Why The Neutralist? The term Isolationist implies a narrow Fortress America outlook and is used as an epithet. The term Neutralist does not indicate someone hiding out from the world. No one calls the Swiss isolationists. The Wilsonian world view is old, tired and wrong. Our interventions have been less and less successful and now the failure can no longer be covered up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

All you need is love

From a comment The Black Sea left on my last post,

There is a difference between defeating a rival football team, and trying to win the allegiance of its fans. If you define the latter as "victory," you're in for a very long game.

Excellent insight into the nature and foolishness that is our overseas adventures. I intend to steal this as often as I can.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sunk Costs

I suppose anyone reading this understands sunk costs. You own a factory with a machine that makes widgets at $2 per and you sell at three. Joe buys a new machine that makes them at $1 per and sells them at $2. You either get a similar machine or close, but your old machine is obsolete and you can only recover scrap costs. The costs are sunk, gone.

Ah, but the human condition is to say, I'll get a new machine as soon as I get back my money on the old. Dumb.

Our situation is similar to a friend of mine who owned a tanning salon that was losing money. She asked me if she should close it. I asked her if there were any prospect that profitability would happen. She said no. Obviously, my answer was get out now. Costs are sunk and would never be recovered.

So it is with Afghanistan. Put aside the fact that the concept of victory there as benefiting the US is debatable. The point is we can't win. Costs are sunk. Move on.

Don't believe me. As witness for the prosecution I give you Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, recently the senior British commander in Afghanistan. Your man said, a military victory over the Taleban was “neither feasible nor supportable”.

Of course he did blather on a bit with some positive spin,

Brigadier Carleton-Smith did suggest that the foreign troops need to stay longer: "If we reduce our expectations then I think realistically in the next three to five years we will be handing over tactical military responsibility to the Afghan army and in the next 10 years the bulk of responsibility for combating insurgency will be with them."

Veteran military affairs reporter Gwynne Dyer begs to differ,

There are two things wrong with this argument.

One is the notion that Western countries are willing to take casualties in Afghanistan for another three, five or 10 years. The other is that the Afghan government is not getting stronger.

Yup, with our economic problems we shall have oodles of cash to throw in to Afghanistan and stay the course.

Mr. Dyer was not done.

In a recently leaked diplomatic cable, the deputy French ambassador in Kabul, Francois Fitou, reported that the British ambassador there, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, told him that the strategy for Afghanistan was "doomed to failure. In Sir Sherard's view, "the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust." The usual denials followed, but that is exactly what British officials there say in private.

Mr. Dyer finishes,

So it would make sense to announce a deadline for pulling out the foreign troops and start negotiating for a final peace settlement in Afghanistan now. Waiting is unlikely to produce a better deal. Which is probably why President Hamid Karzai said last week that he had asked the king of Saudi Arabia to mediate in negotiations with the Taliban.

Oh, that negotiation word. If the deadline is set, why do the Taliban need to negotiate at all.

In the words of Martin Mull, "It's too hard to say au revoir, let's just say hors d'œuvre."