Saturday, May 07, 2011

Untwining the threads in Afghanistan

For humanitarian liberals, there is an interesting post at SWJ about the Afghanistan mission from an aid perspective after the death of Osama bin Laden. The aid mission has been intertwined with the hunt for bin Laden along with other threads to compose the entire Afghanistan mission. What happens to the other threads of our mission in Afghanistan when a - perhaps the - major thread is removed? Does the rest of the mission then unravel?

The cost, open-ended uncertainty, and difficulty of our liberal strategy in the War on Terror have come under relentless attack by highly respected foreign policy 'realists' who dismiss the value of the aid mission. Under that kind of sustained pressure, even Bush administration officials have subtly retreated from the liberal character of the American response to 9/11. From the Wall Street Journal:
To Mr. Wolfowitz, that is a straw man: "We did not go to war in Afghanistan or in Iraq to, quote, 'impose democracy.' We went to war in both places because we saw those regimes as a threat to the United States." Once they were overthrown, what else were we going to do? "No one argues that we should have imposed a dictatorship in Afghanistan having liberated the country. Similarly, we weren't about to impose a dictatorship in Iraq having liberated the country."
Paul Wolfowitz makes an inarguable basic point about the post-war in a regime change. At the same time, while it's true that our baseline impetus for regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq was their threat, not to spread liberal democracy, Wolfowitz also minimizes the liberal perspective overarching President Bush's strategy for the War on Terror.

While it's true that his strategy was not to spread liberal reform by force, from the outset after 9/11, President Bush couched the multitier campaign as a liberal global movement when he officially declared America's entry into the War on Terror on September 20, 2001:
Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. . . . But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. . . . This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom. . . . As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.
Now that we've killed Osama bin Laden, will the rest of the Afghanistan mission fall apart? It remains to be seen, but the trend so far of President Obama capping and restricting the mission against a committed, aggressive enemy is telling with obvious signals that the Afghan people, the Taliban, our allies, and the rest of the world won't miss.

Eric

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