Very little actually happened during Obama’s stunt visit to Kabul. His mastery of obfuscating optics remains unmatched: America is leaving in 2014 to rebuild at home, except we are staying to ‘finish the mission’. The most cheeky line? His declaration that ‘the mission is on a clear path to success.’ Do tell.
Pure focus group gold. The twinkle in Obama’s eye during his speech seems to say ‘This is how you do it.’ Soaring verbiage for all persuasions and voila – Afghanistan politically neutralized for 2012. After that, not really his personal problem. Who says he can only slow roll news?
We’d prefer a more honest and coherent withdrawal. And an open rejection of nation-building, COIN and (add your list here). Afghanistan as an even moderately functioning society should be far more pressing for Moscow, Beijing, Islamabad and whoever is the next Mayor of Kabul/Afghan president.
The scale of American profligacy over 13 years understandably makes a clean walk away difficult. Lives and a trillion dollars thrown away, mostly for nothing. A pointless surge that cynically bought time but accomplished little. An entire generation of national security bureaucracies and personal careers built on the whole Islamo-Terrorist/Drink-Tea-Complex. That’s a lot of inertia for Obama to take on. Particularly for one instinctively prone to compromise. So Decent Interval today is a more drawn out affair.
The $4-5 billion being brandied about as a post-2014 annual ante for
graft aid to Kabul is expensive, even compared to Tel-Aviv. Sure, it keeps the American hand in the Great Game. In for a trillion, in for a billion, amirite? A lighter CT footprint requires some infrastructure and logistics after all. Obama concedes we’ll be in Afghanistan for another decade anyway.
Most of the aid money will be a psychological sop to alleviate American guilt. Does anyone really expect a dollar given to Kabul after 2014 to yield sudden benefit and efficiencies? Guilt’s emotional echo likely will fuel AgitProp for future mission creep again, most prominently from the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] with their emotional, impulsive ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) cant. The humanitarian calls for action here will be to alleviate oppression of helpless [gender/minority/pet] left destitute by callous abandonment. People may even Tweet about it. (We suspect those agitators (and Afghans) will be disappointed; America, once she’s psychologically withdrawn, will treat Afghanistan like an office party in a cell phone commercial ‘-so 45 seconds ago’).
Obama’s dazzling skill fuzzing up political conversation may be welcome in some quarters now. We’ll all rue it later. ‘Lessons of Afghanistan 2001-2014’ inescapably will be on a future political blackboard. Not that we as a society are particularly adroit at drawing lessons, let alone studying them.