The vote is in. Tom Friedman says no more troops for Afghanistan. Why?
When I think back on all the moments of progress in that part of the world — all the times when a key player in the Middle East actually did something that put a smile on my face — all of them have one thing in common: America had nothing to do with it.
America helped build out what they started, but the breakthrough didn’t start with us. We can fan the flames, but the parties themselves have to light the fires of moderation. And whenever we try to do it for them, whenever we want it more than they do, we fail and they languish.
The Camp David peace treaty was not initiated by Jimmy Carter.
OK, but the process would’ve gone nowhere without Carter’s assertive leadership. (OMG, did I just praise Jimmy Carter? Yes, credit where credit is due.) Next example:
The Oslo peace accords started in Oslo — in secret 1992-93 talks between the P.L.O. representative, Ahmed Qurei, and the Israeli professor Yair Hirschfeld.
Not exactly a happy ending, there. But progress. However, is this a discussion about Israelis or Afghanistan? Final example:
The U.S. surge in Iraq was militarily successful because it was preceded by an Iraqi uprising sparked by a Sunni tribal leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who, using his own forces, set out to evict the pro-Al Qaeda thugs who had taken over Sunni towns and were imposing a fundamentalist lifestyle. The U.S. surge gave that movement vital assistance to grow. But the spark was lit by the Iraqis.
20/20 hindsight. Democrats lined up in lockstep against the surge. How many of them said, “Wait, there are people like Sheik Sattar who deserve our help fighting Al Qaeda!” (How about Friedman himself? Did he notice Sattar? I’ll be looking that up.)
Right now in Afghanistan, there are Afghans ready to fight with us against the Taliban. What we saw in Iraq was, that across the country, people like Sattar came out of the woodwork when they began to believe America would back them up. The evidence they demand is boots on the ground.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum says Friedman is a barometer of shifting conventional wisdom.