Daniel Larison isn’t sure there is any good that can come from Republicans who oppose President Obama’s Afghanistan policy on anything other than noninterventionist grounds. He writes, “With respect to Afghanistan, this coalition of the unprincipled is particularly unwelcome, not least because the Afghan war has always been as legitimate as the Iraq war was not.”
We are now learning that there were a lot of Democrats who were as opportunistic in their support of Afghanistan — it gave them a good war to support while opposing the bad war in Iraq — as some Republicans are in their newfound desire to get out of Afghanistan. But let’s deal with Larison’s statement about the two wars on its own merits: In 2001-02, I think he is absolutely right. Afghtanistan was not a preventive war, it was an act of self-defense against the terrorists who attacked America and the government that was giving them safe haven. But is this still true in 2009? Remeber that the strictest noninterventionist Republicans now opposing the Afghan surge — Ron Paul, Walter Jones, Jimmy Duncan — all voted to go in eight years ago.
I’m open to the argument that preventing a worse government from taking over Afghanistan would benefit our national security, in part by making it more difficult for a worse government to take over more strategically important Pakistan. But I am deeply skeptical of our ability to accomplish much in terms of nation-building there. So while I don’t agree with, say, Diana West about what constitutes just military tactics, I am inclined to agree with her about the pointlessness of the course we are now embarking upon.
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