The tide of public and political opinion [minus recent polls] still remains behind the effort in Afghanistan being just and essential to our national security. I completely disagree with the latter. Obama cannot politically reverse course, even in the face of inevitable failure. The saddest part of that sentiment is that more Americans will die before that realization reaches the White House.
The whole line of 'emboldening our enemies' and 'showing weakness' is empty rhetoric. Foreign policy is driven by measurable actions and responses....by metrics. Pundits and politicians put stock into visions such as these, but policy is not driven by them, that is when that policy hits the ground and affects the people in question.
Combatant Commanders do not dictate foreign policy or national security. The motive for Petraeus and McChrystal is to try to win the conflict they are involved in. They will never state that they cannot accomplish the mission. They will always portray a light at the end of tunnel, because their careers and their legacies depend on it.
Our foreign policy must take into account the entirety of the threats and dynamics facing us, not just the microcosm of Afghanistan. Thoughtful and reasoned analysis is called for......not pouring more men and material down the same hole to satisfy the Commanders Intent.
We at last have a CinC who at least looks analytically at the situation as a whole.....weighing the likelihood of a success [as currently defined by metrics] against an overall weakening of our defense posture, and the ability to react militarily in another theater.
The Combatant Commanders are finally getting clear guidance and refined metrics from the administration. Fresh change wouldn't you say? The next step [which is ongoing as we speak] is to balance those metrics versus the likelihood of success. Since the overriding dynamic of a safe haven is largely a myth, continued occupation of Afghanistan prevents us from reacting in force when and when the opportunity arises.
Gen. McChrystal will never say that federal democracy cannot be sustained in Afghanistan; that the Afghan economy will never be able to sustain a national army to keep the Taliban at bay, etc.....
In light of that, requests for more men and material have to be measured against that "I cannot be seen to fail" mindset of military commanders. To not do so, hinders and retards our defense posture and our foreign policy courses of action. There can be no threat of deterrence or reaction to North Korea or Iran, because we have an arm tied behind our back.......and they know it.
"Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating," McChrystal said of the war's progress
In Commander-speak, that is stating that we are losing....and badly. But he can't and won't state that explicitly. So what I'm getting at is it does no justice to the overall foreign policy effort to simply 'send more troops if they ask'. Of course they're going to ask, because that is their only course of action. Prolong the defeat and hope for the best. Meanwhile, our entire defense apparatus [minus strategic nuclear assets, etc..] is orientated towards sinking further into this inevitable defeat, while preventing us from responding to another crisis.
Right about now is the time to expect Venezuela to attack Columbia; Abu Sayyaf to commit a string of extraordinary attacks from the Philippines; or other such actions that may require or request an American military response. The safe haven theory is a myth, and we have allowed ourselves to be sucked into a corner, which requires supreme momentum to extricate from.
Our foreign policy as it pertains to military force and deterrence must be robust, flexible and responsive. At this time it is not. That is dangerous.
The set of options available has to include withdrawal. That is a given. For us to stay and to escalate, the risk has to be outweighed by the return. As of this point in time, there does not appear to be the desire nor the capability for the Afghan people to participate in federal democracy. There is absolutely no question that the Afghan economy cannot sustain a national military required to achieve our metrics, either prior to or after a withdrawal by ISAF. The Pakistani's are not going to engage in a major commitment in Afghanistan for two reasons; Pakistani public sentiment and the Indian threat.
Ignoring or papering over the above issues translates into a multi-decade engagement of American money and lives for a slight chance of stability. Since, once again, the safe haven theory is not a viable reason for occupation, Obama has to ask: how well can the US military respond to another terrorist attack or low intensity conflict [not to mention conventional HIC) while the primary effort is in Afghanistan?
If we have a hope to defeat terrorist groups, we cannot allow the overwhelming effort of our military and national defense focus to be concentrated with occupying and nation-building. The failed state is a never ending problem that we cannot solve in terms of proactive foreign policy.