Monday, June 28, 2010

George Packer on Afghanistan

For my money, George Packer’s Assassin’s Gate (2005) is among the two or three best books written about Iraq. One of the things that separated it from the competition was its prescience. Packer anticipated the path liberal opinion about that war would take based on his diagnosis of the antinomies of the ideology of humanitarian intervention when it was still popular in liberal circles and his sure sense of the trajectory of facts on the ground. That makes what Packer’s now saying about Afghanistan all the more credible.

“American policy is drifting toward a review, scheduled for December, and Obama is trapped—not by his generals but by the war. It takes great political courage to face such a situation honestly, but if in a year’s time the war looks much the way it does now, or worse, Obama will have to force the public to deal with the likely reality: Americans leaving, however slowly; Afghanistan slipping into ethnic civil war, with many more Afghan deaths; Pakistan backing the Pashtun side; Al Qaeda seizing the chance to expand its safe haven. These consequences would require a dramatically different U.S. strategy, and a wise Administration would unify itself around the need to think one through before next summer.”

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