Hitchens On Afghanistan: Surge Won't Work

Hitchens On Afghanistan: Surge Won't Work


I agree with everything Chris has to say here. If Afghanistan has any hope of recovering, it’ll have to be via standard of living improvements, and nobody can make a living if we destroy their only cash crop. Especially when we could be buying it to produce legal pain killers.

In other news, it sounds like Saudi Arabia is brokering a peace deal between the Taliban and Afghanistan…

Taliban leaders are holding Saudi-brokered talks with the Afghan government to end the country’s bloody conflict — and are severing their ties with al Qaeda, sources close to the historic discussions have told CNN.

The militia, which has been intensifying its attacks on the U.S.-led coalition that toppled it from power in 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, has been involved four days of talks hosted by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, says the source.

The talks — the first of their kind aimed at resolving the lengthy conflict in Afghanistan — mark a significant move by the Saudi leadership to take a direct role in Afghanistan, hosting delegates who have until recently been their enemies.

They also mark a sidestepping of key “war on terror” ally Pakistan, frequently accused of not doing enough to tackle militants sheltering on its territory, which has previously been a conduit for talks between the Saudis and Afghanistan.

More as it develops…

  • kranky kritter

    I don’t know what “surge mentality” means, really. What Hitchens says here is not that a surge won’t work, but that “simply” increasing troop levels won’t achieve anything lasting. Then he goes on further to suggest briefly that the challenge that Afghanistan represents is FAR greater than what Iraq presented.

    Increasing troop levels is probably a necessary but far from sufficient condition for stabilizing and democratizing Afghanistan. We’d need to also employ counterinsurgency tactics which would include working closely with local populations to establish a functioning economy and coherent government. And that’s a far more uphill climb than what Iraq presented. Afghanistan has hardly any functioning economy, and I believe that they are politically far more balkanized, having not had a comprehensive and demonstrably functioning national government for some time.

    That raises the obvious question as to whether we ought to get further involved or not. I can’t support further involvement by our nation unless we have a real majority on board for genuinely sticking with it and really trying to establish that government and economy. If all we want to do is temporarily increase the boots on the ground so we can spend a year or so hunting down bad guys and burning poppy fields, and then bailing, I’m not down with that. If we can’t stomach the nation and government as is, and so we break it, then morally we buy it. Along with all that means.

    As Hitchens point out, the Afghan economy consists of “anything you like, as long as it’s opium.” We can’t go in there and burn poppy fields and just leave behind a couple of packets of seeds to grow Belgian Endive. The only sensible approach therefoer involves a gradual transition. And that means tolerating the current status quo to some extent we’d have to determine.

    Buying the opium does IMo sound like a sensible idea at a glance. Maybe we come up with some sort of “we’ll buy your opium for this much per pound as long as you also produce y pounds of desirable crop x.” Farms growing opium plus some other crop are left alone, opium-only farms, not so much.