To the extent that Barack Obama is spreading his wings on the foreign policy front and taking the fight to John McCain, it is a good thing. To the extent that the real mission in the Middle East should have been about Osama bin-Laden – seven freaking years ago – Obama’s insistence that Afghanistan is where we should be expending our resources is a good thing.
But any good student of history – particularly Eurasian history – knows that many a good army was brought to its knees trying to accomplish anything in Afghanistan. Many a national economy has been brought to ruin in trying to unseat an insurgency in those impenatrable hills. This is not an esoteric exercise in statistics, nor a historical footnote of no consequence to modern armies: no less than the Russian army has succumbed to the pitfalls in Afghanistan. It is true that the United States funded the war in Afghanistan to harrass the Soviet Union, but money while helpful does not keep armies alive. The unforgiving, labyrinthine mountains and caves and decades of hard fighting did that.
So, when Barack Obama says we need to leave Iraq and send more brigades to Afghanistan, I do sometimes worry if we aren’t trading one albatross for another. It’s worth worrying about.