Saturday, March 31, 2007
Who's Zooming Who?
Michael Crowley of TNR took issue with Charles Krauthammer's "Iraq or Afghanistan" WaPo op-ed as well, specifically Krauthammer's dismissal of Afghanistan as "geographically marginal". Trouble is, he's a little wide of the mark:
I see the Pakistani bomb as a greater near-term threat to my own life than anything that might happen in Iraq in the next few years. Given the proximity of Afghanistan to Pakistan, and the way Islamic radicals play the two countries off one another, it seems to me that creating stability and a climate inhospitable to anti-American terrorists there is no "marginal" thing at all.
First of all, it's important to remember that the ISI, Pakistan's military intelligence agency, was responsible for creating stability and a climate hospitable to anti-American terrorists in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Far from being a threat to Pakistan, our enemies in Afghanistan functioned as useful pawns for Pakistani interests.
I'd also disagree with Crowley's characterization of who's triangulating whom. The ISI's been tossing the Coalition crumbs since the invasion, while continuing to supply covert aid to the Taliban and their terrorist fellow travellers. If anyone's playing both sides, it's Pakistan.
As annoying as Krauthammer generally is, he's correct when he says that, as of today, Iraq is strategically more important than Afghanistan. Whatever threat Afghanistan posed to our national security was eliminated when the terrorist training infrastructure that it harbored was dismantled and Al Qaeda's command & control capacity was disrupted. And we can keep both from reconstituting that threat with targeted special forces operations and aerial firepower.
Regardless of the fact that Iraq didn't pose a credible threat to America in 2003 (which I think is indisputable at this point), the consequences of a failed state there now would pose a much greater threat to our strategic interests than the consequences of failing to stabilize Afghanistan, which, it's important to remember, has essentially been a failed state for the past 20 years.
That doesn't mean that a stable, de-Talibanized Afghanistan isn't in our interests. It is. More importantly, it's actually an attainable result, assuming we throw the necessary resources at the problem. Unlike a stable, de-Iranianized Iraq, which at this point is an impossibility.
Which is why the Democrats are correct in calling for shifting our priorities and our resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. Even if they, and Crowley, are using the wrong arguments to do so.