IS A SURGE IN AFGHANISTAN INEVITABLE?

Via Kevin Drum, Rory Stewart and Robert Kaplan join Zbigniew Brzezinski in warning against a surge in Afghanistan. Stewart cautions that the Afghan government's problems of infrastructure are better solved by focusing on development and limiting our military objectives. Kaplan argues for a diplomatic effort to calm tensions between Pakistan and India and end decades of Afghanistan being used as for proxy battles between the two countries, arguing that "[t]he India-Pakistan rivalry is just one of several political problems in the region that negate the benefit of more troops". Kaplan further surmises that an agreement that assuages Pakistan's concerns about India would benefit efforts to combat the insurgents along the border.

But is a surge inevitable? Below, Tim argues that there's "a growing cottage industry" of skepticism regarding a "surge" in Afghanistan, but that hasn't caught on in either of the campaigns. Obama has used his support for sending more troops to Afghanistan as a way to show that he can be "tough" on foreign policy issues when appropriate, and it seems in general the Democratic Party is using the issue in the same way. Since McCain seems to think "surges" are a solution for everything from foreign policy to urban crime and possibly that stubborn mold you can't get out of the caulk along your bathtub, I'm not expecting much there.

If so, the what looks like a bi-partisan agreement over sending more troops to Afghanistan may be more a result of domestic political maneuvering than a real solution to ongoing problems in the region, and if Kaplan and Stewart are to be believed, it could actually make things worse. Personally, I'm not convinced sending more troops to Afghanistan would be a bad move, but it seems like many have simply accepted the idea that it would work, without seriously thinking about whether it actually would, simply because it sounds good politically.

--A. Serwer

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