Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where do we go from here?

The government in Afghanistan controls little more than Kabul. In the countryside, the Taliban and warlords gather together; the violence grows. What little prosperity Afghanistan has achieved has been largely through the cultivation of opium poppies, which the government has been forced to oppose.

The government in Iraq controls little more than Baghdad, and even that is a scene of daily carnage. In the other provinces, the insurgency runs amok. U.S. military forces are unable to staunch the bleeding; perceived now as a foreign occupation propping up an unpopular and ineffectual regime, they have become an insurmountable obstacle to their own success.

After nearly five years, we still have not captured Osama bin Laden. And though we have successfully deprived Al Qaeda of their training grounds in Afghanistan, a RAND position paper released last year reminds us that, "We have not silenced or blunted the appeal of al-Qaeda's ideology. We have not publicly turned or rehabilitated a single detainee... Arab and Muslim attitudes are more hostile now than four years ago."

So where do we go from here, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in our work against Al Qaeda? This is something the Democratic party must answer. Bush has taken us from one quagmire to another and now we are stuck; we make no progress. There is no course to stay anymore. We need a way forward. We need leadership. Here are my thoughts:

1. It is time we set a clear date for withdrawal from Iraq--within a year. Our enemies have made Iraq a new front in the war on terror, and the time and place is of their choosing; they have picked the battlefield. We should be picking the battlefield, as we did when we invaded Afghanistan. To those who say the Iraq government will collapse without us, I say it is out of our hands anyhow. The fate of Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqis (and, alas, also the Iranians). We can still play a crucial role by providing more money. If we diverted a fraction of the cost of sustaining our troops to the Iraqi government, I cannot imagine we would do worse for our investment.

2. We must return to Afghanistan and finish the job. We abandoned it far too soon. Perhaps we need to start applying serious pressure to Pakistan as well; there are persistent rumors that it has become home to Al Qaeda's new headquarters. We need to build a real state before it fails again. Coalition forces in Afghanistan need more resources, more funding... and more troops, but not ours. Bush has so blackened our name in the Muslim world that to send out troops there is to doom them to resistance and failure.

3. We need to start restoring our reputation. Terrorism is a global problem that needs a global solution; it's time we regain our place in the international community. We begin to do this by closing Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib: by coming clean. Then we find some way to use what may be our greatest tool of diplomacy--our money--to do good deeds in the Arab world. If Hizbollah can win converts through charity, why can't we do the same? Or at least, why can't we offer an alternative? There must be some Arab NGOs we can work with. It's better than nothing.

4. We need to take real measures to beef up security here in the U.S. Not the false measures--sacrificing civil rights to no purpose--but real measures. We need security at our seaports and airports, our power plants and post offices. If we had poured a fraction of the money into the real war on terror--the home front--that we have wasted in Iraq, we could have much-improved, modernized infrastructure. The long lines at the airports are not merely an inconvenience, they are a serious risk--an inviting target for terrorists.

In the long run, the fight against Al-Qaeda is not a fight against Islamic Extremism. (They wish to make it so, but it is not.) It is a fight against globalized terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda (there will be others). When we must, we should not shirk our duty to invade and remake nations that harbor, grow, or fall to terrorists. But we must learn patience. The real test of our resolve comes when the shooting stops; it is then that we must truly "stay the course" to build the peace. In terms of the war against terrorism, Bush's abandonment of Afghanistan was an absolute disaster while Iraq is but a ghastly sideshow.

Where do we go from here? We have become lost. We must start again.


Anonymous said...

Dr. S. Funny you should mention point number 1. Check out this story  from last week. The Democratic congressional leadership has all signed a letter to Bush calling for something very similar to what you call for in point 1.

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

point 1:  Totally agree

Point 2: I agree that we need to fix Afghanistan, something we should have done BEFORE starting in on Iraq. However, I am not sure using the international troops is a viable option. I think we'd have to poor more of our own troops in with whoever else decides to help out, be it NATO or the UN. These terrorist groups are like ants. When you step on an ant hill, the ants scatter and then create new hills elsewhere. Thus the point about Pakistan is valid. And they are in Iraq as well. We let Osama go once. We had him cornered at Tora Bora. I will never understand why we let him escape then. And it has made me long suspicious ever since. I think we are scared to capture him. What would we do with him if we got him? Maybe we know he is already dead. Maybe he and GW talk weekly. Who knows.

Point 3: This should have been our tactic all a long in the Middle East. You draw more bees with honey than with vinegar. The problem is Israel. So long as we are supplying Israel with arms to kill Arabs, it won't matter what we do. We have to moderate our policy toward Israel and become a true broker rather than a conspirator.

Point 4: totally agree. Making me take my shoes off at airports is NOT making me feel safer. In addition, we can divert the funds into helping improve our aging infrastructure. Witness BP's shutting down Alaska. It was an old pipe that they failed to properly maintain because they claimed there was "no water" going through it. So how could it corrode? Well there was water somewhere and it should have been fixed.

Spending on proper regulation and enforcement is what would make me feel safer. Building new refineries and improving roads and ports would make me feel safer.

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

Point 4 : Spending more on security here in the U.S. is not going to make me any happier, nor address the problems that are dragging down the U.S. and helping ensure our downfall. There are a number of real problems that are in critical need of attention and, unlike security expenditures, investments in the remediation of these problems will help maintain our long-run position in the world.

Somehow I have never understood how paying people paid to unproductively sit on their ass and build "hardened" infrastructure is really in our best interest. We should be aiming to build technologies that ENABLE future growth and encourage innovation.

Some starter suggestions:
1. Fund education (all levels; we need to rebuild a knowledgable, skilled middle class)
2. Develop alternative energy sources (employ all those new engineers) and new, more efficient devices
3. Drastically  shorten all patent terms (stimulate competition and markets)
4. Subsidize the development of next generation infrastructure (fiber, true broadband, etc) ala the Federal highway system and rural electrification project
5. Improve citizens' health, thus increasing their productivity
6. Tax more progressively - breaks to the top 0.01% aren't getting us anywhere. Furthermore, today's extremely high degree of wealth inequality is a very historically risky distribution to live with. 

// posted by Chris