Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fareed Zakaria Questions Rationale For War In Afghanistan

Following CIA director Leon Panetta's statement that there are about 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Newsweek asked pointed questions regarding the rationale for the war there:

"If Al Qaeda is down to 100 men there at the most," Zakaria asked, "why are we fighting a major war?"

Zakaria noted that the war is costing the U.S. a fortune in both blood and treasure. "Last month alone there were more than 100 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan.," the CNN host said. "That's more than one allied death for each living Al Qaeda member in the country in just one month.

"The latest estimates are that the war in Afghanistan will cost more than $100 billion in 2010 alone. That's a billion dollars for every member of Al Qaeda thought to be living in Afghanistan in one year."

To critics who suggest that we need to continue fighting the war against the Taliban because they are allied with Al Qaeda, Zakaria countered that "this would be like fighting Italy in World War II after Hitler's regime had collapsed and Berlin was in flames just because Italy had been allied with Germany."

"Why are we investing so much time, energy, and effort when Al Qaeda is so weak?" Zakaria concluded. "Is there a more cost-effective way to keep Al Qaeda on the ropes than fight a major land and air war in Afghanistan? I hope someone in Washington is thinking about this and not simply saying we're going to stay the course because, well, we must stay the course."

Watch Zakaria's commentary:


Charles said...

Could it be that this war was never as much about Al Queda as it was about retaining (or exerting) political and economic control in a region of the world that stands to be one of the most important in the next few years? With rising tensions with Iran and a shaky relationship with Russia, and with the veritable powder keg that is India and Pakistan... perhaps the deeper meaning of this war is about getting a military foothold in the region in anticipation of things to come...

That and the control of oil over there, because god knows it's going to be a while before we are allowed to drill for our own oil to an efficient extent for a while.

Jeff Tone said...

I believe that the factors you mention are certainly part of the equation. I think that Obama is also staying with this war because it would be difficult for him not to in terms of domestic politics. He already conducts strikes against terrorist groups on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He could do the same in Afghanistan without conducting a full-scale, "nation-building" war (if there really is a nation to be built and not a collection of warring tribes).

One of the worst pieces of news is the discovery of vast mineral riches in Afghanistan. The minute I heard about that, I knew this war would not end any time soon:

Regarding oil, drilling itself would not yield what we need and in the time we need it. We really should be exploring alternative energy sources more actively.

Charles said...

We may be destined to either disagree or at least misunderstand each other on the issue of domestic oil drilling.

Drilling in utah, colorado, new york, alaska and off shore here in the states would yield enough petroleum (certainly) to keep us economically afloat and burgeoning while we do explore alternative energy. And indeed, we are exploring alternative energy sources. But great leaps forward in technology will rarely happen because the government wills it, or tries to force it through unfair taxation.

We ought to prop up our nation with our own oil, making us less dependent on nations with sometimes questionable values, giving us greater control over the safety and environmental impact of said drilling (instead of just exporting environmental danger to north african, middle eastern, or south american countries, where they spill oil in un-godly quantities and don't even write a single newspaper article about it), and revitalizing our damaged economy. Our exporting the environmental risk of petroleum exploration to poorer countries is obscene, and i don't see how it fits in with ANY humanitarian agenda.

I know that a lot of people think that we ought to tax petroleum products into the ground here, but that would only serve to ruin what is left of our fragile economy. And the people suffering in this economy, and who would be punished by such taxation, are the people that "have to be" sustained by the government. It's a financial black hole.

The BP situation is a result of poor legislation (the liability cap, namely) and poor regulation (the MMS, who was willing to do whatever BP wanted in exchange for their normal kick backs). Both of these things are the result of an exponentially growing bureaucracy which becomes weaker and more corrupt the bigger it gets. a smaller, more nimble, less powerful government would be exponentially less corruptible and would not have created a loophole in which a disaster like this could have happened.

we can drill here, and we can do it in an environmentally benevolent fashion. and we can do it without making the ceo of the biggest energy company the vice president ever again.

Jeff Tone said...

I don't believe we misunderstand each other; we disagree, which is fine. I think that you are more optimistic than I am that drilling would tide us over to yield the amount of energy we need within the time frame we need it. I would like to be more optimistic on this matter, but I'm not.

I certainly don't think that offshore drilling results in greater safety or environmental protection. BP, for example, put all its resources into extracting and hardly enough into damage control. Now we have 11 workers dead and an ongoing disaster. There actually should have been more governmental regulation and oversight–but even then, it's still a tremendous risk.

We agree, though, on Cheney and his secret, self-serving energy meetings.