Stanley's blog

Lyndon Johnson forfeited a second presidential term because of his decision to escalate the Vietnam war. I do hope that Barack Obama”s decision to send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan will not have a similar consequence.

The strategy is founded on the belief that al-Qaeda needs Afghanistan as a base. But does it? Terrorist attacks since 9/11 seem to have been planned and executed elsewhere. In fact, terrorists don’t need permanent bases. The 9/11operation was planned in the West, as was the London bombing. To what extent, therefore, would al-Qaeda benefit from Taliban rule in Afghanistan?

It is hard to imagine that after the NATO leaves Afghanistan, the country will not return to its traditional ways. The Taliban and the other ethnic forces have the patience to wait.

The president’s coupling of the “surge” with an exit strategy suggests that he believes that he is covered if, as seems likely, success in the short-term will not last.

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  1. Your point is an excellent one, and one that is in the minds of many in the U.S. who enthusiastically supported Mr. Obama’s election. Could this be another “1965” moment when Lyndon Johnson faced his own dilemma involving the balance between moving ahead on an ambitious domestic agenda and investing more in a foreign war that turned out to be a disaster? An FT columnist made this point just a few days ago.

    Those of us who supported Mr. Obama are greatly concerned by this decision. It strikes me that the terrorist threat is not based on geography but based on a philosophy that is transnational in nature. Will 30,000 more U.S. and thousands of troops from other countries (e.g., the UK) mean that the threat will be reduced? Maybe, but maybe not. Ask the Soviet generals about their experience.

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