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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Obama?s plan for Afghanistan built for failure

By John Stafford

“Mr. President, it is time to bring our troops home.”

I was surprised to hear Rep. Jason Chaffetz utter these words in a speech focusing on the war in Afghanistan at the Hinckley Institute of Politics forum on Monday. The uber-conservative Chaffetz has now joined the ranks of many liberal Democrats who are asking the same thing of a president who’s gearing up to send 30,000 more U.S. troops into harm’s way in Afghanistan. Chaffetz said if the decision were his, he’d begin to withdraw troops immediately. His outlook on what will most likely become the longest war in American history can be summed up as get it right or get out.

Unfortunately, since the United States is far from “getting it right” in Afghanistan, the best option is to get out. President Barack Obama has pushed his chips all in. The foundation of his new Afghanistan strategy is a troop surge to back so-called “nation building” efforts that revolve around a weak centralized government, headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai, however, is the poster child for the rampant corruption that plagues his country. He and his younger brother Ahmed Wali Karzai are suspected players in the country’s flourishing illicit opium trade. The widespread fraud that facilitated Hamid Karzai’s re-election this year was not only an embarrassment for the United States, it also reinforced the idea propagated by the Taliban that American democracy doesn’t work8212;the Taliban garnered support by boycotting the election.

The corruption in the American-backed Afghan central government is reminiscent of the scandal-plagued, American-backed South Vietnamese government. Just like in Vietnam, our support of corrupt politicians undermines the American war effort because it allows our enemies to substantiate their claims of moral superiority and win the hearts of the people.

The word that best describes the situation faced by the United States in Afghanistan8212;despite the Obama administration’s vehement denunciation of any Vietnam analogy, however vague8212;is “quagmire.”

In an open letter to Obama, William Polk, who was a member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia during the Kennedy administration, makes an analogy where the land and society of Afghanistan are a rocky hill that is covered with 20,000 ping-pong balls, representing the village-states.

“Politically and economically divided, they shared a common adherence to a blend of primitive Islam and even more primitive tribal custom (varying throughout the country, but known in the south as Pashtunwali),” he said. “During their occupation, the Russians crushed many ping-pong balls, but they could not defeat enough of them to win. At any given time, roughly 80 percent of the country remained outside Russian control, so the Russians won all the battles, but lost the war.”

In an attempt to fight an unconventional enemy in a conventional manner in Afghanistan, the United States is merely following in the footsteps of the Medians and the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, the Turks, the Mongols, the British and the Soviets8212;sending more troops into the meat grinder that is the graveyard of empires in the process.

The strategy outlined by Obama in his speech to West Point on Tuesday relies too heavily on propping up a reluctant, ineffective and notoriously corrupt central government. This was not the answer in Vietnam, and it’s definitely not the answer in the far larger, more ethnically divided Afghanistan.

Obama’s decision will prove to be a costly one, both in terms of military spending and, more importantly, the lives of our brave soldiers. The House Appropriations Committee estimates that the 30,000 more troops will add an additional $30 billion per year to the total cost of the war.

As unemployment rises and jobs and education continue to be placed under the guillotine, it’s time to re-examine our role. We can either continue to throw our money at the myriad of problems facing Afghanistan and call it “nation building,” or we can use those resources to build up our own troubled nation and become safer and more secure in the process.

It’s extremely disheartening that Obama chose not to listen to Chaffetz and like-minded people who say, “Get it right or bring them home.” It seems as though Obama is trying to play the correct political hand.

If Afghanistan fails, in 2012 no one can say that he didn’t try, and in the meantime, a date for the start8212;but not the end8212;of withdrawal will appease those on the left who are still too busy discussing his many miraculous transformations of water to wine to think clearly.
Surprisingly, Chaffetz is right.

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