Thursday, March 19, 2009

On The Smith Family Foundation Debate
on the U.S. options in Afghanistan

This was first posted as an OT on a Belmont Club thread.
Last night I went to a Smith Family Foundation debate on Afghanistan. The panel were as follows: Max Boot, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Larry Goodson, Professor, U.S. Army War College, Jacob Hornberger, President, Future of Freedom Foundation, and Christopher Preble, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, CATO Institute. That meant one pro-interventionist Boot, one pro-intervention big footprint traditionalist Goodson, one isolationist paleo-libertarian Hornberger, and one small footprint internationalist libertarian Preble. I found Hornberger's sneers about Neocons borderline anti-Semitic and the fact that he refused to or was not qualified to discuss the strategic issues as opposed to chanting we killed their children so they hate us, depressing. After I talked with an Afghan architect who assured me that few people take the religion seriously as a reason for violence and who wants to build a museum in Bamiyan where the statues of Buddha were destroyed by the Taliban. Good luck to him. The libertarian expressions of concern for the suffering of foreigners was so patently false as to distasteful. Hornberger did get Boot to admit to being an imperialist. My subsequent letter to Goodson follows, a similar letter went to Boot who replied, "Thanks for coming last night and for raising a number of thoughtful points to which, alas, I have no good answer."
Dear Professor Goodson,

It was good to meet you at last night's debate. My concern was about the integrity of our logistical lines into Afghanistan if Pakistan implodes. From what you said I got the distinct feeling that the administration intends to solve that problem by making a deal with Iran. Understandably that is tempting since the Chinese already built a road and it spares the expense of building and guarding a parallel route through the Pakistani region of Baluchistan. My suspicion is that the Iranian deal can only spell disaster as the endangered parties (Israel and the Gulf states) react in their own interests. It seems to be the spirit in Washington to attack our friends and appease our enemies. Perhaps we shall see, in the same spirit, a deal to appease China at the expense of Tibet and India, to appease Russia at the expense of Eastern Europe and to appease Syria at the expense of Lebanon. Eventually some of these betrayals will conflict with each other. When I asked if you think that Israel will go quietly into the night or if Iran and Russia could be trusted to keep a deal (Did you really propose we trust 60-80,000 Americans to a supply line that depends on fuel brought in from the North at Putin's sufferance?) you he noted the new Israeli government and said "We shall see." Given the stakes involved, and considering how we neglected to plan sufficiently for the second stage when we committed to Iraq in '03, we should plan this operation a little more thoroughly. It is a given that all plans have to be changed, Rumsfeld was blind-sided by France getting Turkey to lock out the 4th I.D. Still we should at least try to ensure a more stable source of logistics before committing to a larger operation, worthy as the goal appears to me.

My concern is that we are facing a perfect storm in which a common interest is being seen by paleo-social conservatives, libertarians, liberal global institutionalists and cynical realists. All of them are prone to manipulation by foreign money interests more dangerous and less accountable then the mythical Israel lobby. This touches me personally as my thesis advisor was a man who always treated me with courtesy, John Mearsheimer.



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