Reasons To Stay In Afghanistan
Wednesday - June 30, 2010
Editor’s note: For rather different takes on the war in Afghanistan, see Bob Jones’column on page 8 and Patrick Buchanan’s on page 12.
Taken at face value, my colleague Bob Jones’ column about Afghanistan would have us abandon the country to the Taliban and its al Qaida friends because the mission has become too hard and too costly in lives and treasure. His last resort, should they take aggressive advantage of our withdrawal, would be to “scour your earth from the skies” - shades of Gen. Curtis LeMay’s 1960s recommendation to simply “bomb the North Vietnamese back to the Stone Age,” a no more palatable solution now than it was then.
Let me counter it with all the reasons we cannot abandon Afghanistan back to the Taliban and al Qaida.
1) PAKISTAN: Pakistan, with a long border with Afghanistan, is a nuclear power, and if not for the hard line of previous President Pervez Musharraf and his successor Asif Ali Zardari - encouraged by our Afghanistan “commitment” - against Pakistani Taliban trying to overthrow their government, it is quite conceivable we would now be dealing with a nuclear-armed Taliban/al Qaida. Should we end our commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban would surely act as one across the border and again strive for the fall of the Pakistan government thereby gaining access to nuclear weapons - the West’s (and India’s) worst nightmare.
2) GEOGRAPHY: Afghanistan is surrounded by Pakistan,
Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and a little bit by China. There is currently unrest in Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan, and a resurgent Taliban and al Qaida would surely foment that unrest to their own advantage. Turkey, a NATO ally, although not bordering Afghanistan, is moving inexorably back toward its Islamic roots. This all the more requires a stable Afghanistan friendly to the West to maintain Middle Eastern balance. Iran would be pleased to add a neighboring Taliban to its stable of terrorist clients along with Hezbollah and Hamas. And when it goes nuclear, as it appears we are allowing it to do, we can throw WMDs of some sort into that mix as well.
3) TALIBAN/AL QAIDA: Should we just leave Afghanistan, as Mr. Jones proposes, the resurgent Taliban and al Qaida would immediately fill the vacuum, reimposing the Dark Age laws of extreme Sharia on the Afghan people. I’ve studied that system. We Americans should have no pride in facilitating such an eventuality. An unfettered al Qaida in Afghanistan would again be free to plot and carry out more 9-11-type attacks on America and our allies. Although no troop losses are “acceptable” and all are tragic, losses must be put into context. Jones frets about the loss of 1,000 U.S. troops over nine years in Afghanistan, but that’s only a third of the number who perished in the twin towers in an hour. If we give up in Afghanistan, we will be inviting many more 9-11s and, by comparison, astronomical death counts.
4) HISTORY: Mr. Jones invokes the “loss” of South Vietnam as an example of why we can’t win in Afghanistan. What he fails to consider, however, is that we wouldn’t have “lost” if we hadn’t left. The South fell to the Communist North after we had left two years earlier, simultaneously dishonoring our commitment to provide the South with military supplies and air power.
It took years for Americans to overcome the stigma of “losing” Vietnam and, the Cold War not withstanding, the world is a far more dangerous place now than it was then. The consequences of “losing” Afghanistan by an untimely abandonment will be far more dire than an uncomfortable stigma. America’s enemies will be heartened, our diplomacy will be even less effective than it has become, and we can introduce to the world a new American “Union Jack” with a garter snake that says “Come, Tread On Me!”
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