Beware, America. You are about to be duped by an alliance of Obama-niks and Bush-ites who, together, are laying the groundwork for nation-building in Afghanistan -- nation-building in Iraq having worked out so well (insert acid shot of sarcasm here). Only they are not going to call it "nation-building."
Worse, they are forging ahead without heeding the remedial lesson of Iraq: No matter how many American dollars spent, no matter how many American lives lost, it's not possible to transform an Islamic republic that enshrines Islamic law (Sharia) into an ally against Islamic jihad, even if Islamic jihad is euphemized as "extremism," "man-caused disasters" or "overseas contingency operations." That's because Islamic jihad is ultimately waged to extend Sharia. See the disconnect? Good. That's more than our experts can do, which is why it now looks as if we're going to give this flawed strategy another multi-trillion dollar try in Afghanistan.
This is what I heard at what you might call a "war is the answer" teach-in, Washington-style, at the Mayflower Hotel this week. There, a conference sponsored by the newly formed neoconservative think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, brought an audience of media and policy types up to war-in-Afghanistan speed. And, as usual in Washington, they did it without ever once mentioning "Islam" (until I asked a quick question at the end).
This was neither a secret session of the so-called "neocon cabal" -- although some charter members were present -- nor an Obama White House war room presentation. Still, I caught the faintest whiff of backroom smoke in talk of just how "clever," as Carnegie's Ashley Tellis put it, the Obama team was for packaging a nation-building agenda in the terminology of fighting Al Qaeda, a far narrower and presumably more popular objective. Robert Kagan noted that President Obama may not be talking about democratization, but his goals are similar. Hence, the warm enthusiasm for the Obama Afghan policy from such Iraq War proponents as Kagan, his brother and Iraq "surge" co-author Frederick Kagan, the Weekly Standard's William Kristol, and by John Nagl, a co-author of the U.S. Army's counterinsurgency manual and fellow of the Center for a New American Security, a left-leaning think tank associated with Obama defense policy circles.