Counterterrorism at the expense of Counterinsurgency


Earlier this month I wrote an article criticizing as dangerous George Will’s plan to withdraw from Afghanistan. Now, it has come out that Joe Biden is advocating a similar plan to draw down troop levels, give up protecting the Afghan government and people and instead use special forces and drones to attack Al-Qaida bases inside Pakistan.

Now the Obama administration is considering completely changing their strategy that they announced six months ago. Before that, Obama committed 21,000 troops shortly after taking office, then in March he committed himself to preventing a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Now he’s reconsidering strategy before we even have a chance to fully implement the previous strategy. This just goes to show that Obama is far too inexperienced in national security matters. This could be made up for with competent advisers, but except for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Obama has none. And Gates has been the main advocate for a “surge” strategy in Afghanistan.

If you think that Joe Biden’s idea sounds a lot like US strategy towards Afghanistan under the Clinton Administration before 9/11, you’re not alone. Bill Roggio has an excellent and detailed article on why counterterrorism at the expense of counterinsurgency will allow Al-Qaida to re-establish bases in the region. It may lead to renewed support for the Taliban from within the Pakistani intelligence services, and reliance on cross border attacks could increase the power of anti-American elements in the Pakistani government.

In short, pulling out of Afghanistan will do nothing but harm America’s national security.

The Greatest Generation

Arlington National Cemetery

Tombstones at Arlington

In one year, they are almost all gone. 2008 saw the deaths of France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Germany’s last living World War I veterans. In the United States, our last surviving World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, is 107 years old. Around the world, there are seven living veterans of the first World War: Four British, one Australian, one Canadian, and Mr. Buckles.

Currently, there are 2.5 million American veterans of the Second World War still alive today, out of 16 million which served. Around 900 American World War II veterans die each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of these veterans are in their eighties. Within the next 30 years, we will see the last World War II veterans pass away, and another war will fade from public memory. Only this time, the war was the greatest armed struggle in human history.

Remembering such a struggle, preserving the record of the world for time immemorial, is why history is not only an important field of study but a field which is vital to the maintenance of a working society. A society which forgets its past is condemned to repeat it. And a nation with no sense of where it came from has no future.