Hounshell’s collateral damage
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images Last week, our Web editor, Blake Hounshell, ably deflated some of the optimism surrounding the surge. The security gains are impressive, he contends, but the deadly combination of underdevelopment and overeliance on oil make Iraq’s political prospects grim. Far better to cut our losses and focus on Afghanistan (“the real fight against ...
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Last week, our Web editor, Blake Hounshell, ably deflated some of the optimism surrounding the surge. The security gains are impressive, he contends, but the deadly combination of underdevelopment and overeliance on oil make Iraq’s political prospects grim. Far better to cut our losses and focus on Afghanistan (“the real fight against Al Qaeda”).
But what is it that Blake would have us do in Afghanistan? If Iraq’s political prospects are poor, Afghanistan’s must be considered even worse. Afghanistan doesn’t have oil (yet), but it is one of the world’s least developed countries, with infrastructure decimated by a quarter century of war and no history of effective governance. Why then spend billions and risk hundreds of lives propping up a doomed democratic government?
On Blake’s logic, it’s hard to see the rationale. Commandos and Predator drones can wage the “real fight” against the al Qaeda luminaries in the Pakistani hinterlands with or without an effective central government. Is Blake then willing to jettison the doomed Afghan nation-building project? And, if not, why not?
Blake also believes that cutting Iraq loose will free up America’s taxed diplomats to concentrate on managing the rise of China. This has become something of a mantra on the left recently (indeed, it’s almost “drearily familiar”). And it’s not implausible — Iraq is consuming vast quanities of senior executive time and energy. But I’ve never understood what precisely the United States could be doing vis-à-vis China that the Iraq mission now renders impossible. The U.S. has been engaging China economically, tamping down Taiwanese separatism, and working with Beijing diplomatically on North Korea. In sum, an accomodationist stance designed to guide China toward responsible great- power status. What vast benefit would our China policy enjoy once we’ve cast off the nettlesome Maliki and millions of ordinary Iraqis with him?
David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist
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