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Friday, October 16, 2009

Think Tank Lineup Oct 16 (Afghanistan)

This is the second installment of the Think Tank Lineup, a new feature here at THL: a regular round-up consisting of short excerpts from- with links to- articles from the various liberty-oriented think tanks.

In last week's lineup, we put our finger to the pulse of America's libertarian think tanks to see what they thought about health care reform. (To summarize, it should involve LESS, not more government.)

This week, the libertarian think tanks are also in agreement: a more successful national defense strategy should involve less troops in Afghanistan and a more focused mission, but that if America does choose to escalate in Afghanistan, it had better send A LOT more troops than 40 or 80 thousand, and win a swift, decisive victory.

The Cato Institute
Afghanistan, The "Graveyard of Empires"

The Ludwig von Mises Institute

The Afghan Disaster

In the private sector, there is always a test of success. The business must make a profit. It can sustain some losses, but the clock is always running on those. At some point, after all cuts have been made and costs are trimmed to a minimum, the business has to close shop. The summer of losses must become the autumn of profits, or else it's all over.

Not so in government. Failing projects can go on forever. There is no profit and loss test. There is no test at all, in fact. Agencies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) can blast away at a particularly egregious case of government waste, but hardly anyone pays attention. Congress has no reason to scrap it. No one does. Taxpayers have no means to pull the plug, because the whole thing is run outside their purview.

The Independent Institute
Five Facts About Afghanistan

The motto for counterinsurgency war should be either commit enough forces to win early or get out. After eight long years of a lackadaisical effort, another 40,000 committed this late won’t even lift the Obama administration out of the halfhearted category. The U.S. should cut its losses, withdraw from Afghanistan, and concentrate on pressuring al-Qaeda in Pakistan with a smaller military footprint—so as not to stir up more anti-U.S. Islamists than we are neutralizing.

The Reason Foundation
The Tragedies of Afghanistan

For the United States, Afghanistan has been one tragedy after another, with more looming ahead.

In that part of the world, the only thing more dangerous than failure is success. It was America's success in helping the mujahedeen rebels defeat the Soviet Union that spawned later troubles.

In the vacuum left by the departure of the Red Army, civil war broke out among competing factions, with the fanatical Taliban coming out on top.