Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is the War in Afghanistan Still Worth Fighting?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is the War in Afghanistan Still Worth Fighting?

Article excerpt

As the war in Afghanistan begins its tenth year, the American public - and even the Obama administration - seems divided about America's purpose there.

Yes: But only if it is fought properly

The war in Afghanistan is worth fighting if it is fought properly. Substantial US interests are at stake. For one, US withdrawal would encourage the jihadists. But it's not worth it if we persist in fighting the wrong way.

For two elections, Democrats have said that Afghanistan is the "good" war, from which the "bad" war in Iraq was distracting us. Indeed, our focus on Iraq did render Afghanistan an "economy of force" theater. While the situation improved in Iraq after the 2007 "surge," it deteriorated in Afghanistan - which President Obama promised to rectify.

Last year, Mr. Obama announced that he would increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by 30,000, fewer than the generals wanted, but enough to credibly pursue a population-centric counterinsurgency strategy of the sort that had improved the situation in Iraq. But during the same speech in which he declared the Afghan surge, Obama announced that the United States would begin to withdraw after 18 months. In an instant, this statement undermined the surge's whole purpose. As former commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway observed, intercepted Taliban communications indicated this decision was "probably giving our enemy sustenance," suggesting to insurgents that they could simply "wait out" the Americans.

If Obama doesn't intend to fight the war properly - by resourcing the strategy of Gen. David Petraeus - he should say so, and cut our losses. But as Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars," illustrates, he seems to have adopted the discredited approach of Robert McNamara during Vietnam: to fight the war in accordance with the political interests of the Democratic Party, rather than the US as a whole - especially the troops he is sending to war.

- Mackubin Thomas Owens, professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R. …

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