Obama it seems increasingly clear will embrace his inner Goldilocks Paradigm and cave to the tragically inappropriate and misguided COIN meme peddlers. He will festoon his surrender to CENTCOM manipulation with a compromise troop number and — as we noted before — the political optics of a more agile, pervasive global counter-terrorism focus. But his imprimatur will transform this needless exercise in political expediency into a policy that will echo for decades and only further radicalize and cohere the very anti-Americanism it seeks to ‘pacify’ locally and for jihadists elsewhere.
That NATO as bureaucracy seeks relevancy by endorsing the only mission it can plausibly claim should surprise no one, least of all leadership in its member states. If we were dragged back into Europe in 1949 to keep the Germans down and Russians out, it appears now that the Brussels contingent votes for America to pursue a ruinous policy merely to keep them employed. In truth, if we wisely jettison the Neocon fantasy of American containment of Russia by permanent encroachment across her European and Central Asian periphery NATO truly has no raison d’etre. Votes on this or not.
Given the depleted political, real and military capital Obama inherited, the wise deployment for shaping an evolving international order at least amenable to American identity and interests is crucial. How truly sad that a chance to undertake a clear audit of American interests, capabilities and commitments is being tossed away. Escalation in Afghanistan serves no even medium term American strategic interest. The core American strategic imperative for the immediate term is to repair and re-calibrate our squandered economic base. This requires a profound national recommitment to re-think American capitalism and how it functions for American society. We haven’t even begun to scratch that surface. But that effort is the foundation and wellspring of all means of future national power, hard and soft. Time is not on our side. Developments in ASEAN and elsewhere are just a reminder that the world is already planning for the post-American era.
A prolonged military engagement in the Kush with unavoidable ‘defeat’ in strategic terms will be an economic, social, political and diplomatic ‘lock-in’ to the past. While the world happily builds itself anew. Defeating jihadist terrorism is an issue for the global community rather than an epic solo American mission re-enacting romantic delusions and (maladriot) demonstration of ‘power’. The strategic issues are so much larger than the Imperial City labels of ‘counter insurgency’, ‘containment’ and ‘counter-terrorism’.