The foreign policy debate between the two U.S. presidential hopefuls now seems to boil down to just two questions: (1) Has the surge worked? (2) When can we leave? For some pertinent answers, check out this LA Times story by Ned Parker & co. GEN Petraeus, for his part, puts it this way in a McClatchy interview:
‘We know where we are trying to go. We know how we think we need to try to get there with our Iraqi partners and increasingly with them in the lead and shouldering more of the burden as they are.’ […]
‘But there are a lot of storm clouds out there, there are lots of these possible lightning bolts. You just don’t know what it could be. You try to anticipate them and you try to react very quickly. . . .It’s all there, but it’s not something you want to lay out publicly.’
For what it’s worth, here’s what I think:
I think calling a troop increase of 28,500 a “surge” was a stroke of genius from the Bush administration, and accepting it at face value shows that the rest of us are just as gullible as they expected. I’ve blogged about it before and won’t bore you with the discussion of whether or not reinforcing your army amounts to a strategy. (This GAO report provides a good outline.) But lest we forget what real “surges” look like, here’s some perspective:
- In just one battle in the American Civil War, at Antietam in 1862, some 87,000 Union troops clashed with 45,000 Confederates.
- In the battle of Tarawa in 1943, the number of U.S. Marines sent to Betio was 35,000.
- In Khe Sanh in 1968, between 20,000 and 30,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked the American combat base, which was defended by some 6,000 Americans and South Vietnamese.
As to whether the war in Afghanistan can be won with the same “strategy”, now propounded by both Obama and McCain, here’s an excellent piece by Vikram Singh.
I for one think it’s almost certain that, regardless of who wins in November, the U.S. will continue its present policy of supporting warlords, pushing for poppy eradication without first providing alternative crops, and alienating locals by killing their loved ones.