I have enormous respect for David Brooks, The New York Times
columnist who always gets my attention and respect.Brooks’ column on Friday, March 27th, on Afghanistan
made me think through the situation again. On reflection, however, I
concluded that I am not persuaded by his argument that we should stay in Afghanistan
In fact, I think we should get out as soon as we can. I also think we
should leave Iraq
There was a time when our government under President George
W. Bush believed we would never leave Iraq
and would retain some kind of permanent base there. Now we have signed
agreements with Iraq
government committing us to permanently leave no later than December 31, 2011
referendum in Iraq
requires that we leave by June 30,
leave at once.
I believe we will gain nothing by delaying our departure
will equal the inevitable American deaths and casualties. Does anyone
think the Iraqis will come to love or even like us? I don’t.
There was a time when the Iraqis had one of the most feared
armies in the Mideast
war with Iran
the Iraqi army was battle hardened. After disbanding the Iraqi army in
2003, we decided to put it back together. Now, six years later, it has
hundreds of thousands of soldiers, trained by U.S.
personnel with U.S.
weapons, and it apparently still can’t prevent the several thousands of
al-Qaeda and Sunni terrorists from engaging in terrorist bombings.
What will make the Iraqis more capable of peacefully running
their own country within the next 18 months? I believe the tribal
killings there among the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds based on historic
animosities will continue after we leave – unless a repressive dictator akin to
Saddam Hussein takes over. Rationally, Iraq
should be divided into three separate countries — Kurdistan
Sunnistan and Shiiastan — either totally independent from one another or, if
acceptable to all, loosely confederated.
is even worse. I was intrigued by the description by David Brooks, who
wrote last Friday, “Finally, it is simply wrong to say that Afghanistan
is a hopeless, 14th century basket case. This country had decent
institutions before the Communist takeover. It hasn’t fallen into chaos,
the way Iraq
did, because it has a culture of communal discussion and a respect for village
elders. The Afghans have embraced the democratic process with
enthusiasm. I finish this trip still skeptical but also infected by the
optimism of the truly impressive people who are working here.”
Note that Brooks is still skeptical. I do not believe
a country that accepted Taliban rule and defeated the undoubtedly brutal
efforts of the Soviets to conquer it will ever accept the mores and political
systems of the West, nor should they.
Nevertheless, President Obama has decided that the U.S.
forces be increased by another 17,000 over and above the 62,000 American troops
that we have there now with an additional 4,000 Americans to train an even
larger Afghan army. Our NATO allies are refusing to send more troops
except for Great Britain
which is considering sending another 2,000 adding to the 8,300 British troops
there now. I have no doubt everybody else will leave us in the lurch and
soon, as they did in Iraq
Let the armed forces of the Arab countries – Saudi
the Emirates – provide the Afghans with military assistance. Why does it
have to be primarily us? Remember the rallying cry of Bobby Kennedy
during the Vietnam War days that we are not the policemen of the world.
I believe the description of Afghanistan
in a New York Times article of October
brother, is probably closer to the truth. This is what the Times
reported, “The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in
the incidents were never investigated…even though allegations that he has
benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan…The
White House says it believes that Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug
trafficking, and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai
that his brother is a political liability…”
The New York Times
reported on February 2, 2009
“Between platters of lamb and rice, Mr. Biden and two other American senators
questioned Mr. Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many
estimates, is among the worst in the world. Mr. Karzai assured Mr. Biden
and the other senators that there was no corruption at all and that, in any
case, it was not his fault. The senators gaped in astonishment.
After 45 minutes, Mr. Biden threw down his napkin and stood up. ‘This
dinner is over,’ Mr. Biden announced, according to one of the people in the
room at the time. And the three senators walked out, long before the appointed
time.” The article continued, “At home, Mr. Karzai faces a widening
insurgency and a population that blames him for the manifest lack of economic
progress and the corrupt officials that seem to stand at every doorway of his
In our country, we are struggling to cope with a rapidly
deteriorating economic system. A vast number of Americans are worried
about their economic future. Unemployment has reached 8.1 percent, and
some economists fear that it will soon reach double digits. Half of the
households in the U.S.
have invested in the stock market, or have 401(k)s or retirement accounts that
own common stock.
These people have seen their capital accounts and savings
shrink by up to 50 percent. The declines have occurred in stocks heretofore considered
safe. People already retired and on fixed incomes don’t know how they are
going to make it financially. The few years they have left are fraught
with real dangers and huge anxieties.
We should not be spending billions in Afghanistan
If the governments of those countries cannot prevent the Taliban and al-Qaeda
from taking over, our response to attacks upon the U.S.
emanating from there should be answered with bombs, not troops on the ground.
We have a President with new ideas bent on changing the ways
we provide for medical care, energy and education, while dealing with the
current financial crisis that is being compared with the Great Depression and
with budget deficits of more than a trillion dollars annually. Some of
our leaders believe we can change the governments of Pakistan
and make them democratic. That is a fantasy.
While President Obama does not believe we should be engaged
in so-called “nation building,” his statement on “Face The Nation” on March
29th with respect to our roles in both Afghanistan
belies that. He said, “Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan
as a sovereign government. We need to work with them and through them to
deal with al-Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable.
And we have to recognize that part of our task in working with Pakistan
is not just military. It’s also our capacity to build their capacity
through civilian interventions, through development, through aid
assistance. And that’s part of what you’re seeing – both in Afghanistan
I think it is fully resourcing a comprehensive strategy that doesn’t just rely
on bullets or bombs, but also relies on agricultural specialists, on doctors,
on engineers, to help create an environment in which people recognize that they
have much more at stake in partnering with us and the international community…”
have political cultures that are totally foreign to us and offend our sense of
fairness and justice. Wake up, America
We haven’t won the war in Iraq
and we won’t win it in Afghanistan
traditional terms. Al-Qaeda cells, according to the U.S.
government, are in 62 countries. The battle will go on for decades to
come. Wherever possible, our response should be to use aircraft, manned
and drone. Neighboring countries should put their boots on the ground as
those countries have the most to lose. We should use our special forces
to attack and kill the terrorist leadership and not expose our regular army to
York CityThe Honorable Edward
Irving Koch served
its 105th Mayor from 1978 to 1989.