The Wise Men Start Rethinking Afghanistan

Monday, August 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Via Marc Lynch’s Twitter feed, Lee Hamilton — 9/11 Commissioner, Iraq Study Grouper, former Indiana Congressman, all-around wise man — asks some very fundamental questions about the Afghanistan war:

Strategically, there are two broad and fundamental questions to be answered. First, how will our departure impact our regional and security interests over the next decade and longer? And second, is this type of war really the best use of American power and resources in today’s world?

Unfortunately, that’s the end of Hamilton’s op-ed, which, if anything, signifies that establishment foreign policy is starting to become comfortable throwing those questions out but isn’t yet comfortable offering answers. But still. Hamilton isn’t just any greybeard, he’s one President Obama respects and listens to, as one of Obama’s top foreign policy advisers, Ben Rhodes, worked for Hamilton for years. Hamilton endorsed Obama at a critical period in the primaries. Just before Obama’s inauguration, Hamilton hosted a dinner for him with a number of foreign-policy luminaries. Michael Cohen is right to see something changing.

On Wednesday morning, Richard Holbrooke, the administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be bringing his whole interagency crew to talk at the Center for American Progress. That should be a good tableau for presenting — and perhaps addressing — progressive agita over the state of the Afghanistan war.

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Matthew Yglesias » Lee Hamilton Has Some Doubts About Afghanistan
Pingback posted August 10, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

[...] fundamental question. And it’s a good one. And as Spencer Ackerman explains, Hamilton has an interesting relationship with the President: Unfortunately, that’s the end of Hamilton’s op-ed, which, if anything, [...]

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Comment posted August 11, 2009 @ 4:13 am

Let's just give upSpencer, frankly lets apologize for AQ having to kill 3,000 americans, I'm sure we did something to deserve it, right

Comment posted August 11, 2009 @ 4:39 am

Afghanistan: What would Napoleon have done?

In the late 18th century, Switzerland was already a confederation of provinces (cantons) united, despite the diversity of languages and the schism of religion, by centuries of common history and pride in their fighting fame. This resemblance to modern Afghanistan deserves to be mentioned and indeed does not only refer to a mountainous geography, a landlocked country, with a population predominantly rural and conservative, politically organized around large cities.

When, at that time, the revolutionary ideas rocked Europe, disorder settled in Switzerland and violence broke out between those who wanted to keep the old order and those who swore only by social progress.

General Napoleon Bonaparte, who then led a victorious army in Italy, was sought by Swiss citizens to assist in their emancipation. Driven as much by ambition as by good intentions, he promised freedom, equal rights, and soon the French armed forces entered the country.

“Many thought we could not obtain anything without the help of France, but the majority of the people abhor the armed intervention of a foreign power in the affairs of their homeland” (History of the Swiss Nation, Henri Zschokke, 1830). Proud mountain people, jealous of their liberty and ancient heritage, then rose in many valleys.

In 1798, France confirmed its project: “Switzerland will provide a full and indivisible Republic under a central Government. (…) The Government shall appoint, for the enforcement of laws in the various cantons, governors and other authorities.” But, unfortunately, announced democracy and social progress only brought forth oligarchic administration, and endless political turmoil accompanied the insurgency.

In 1803, Napoleon, with the foresight that today certainly is lacking in the international community on Afghanistan, did not hesitate to reverse the policy itself and, in order to restore civil concord, imposed a Mediation. He wrote to the delegates of the cantons: “Switzerland resembles no other State, either by the events that have succeeded for many centuries, or by location or by the different languages, different religions, or this extreme difference of manners between its different parts. Nature has made your State federal, willing to defeat it is not from a wise man.”

The Act of Mediation enabled Switzerland to restore peace in the midst of a Europe at war. This was followed in 1815 by a Federal Pact, and especially by an “Act of recognition of the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland” signed by all European governments. On these solid foundations, the Federal State was formed over the decades, around a Constitution (1848), an Army of Militia, a Right of Referendum (1874), a Right of Popular Initiative (1891), a Civil Code (1907), a Penal Code (1937), etc. It may be noted in passing that it was not until 1971 that the Swiss, after several refusals, accepted the participation of women in federal politics.

The Swiss political model is regularly cited as one that could inspire a peaceful Afghanistan: Edwin Paynter 2002, Henry Kissinger 2009, Inderfurth and Dobbins 2009, etc.. Yet the international community persists in trying to impose on this complex country a highly centralized political model, secretly hoping the advent of a “good dictator”…

The beginning of the end to our war in Afghanistan « Fabius Maximus
Pingback posted August 18, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

[...] on August 10 Spencer Ackerman wrote that The Wise Men Start Rethinking Afghanistan.   On August 11 he described why the great and wise have begun to bail on the [...]

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