Pro: Is President Obama's push to pacify Afghanistan by July 2011 doomed to failure?

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Are we really making America safer by backing Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai?

Karzai's corruption is conceded to be endemic. Much of the money we pour into Afghanistan is lining the pockets of a fortunate few. The election he recently "won" was a joke.

For a time, the administration publicly criticized Karzai, even though we were the ones who set him up. Now the administration has stopped badmouthing Karzai. This change comes not because of any positive assessment of his ability to govern Afghanistan, but because, if we want to stay, there is no one else to back.

It costs twice as much to support one soldier in landlocked Afghanistan as it does in Iraq, which is accessible by sea.

The gas we buy in huge quantities for our gas-guzzling heavy vehicles does not come cheaply. If you were to guess $40 a gallon you would be way off. If you guessed $400 a gallon, you would be on target. With federal budget deficits spiking, it is our children and grandchildren who will ultimately pay for the Afghanistan war.

If this were a short-term project, the cost might be sustainable. But there is no end in sight.

Karzai said last year our troops will be needed until 2024. The re-appearance of the Taliban around Marja, which we had supposedly "liberated," has already forced a reassessment of the feasibility of an offensive to take Kandahar. We do not seem to have a strategy.

Our NATO allies have figured out what we are doing in Afghanistan is not working. Other than Britain, they are running for the border.

Bullets can kill an enemy. They can also make an enemy. Our assaults on objectives where our intelligence says Taliban are hiding seem consistently to kill civilians. It has gotten so bad Karzai has been forced to show he supports his own people.

Law enforcement authorities now acknowledge we have a major problem of "home grown" terrorism. Young Muslims are acting in violent desperation because they see us as further destabilizing Afghanistan. We have generated that phenomenon by our policy towards the region.

Saad Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister, during his visit to the White House in late May, noted the United States didn't have the terrorism we now have twenty years ago. He said terrorism has fed on the "rage" and "frustration" over the failed efforts at an Arab-Israeli peace.

Changing our way of operating in the Middle East may bring greater security than having troops in Afghanistan. But we don't seem to get it.

In late May, the U.S. House of Representatives voted $205 million in aid to Israel, on top of the $3 billion we had already committed.

The $205 million is supposed to be for an anti-missile system. But with Israel we don't monitor the aid we give, so the money may wind up building more settlements.

To potential al-Qaida recruits, the House vote is one more example of the United States helping Israel make life ever more unbearable for the Palestinians. And try telling them to write to their member of Congress: the vote for the $205 million passed 410 to 4.

Afghanistan is all but impossible to rule from a single capital city. It did have a central government with some authority back in the 1970s _ actually, one of the better governments Afghanistan has had in recent decades with minimal corruption, promotion of equality for women and literacy education in rural areas.

But we destabilized that government by funding Afghan fundamentalists, plus outsiders recruited by a young fellow named bin Laden. We taught them how to shoot down helicopters.

In the process of implementing such policies, Afghanistan came apart. Putting Humpty Dumpty back together is more than we can hope to do.

• John B. Quigley is a distinguished professor of law at The Ohio State University and the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed books on various aspects of the law. Readers may write him at Moritz College of Law, 55 West 12th Street, Columbus, OH 43210.

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