CHARM YOUR WAY ACROSS THE KHYBER PASS.

U.N. Dispatch and the Washington Note have convened a bunch of experts for a "salon" on counterterrorism, and the results are worth reading. Greg Djerejian makes some good points in this post about the dangers of our strategy in Afghanistan. Peter Bergen replies in two posts. The first has a good discussion of the bigger strategic picture while the second is more specific to Afghanistan and cites the polling numbers I mentioned here, which indicate that Afghans favor U.S. efforts in their country and dislike the Taliban.

At the risk of being contrarian, I do worry (as does Dejerejian) that these numbers could change very quickly if we send more troops and increase combat operations in the country, especially without very dedicated development efforts -- something a President Obama is more likely to do than a President McCain. But Bergen also highlighted a key material difference between U.S. intervention and the Soviet experience: "The Soviets killed at least 1.5 million Afghans and they turned a third of the population into refugees; some 6 million fled to Iran and Pakistan."

I'm having trouble finding accurate tallies of similar casualty figures since the 2001 invasion, but the consensus is on the order of tens of thousands, not millions -- an uneasy difference to throw around, but a positive one. Overall, the conventional wisdom redeployment strategy still sounds tenable, but to paraphrase, the unexamined military escalation isn't worth doing.

--Tim Fernholz

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