Time’s Afghanistan Debate: More Troops or a Lot More Troops?

In the new issue of Time magazine,a debate on Afghanistan is listed in the table of contents this way:

What Should We Do Now? Two Views
Is it time for the U.S. military to turn Afghanistan over, or is time for our troops to stay the course?

The “stay the course” view is presented by Peter Bergen, who argues that critics of the war are all wrong about Afghan history and the Afghan public’s view of foreign troops (they don’t mind them much): “The objections to an increased U.S. military commitment in South Asia rest on a number of flawed assumptions.” Sending as many as 40,000 more troops–as the White House seems to favor–is “sound policy.”

The opposing view comes from Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. He thinks that the hawks have twisted the argument— as he puts it:

Hawks on Afghan policy–those who favor defeating Al-Qaeda through a full-blown counterinsurgency strategy involving up to 40,000 more U.S. troops–have divined a politically clever line of argument: Win or get out.

It’s a phony choice. The hawks know there’s no chance of our simply pulling out of Afghanistan. That option isn’t even on the White House table, despite growing public desire to end the war. The true aim of the hawks, or all-outers, in this maneuver is to discredit the real policy alternative–the middle ground.

So he’s for the “middle ground,” which includes this:

Third, surge about 10,000 new combat forces on top of the 68,000 already authorized and create an additional 5,000 dedicated trainers. Such a surge should be sufficient to handle immediate troubles.

Fourth, start doing what the U.S. does well–deterrence and containment. To deter, we must maintain a small, residual capability in Afghanistan for a few years, as well as offshore air and missile capabilities to inflict harsh punishment when necessary.

So to simplify: The debate is between sending 40,000 more troops, or 10,000–witha “residual capability” in Afghanistan for “a few years.” There’s “no chance” for any other policy–even though public opinion is clearly against sending more troops. And we’re hoping to create democracy in Afghanistan?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.