The Buzz

Dismissing the Facts on Afghanistan

Sam Schulman, writing in The Weekly Standard, exposes what he calls "the liberal habit of sanctimonious betrayal" of beleaguered peoples around the world whose plight these liberals previously had embraced as solemn causes. Fair enough. But in the process he takes a few digs at foreign policy "realists," such as Harvard’s Stephen Walt—who, concedes Shulman, was right in saying the Obama administration is preparing to "bug out" (Schulman’s words) on Afghanistan. 

"But," he adds, "only true realists can forget that the Taliban have been beaten again and again on the battlefield by the Northern Alliance, NATO, and our own military forces….Only card-carrying realists can explain (though they never bother to do so) how it might be in our national interest to hand over a country in the neighborhood of several troublesome and often hostile powers—Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan—to a groupuscule of racial and sectarian supremacists…."

On the first point, Schulman seems to think that his pronouncements must be correct because they are his pronouncements. Consider what Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of Senate Intelligence, said on CNN recently (with her Republican House counterpart sitting next to her) following a trip to Afghanistan: "I think we’d both say that what we found is that the Taliban is stronger." Schulman might want to read (but he will never bother to do so) TNI’s March/April cover story by Michael Hart, a British military officer whose very different assessment of the situation in Afghanistan emanates from his own military experience there. He makes Schulman’s pronouncement about the Taliban having been "beaten again and again" look ridiculous.

Next, consider Schulman’s dismissive attitude toward America’s willingness to "hand over a country" in a dangerous neighborhood. He seems to be saying that the United States must maintain Afghanistan as a kind of beachhead in the region, a redoubt that we will never "hand over" and from which we will deal with nearby "troublesome and often hostile powers." Sounds a bit like the Iraq mission, doesn’t it? Only a card-carrying neocon would refuse to heed—or even see—that lesson.