Max Boot Misses the Point

February 29, 2012 Topic: CounterinsurgencyPost-Conflict Region: Afghanistan Blog Brand: The Buzz

Max Boot Misses the Point

The lead story the country’s major newspapers Monday was the blow to America’s Afghan policy dealt by the killing of two U.S. advisers in Kabul. Washington promptly pulled hundreds of American personnel from their advisory posts there. The Washington Post said those killings, apparently spurred by the burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. military personnel, “possibly exposed a crippling weakness in the American strategy to wind down the war.”

But Max Boot, writing in The Wall Street Journal, argues things are fine, most Afghans are pro-American and all that’s needed is a greater U.S. effort. His central complaint was that the killings and the street demonstrations prompted by the Koran burnings would strengthen the hand of Americans who argue for a faster U.S. troop pullout. He added that he found the killings of the two Americans “especially galling.”

Especially galling? Those words seem oddly inapt to describe a reaction to having two American citizens gunned down at their desks as they sought to help the nation from which the killers emerged. Boot, who in the past has advocated an American imperialism on the old British model, seems impervious to the lesson that is obvious to others—that America’s Afghan counterinsurgency effort is a fool’s mission.

Boot cites polls of Afghans purporting to show support for the American military effort there. He seems to believe this is like an American-style election in which political opponents do battle with words and then accept the electoral outcome. Polls matter in such an environment. In Afghanistan, the discourse is often through the barrel of a gun. Polls are meaningless in that kind of setting.

Boot bolsters his point that Afghans are on our side by noting that more than 350,000 Afghan men have joined the security forces, while estimates of the insurgency’s strength is a mere thirty thousand. This lacks rigor. Indeed, such numbers merely bolster the argument that Afghanistan’s anti-Taliban forces shouldn’t need the United States to dispatch that puny insurgency.

This is typical Max Boot stuff in which intensity of belief outstrips the logic of the argument. A howler.