Winning the peace

In addition to Joshua Muravchik’s article about North Korea that I posted yesterday, the March issue of Commentary contains an excellent piece by Frederick Kagan about Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it is not available on the web. Liberals who like to snipe at President Bush love to point out that we are not succeeding in building a democratic Afghanistan and that war lords still control much of that country. Their thesis, to the extent one can be discerned, is that the Bush administration has failed to truly transform Afghanistan because it forgot about that country as soon as the miliatry victory had been won.
Kagan presents a much more thoughtful critique. He believes that “we have not failed in Afghanistan, but neither have we succeeded.” Our three main objectives were to drive the Taliban from power, destroy Al Qaeda forces there, and kill Osama bin Laden. The ultimate goal was to create an Afghanistan that terrorists could no longer use as a haven and training base.
Kagan believes that, while we succeeded in ousting the Taliban, our success with respect to our other goals and objectives is questionable or incomplete. He attributes our relative lack of success to our over-reliance on air power and the related decision not to inject large numbers of American ground troops into the fight. This hampered our ability to trap Al Qaeda fighters and bin Laden himself, and it deprived us of the ability to control political conditions during and immediately after the fall of the Taliban. In this account, the liberals have it wrong. Our problems arise not from lack of follow-through in the aftermath of military victory, but from a flawed military strategy at the outset. In any event, it appears that we will follow a very different strategy in Iraq, and thus perhaps stand a better chance of winning the peace there.

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