Two noteworthy responses to my column last week ("An Exit Strategy To Die For") deserve my reply. In the online magazine Commentary, Max Boot, one of the most respected foreign-policy voices on the right, explicitly dissented from the central premise of my column. In The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan, though politely not mentioning my column, dedicated their lead editorial to a point-by-point rebuttal to my arguments.
In both instances, they sympathized with my sentiments but disagreed with my reasoning. Both articles also assumed that the arguments I raised will be an increasingly common view on the right (which currently is providing most of the public support for fighting the Afghan war). I agree with that latter point, so it is worth reviewing whether they are right on the former one -- that my reasoning is wrong.
First, let's be clear that Messrs. Kristol, Kagan and Boot and I all agree that America has vital national security interests in Afghanistan that a fully resourced and well-led American effort has a good chance of vindicating, and we also agree that our precipitous exit would have terrible consequences.
Where we differ is on the question of whether the likely level of death and serious wounding of American troops in a counterinsurgency war initially fought without sufficient men and materiel (and hesitantly led from the White House) is likely, nevertheless, to uphold sufficient American national security interests to be justified. They say yes; I say no.
Boot argues: "We don't have the luxury of giving up the war effort now and hope for the best ('a more hawkish successor' to President Barack Obama) in the future. ... Even a reduced level of (American) commitment can help to stave off a catastrophe." He then compares Afghanistan to the end of the Korean War, in which we gave up on retaking the entire peninsula but fought and negotiated to at least keep South Korea from going communist.
I would respond that as we are fighting a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan (rather than a conventional war, as we did in Korea), the better analogy is Vietnam. President Obama is publicly emphatic that he wants an exit strategy in order to limit the duration of his commitment to Afghanistan. Such an under-resourced effort likely would result in our failure to eliminate (or reduce to inevitable ineffectiveness) the insurgency -- leaving it functional in much of the countryside.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.