Wednesday, September 02, 2009

# Posted 6:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GEORGE WILL, ANTI-WAR ACTIVIST: I felt some serious deja vu while reading Robert's post about the hopelessness of our "endless bloody occupation" of Afghanistan. Just two years ago, the conventional wisdom was that there was nothing we could do to salvage our bloody and endless occupation of Iraq. Harry Reid told us "the war is lost" and Barack Obama insisted that sending more troops would accomplish nothing.

In his post, Robert links to George Will's recent column, in which he calls for a major withdrawal from Afghansitan. The notion that a Republican would oppose the war in Afghanistan may seem interesting, but Will was always pessimistic about the prospects for defeating the insurgency Iraq. Nonetheless, Will's stature has compelled many other Republicans to respond.

First up, Fred Kagan challenges Will's assertion that "Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable." Kagan applies US military doctrine to the situation and suggests that we can grow Afghan security forces up to 240,000 over the next couple of years, meanwhile supporting them with an increased Coaltion force. (Kagan, who used to teach at West Point, played an important role in designing the surge in Iraq, so he knows a thing or two about force levels.)

John Noonan challenges Will's proposal for a strategy focused on air-strikes, missile attacks and special forces. He writes,
The [counterinsurgency] efforts that have failed in the past 40 years (and there are plenty), were -- interestingly enough -- the fights that were prosecuted according to George Will's concept of operations, specifically "forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan." Obsession over kill counts and kinetic-ops is the quickest way to turn the local population against you and to ultimately lose the war, as exemplified by Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan, and the Rhodesians during their Bush War.
Meanwhile, Rich Lowry explores the implications of Will's approach for Pakistan:
Will says "Pakistan actually matters." That's a very important reason to care about Afghanistan too. For the first time, Pakistan has been undertaking serious counter-insurgency operations in the border areas. And we have been supporting them with counter-insurgency operations in adjacent areas in Afghanistan. Just as Pakistan begins to get serious are we going to pull the rug out from under them?... If you want to control the border, you have to control the population near it, which means you can't just rely on special-operations forces and have to undertake counter-insurgency operations that require boots on the ground and, ultimately, a functioning indigenous army and government.
Finally, Peter Wehner takes the fight directly to George Will. As Wehner points out, Will glibly supported the invasion of Iraq, inched away from his position during the occupation, insisted the surge was a failure in late 2007, then stopped writing about Iraq once his credibility was shot. Like most people, Will fully supported the invasion of Afghanistan and praised the 2004 elections before his latest change of heart. Wehner writes,
If General David Petraeus thinks the task is hopeless, then I will take a hard second look at the war. But if George Will declares it hopeless, I will simply take a hard second look at his record.

Mr. Will has earned the reputation as one of the finest columnists alive, and one of the better ones our country has ever produced. I have admired him in the past, and I learn from him still. But on Iraq and Afghanistan, he has been wrong, unreliable, and unsteady.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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