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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.


  1. We can only hope the US has learned by the experience of the Brits and the Soviet Union.

    our choices are as I see it;

    1) Get the hell out leaving the Afganistan people to resolve their on problems.

    2) Focus the mission to win an all out victory and then commit the dollars and troops needed to achieve the mission.

    If history is any indicator the Obama administration, like the Johnson administration, will make the incorrect decision and mire us in a conflict that will surely result in our ultimate defeat.

  2. Rational Nation, there's some truth to what you say. For #1, the longer we subsidize Afghanistan, with both troops and money, the more dependent they become on US handouts. Maybe pulling out would inspire them to take hold of their own future. For #2, more troops=more dollars, but this is a big problem, since we're running $1.42 trillion budget deficits and our Dollar is losing more and more of its value due to all the debt. Also, more troops puts greater strain on a military that is suffering from record suicide rates and PTSD.

    There is, however, a 3rd option. Focus the mission by withdrawing a significant portion of ground troops. Then, begin a more targeted campaign of utilizing special ops, drone strikes, air strikes, and missile strikes, and coordinating with Pakistani intelligence services to disrupt and destroy al-Qaeda safe havens. This plan could save the lives of thousands of troops, save hundreds of billions of dollars, and reduce strain on the Dollar. It would also reduce the pyschological strain of long-term, repeated deployments.

  3. Anon,

    Your points are well put.

    The solution you are suggesting, and I am quite sure the BO administration has considered, may work. Note I said may, and by this I mean short term.

    I however am one who believes that A) since BO is not a military person, he is a politician, and like other politicians of a prior era will will run the war from Washington. Thus certain loss. And 2) that no matter which military strategy we follow ultimately we will lose by far more than we gain.

    That is why I am a proponent of a pullout now. As to the arguments of security, well lets just say that while certainly a related consideration, the deeper threat lies not in Afghanistan.

    The deeper threat lies at home, in the muddled thoughts of multiculturalism, diversity at any cost, and the belief that somehow America is "obligated" to be the worlds policeman.

    The larger question is one of philosophy. More specifically ethics and politics/governance. Until such time our Republic and the majority of the governed have time for a sincere consideration of the principals on which this nation was founded, and have the much needed philosophical debate, we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.

    All action should be based on a clear vision, grounded in an objective understanding of reality, with the nations LONG TERM interests the primary consideration and concern of its government.

    Today, as well as in the recent past, such has been lacking.

  4. Rational Nation- I totally agree that the biggest threats to our freedom are not foreign but domestic.

    I also think it never hurts to repeat over and over that the ultimate question is a philosophical one pertaining to our view of government, which derives from our view of human-kind, which derives from our view of reality itself.

    In the meantime, I also agree with "Anonymous" that focused strikes on terrorists groups does play an important role in America's national defense, and that such efforts should actually be strengthened.