I am not hopeful I will hear either candidate talk about this issue at the Presidential Debate, but I would like each of them to take the issue of Afghanistan and to then step back and look at the larger region. Before we decide to "surge" into Afghanistan we need to think about what are the key issues on Wednesday, the 15th of October 2008. They may not be the same as the key issues were on Wednesday, 12 September 2001.
If the candidates zoom out from Afghanistan they will see Pakistan and India and Iran. Pakistan has just gone through a change of President and done it peacefully, but they are having serious problems, especially in the tribal regions. Some analysts (or pundits) are asking if Pakistan is becoming a failed state. That would be a nuclear armed failed state. Its neighbor, India, is also nuclear armed. They have disputed territory, such as Kashmir. Perhaps more important than capturing or killing Osama bin Laden is making sure that a conflict that would make "the world safe for nuclear warfare" does NOT break out between Pakistan and India.
Then there is Iran, which borders on both Pakistan and Afghanistan. How do they play in this game? And, how does it apply, if at all, to Iran and Iraq?
Then there is the opium crop. How does it play in this game. Given Question 2 (Possession of Marijuana) on our 4 November Ballot, the question of how we view drugs is very important. Opium is a cash crop in Afghanistan. What should we be doing about that?
Then there is the question of NATO, operating in Afghanistan under the auspices of the UN, and the relationship of the US only effort with the NATO effort.
Finally, what is the Afghani solution? The Taliban is reported to have broken with al Qaeda. Should we (or should President Hamid Karzai) be negotiating with the Taliban? Is Saudi Arabia a big player? Are we happy to see the former Taliban regime back in power, with all it means for women's rights and the rights of religious minorities?
Not a subject for a sound bit. This is one of those vexing problems where the President will be making decisions that have complex consequences for many people, some of whom will be winners and some losers.
1 year ago