Magazine | December 31, 2011, Issue


Send Drones, Not Soldiers

Jamie M. Fly’s “Retreat — But Whose?” (December 19) turned me from a supporter of the war in Afghanistan to a skeptic. If these are the best arguments for our Afghan campaign, perhaps we should walk away.

The bulk of the article is devoted to three non sequiturs. 1. Our soldiers are heroes who work near-miracles. No one questions this. This is no reason to deploy them in Afghanistan, instead of on the Mexican border or at home as entrepreneurs and parents. 2. The Pakistanis will consider Americans fickle. How many decades will we have to fight in Afghanistan to convince them otherwise? If we succeed in changing their minds, how will this improve America’s posture in the world? Can’t we achieve the same result with some artfully done drone strikes and covert actions against America haters in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, at much less cost? 3. The Afghan people can now walk their streets and go to school. God bless them, but this is not why I pay taxes to support a military. If it is, why not invade Somalia, Mexico, Haiti, Sri Lanka, and wherever else there is human suffering? This is an argument for globalized progressivism delivered by helicopter gunship.

I thought the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, a high-risk proposition that should rank above Alexander’s and Cortés’s in history’s eyes, had two objectives. One, take away a staging ground for al-Qaeda. Two, show would-be Mullah Omars that harboring al-Qaeda is a fatal error. It seems to me the first has been mooted by events, and the second is better achieved by untraceable precision delivery of firepower into certain precincts of Islamabad. What am I missing?

Andrew V. Showen

Orlando, Fla.


Jamie M. Fly Replies: Mr. Showen is correct that our ultimate goal in Afghanistan should be to ensure that its territory (or areas of neighboring Pakistan) can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the American homeland. His proposed approach, consisting of “some artfully done drone strikes and covert actions against America haters in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, at much less cost,” however, is fatally flawed.

We’ve pursued elements of Mr. Showen’s strategy in Afghanistan several times in recent decades — after helping to push the Soviets out in 1989, and even in the years after our toppling of the Taliban in 2001, as we tried to avoid committing significant numbers of U.S. troops. The results — 3,000 dead on U.S. soil, more Americans murdered overseas, and countless deaths and sustained turmoil in the region — are clear.

It is only in recent years that the United States and its allies have devoted the proper resources to our efforts in Afghanistan, allowing us to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy that shows the Afghan people that there is the potential for a better life without the Taliban. The key point about our current strategy in Afghanistan is that we are finally getting it right, which is why it is so shameful that the Obama administration is focused more on winning reelection than on winning the war.

NR Staff — Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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