Thursday, October 4, 2012

The political invisability of the Afghanistan war

More than a few pundits have commented, as if puzzled, by the lack of debate between the presidential campaigns on the subject of the Afghanistan war. A good example is this from the WaPo's David Ignatius, (note also the link to deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl) :

Given the dead end in Afghanistan, you might think that the war there — and strategies for ending it — would be a big topic in the U.S. presidential campaign. But sadly, soldiers and diplomats continue to operate in a political vacuum, and the candidates act as if the brutal Afghanistan conflict will somehow solve itself.
The lack of political debate over the Afghanistan war results from it being a very bi-partisan blunder.

First of all, and most importantly, the kind of political settlement now seen as the best hope for ending this unwindable and disastrous war is nothing that could not have been sought with much better prospects for success before the war even began were it not for the refusal of the Bush administration to even consider negotiation with the Taliban.

Secondly, Obama carelessly committed himself to investing more in a losing war -- almost certainly lured at the time by the prospect of political advantage.

Rage over 9/11 made the Afghanistan war politically popular initially and neither politician, Bush nor Obama, had enough statesman in himself to objectively assess the costs and benefits that could be expected from starting or escalating the war.

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