Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Afghanistan -- Another Vietnam 3

Tom Friedman, America's most influential columnist, said this in his column today:

..."While visiting Afghanistan last July, I met a key provincial governor who every U.S. official told me was the best and most honest in Afghanistan — and then, they added, “We have to fight Karzai every day to keep him from being fired.” That is what happens to those who buck the Karzai system.

This is crazy. We have been way too polite, and too worried about looking like a colonial power, in dealing with Karzai. I would not add a single soldier there before this guy, if he does win the presidency, takes visible steps to clean up his government in ways that would be respected by the Afghan people.

If Karzai says no, then there is only one answer: “You’re on your own, pal. Have a nice life with the Taliban. We can’t and will not put more American blood and treasure behind a government that behaves like a Mafia family. If you don’t think we will leave — watch this.” (Cue the helicopters.)

So, please, spare me the lectures about how important Afghanistan and Pakistan are today. I get the stakes. But we can’t want a more decent Afghanistan than the country’s own president. If we do, we have no real local partner who will be able to hold the allegiance of the people, and we will not succeed — whether with more troops, more drones or more money...."

I say Amen.

If Friedman, a 3 time Pulitzer winner, is now backing a different strategy in Afghanistan, you would think the White House could be listening, right? Afterall, Obama once personally called him to ask for his opinion on the Middle East. So you might think Friedman carries weight?

If the Vietnam War was a guide, the occupant of the White House would be on a totally different wavelength despite at that time there was overwhelming opposition to that war by the country's most respected thinkers, not to mention daily protests against the war across the land. LBJ and later RMN still led the country further down the road to a bloody and disastrous ending.

Let's hope history will not repeat itself.

Tom Friedman's entire column is here.

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