The Corner

Two Wars, One Mission

I have an op-ed in the L.A. Times today with David Rivkin. A bit from it:

TO CRITICS of the Bush administration, the war in Afghanistan is the “good” counterinsurgency. Their calls for troop reductions or a timetable to end the “bad war” in Iraq are matched by demands for more resources and perseverance in Afghanistan. However, this preference is senseless, driven either by sentimentality or partisanship. There is no sound strategic reason to favor the Afghan war over the war in Iraq. In fact, the fates of Baghdad and Kabul are intertwined.

The two wars began differently, of course. The Afghan war has always been much less controversial. No one has ever denied that the Taliban’s harboring of Al Qaeda was a legitimate casus belli. The Iraq war had much more opposition from the beginning, and one of its chief rationales — that Saddam Hussein was harboring stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction — seemed to collapse after the U.S. invasion. But if you put aside how the wars began — and we realize that many opponents of the Iraq war will never be able to do that — there is little to differentiate them.

In Iraq, we face a vicious insurgency that will take years to defeat; the same is true in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the insurgency is made more difficult by the overlay of sectarian violence (Sunni versus Shiite); the same is true in Afghanistan (Pashtun versus everyone else). In Iraq, the insurgents are aided by infiltration from neighboring countries (Syria, Iran); the same is true in Afghanistan (Pakistan). In both countries we are trying to rebuild the army and the police — with fitful progress — and fostering a fragile central government whose writ doesn’t seem to extend very far across the country…

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