October 20, 2010
If you were wondering when I would apply my vast lack of knowledge to the Afghanistan situation, today is the day.
Let’s agree that we have a war that can’t be won as long as Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, and that situation shows no sign of changing. Let’s also agree that if the U.S. military pulls out of Afghanistan the Taliban will slay everyone who doesn’t have a beard or a burka, and create a safe haven for terrorists. So pulling out is risky.
What do you do with a problem that is unsolvable? You take a play from corporate America. When your coworker can’t solve a problem, he redefines the objective until it becomes a problem that is solvable.
Suppose we apply this method to Afghanistan. We redefine our purpose for being in Afghanistan as keeping Al Qaeda from having a state-supported training ground. That’s close enough to our original goal that succeeding would mean something.
The first step would be to create safe zones in Afghanistan where the Afghans who are afraid of the Taliban can live and prosper. Maybe this requires some Israeli-style walls and the support of warlords who aren’t fond of the Taliban. We give the citizens of Afghanistan a one-year warning and help relocate anyone who wants to get out of the zones that are likely to come under Taliban control. This would be hugely expensive, and a great hardship on the citizens. But unlike our current approach, it could work.
Then we pull back our military to well-defended bases and create drone and Special Forces training facilities that are designed for permanent operation. In this context, I’m stretching the meaning of “training” to include attacking any group of Taliban or Al Qaeda that appears to have a leader or a military asset.
The beauty of “surrendering” big parts of Afghanistan to the Taliban, and presumably Al Qaeda, is that it will cause the bad guys to congregate and form easy targets for drone attacks. As for the so-called training facility, I can’t imagine better training than attacking live targets. And the future of warfare seems to include drones, so our national defense would be improving daily as we continue to sharpen our skills in a way that no other country can.
When the Taliban gets tired of being pounded by drones every day, and they ask for a meeting to discuss peace, we respond, “Peace to what? The war is already over. Have a nice day.”
I remind you that my understanding of world affairs, and Afghanistan in particular, could be stored inside a thimble and leave plenty of room for a thumb. This blog is for people who like to toss around ideas. You won’t find any answers here.