Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jack Kelly today on Afghanistan

There are three points worth talking about in Jack Kelly's column today. Today's column is a rejection of the concept of nation building, with the usual complaints about Obama and his policies along the way.

The first point to mention is that while Kelly does not say it explicitly, he implies that Afghan soldiers are attacking US and/or NATO soldiers because they hate Obama. Kelly says ""Green on blue" attacks were virtually unheard of before October 2009. During the entire war in Iraq, there were only three such incidents." "Virtually" strikes me as possibly a weasel word, and Iraq had a whole insurgency against US soldiers.

What's interesting is that one could make a case that Obama's reliance on drone attacks might be affecting the views of Afghan soldiers. Attacks using drones on civilians to get to (suspected) terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and probably others gets back to people across the Middle East. But Jack Kelly doesn't mention drones. Could it be that the Tea Party (and thus Jack Kelly) approves of the use drones, even if civilians get killed?

The second point I think worth talking about is Kelly's general indictment of nation building. The obvious question is, if you bomb the heck out of a country when you invade them and you want them to be a democracy when you are done, what's the alternative? Kelly calls it expensive. But isn't it more expensive to fail in nation building.

By the way, it should be pointed out that the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Japan was nation building. I think if you say that nation building in Europe and Japan was a failure, you better have a pretty strong, unshakeable argument. Still, I would not surprised if Tea Party mouthpiece Jack Kelly made that suggestion.

The third point I want to look at is Kelly's final point that Ronald Reagan had aided the mujahideen "freedom fighters" without engaging in nation building in Afghanistan. To suggest a comparison to our current situation is ludicrous and basically insulting. It was the Soviets who were the invaders in the 1980's, and until they left, the US could not engage in nation building in Afghanistan. And by the way, who was more responsible for aid to the mujahideen, Ronald Reagan or Congress who controls the purse strings? This is the question raised by "Charlie Wilson's War". Interestingly, the movie also suggests Wilson wanted to engage in nation building in Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew. But although Wilson had secured perhaps 500 million for the Afghan resistance plus 500 million more from the Saudi's, according to the movie he couldn't get a few millions or even hundreds of thousands for roads, schools and hospitals later.

The final thing to say is that whether you blame Ronald Reagan or Charlie Wilson for our not helping the Afghans out after the Soviets left, there is a direct link from the victorious mujahideen to the Taliban, and from the Taliban/mujahideen to al Qada and 9/11. How expensive is nation building?

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