetting about al-Qaida? I'm not; setting up an international police operation to catch them (and yes, that would involve assets up to and including US special forces) seems a lot more likely to keep them from settling in any one spot. So why don't we spend a couple of billion there, and otherwise withdraw from the region.

Let's remember that staying in the region as an occupying power (even if that isn't nominally the case) is providing an endless stream of recruits for both insurgents and for al-Qaida.

And there's also the minor issue that those tens or hundreds of billions of dollars can be put to much better use right here in the USA. Maybe by preventing 45k people annually from dying due to lack of health insurance. And stopping medical care from causing half of all bankruptcies in the US (remembering that 60% of those bankruptcies are people who DO have health insurance). And maybe we could employ a few more of the people who want a job. And educate some of those who can't find a job.

Does that stuff sound worthwhile? More to the point, does it sound more worthwhile than killing brown people?

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