- Michael Semple is lecturing us in Foreign Affairs on why we need to make friends with the Taliban in order to “reconcile” with them and end the war. Semple, if you recall, had his hands all over the disastrous secession of Musa Qala, yet couldn’t find it within himself to mention such a stupendous failure (and his expulsion from Afghanistan) in his piece. If he won’t own up to his own failures and maybe, I don’t know, offer a way we can avoid them in future, how is he in any way trustworthy for new policy ideas? Yes, let us talk to the Taliban, but let us talk to them when they are not actively winning already, since that kind of looks like surrender talk. We’ve discussed new political parties, the weird negotiations kabuki, and the fact that most people still don’t know we even want to “negotiate” with the Taliban. Semple barely addresses any of these issues.
- My biggest problem with Seth Jones isn’t his Big Ideas about Afghanistan (which are mostly inarguable), but that he blithely repeats vague platitudes with no indication about how to implement them. He did this when he was defending Hamid Karzai, and he did that when he timelined the post-2001 war. Now he’s in the WSJ, saying all we need are arbakai and local governance councils. And yes we do—if we reform the constitution, isolate Kabul, completely rework the entire government’s approach to nation-building, and accept all that local corruption he so strongly condemned in his book. And if we somehow make arbakai agents of security instead of insecurity, which is unlikely outside of Loya Paktiya. But he wrote a book, so listen to him! [Update: Christian Bleuer notices something I forgot in all my annoyance: Jones doesn't even understand the field he's writing off with a single sentence. And he's the RAND expert!]
- Did you know Fred and Kim Kagan were Afghanistan experts? Because they talk about the Surge a lot, the Weekly Standard sure does, and even seems to enjoy them writing a passionate defense of the Green Lantern Theory of geopolitics, where if we Americans just squint and grunt hard enough, we can do anything regardless of implementations, resource limitations, and public support. Questioning the war is unpatriotic, trying to push it in any direction other than escalate escalate escalate is evidence of lacking will.
- David Kilcullen predicts we have four Friedman Units left in Afghanistan. This from the man who has made a career out of leveraging baseless, apocalyptic predictions of Afghanistan and Pakistan into prominent advisory positions. Sorry, Dave—your drag is getting kind of old, and no one likes the boy who keeps crying wolf.
That being said, something is weighing very heavily on me. Both the government and pundit-land have actual Afghanistan experts, with proven records of success (or at least being right if they were overruled), and an obvious and keen grasp of the issues involved. They never seem to make it to the op-ed pages or the reporter interviews (and worse: many of those same op-ed pages reject nuts-and-bolts articles—believe me, I’ve tried). It’s perhaps because they’re more busy with actually trying to solve problems than hyping themselves in the media, but the fundamental “expert problem” remains: why do we rely on the same old generic “experts” when we have actual experts who could lend insight?
Right now the same old crowd of think tankers is not serving us, our soldiers, or our strategic interests… in fact, I’ll go so far as to say they are making us significantly worse off. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Can the adults please start discussing Afghanistan? We need them desperately.