Let me start with the bottom line and then tell you how I got there: I can’t agree with the US President, Mr Barack Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan. I’d prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan.
I recognise that there are legitimate arguments on the other side. At a lunch on Tuesday for opinion writers, the President lucidly argued that opting for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their Army and state into something decent — to win the allegiance of the Afghan people — offered the only hope of creating an “inflection point”, a game changer, to bring long-term stability to that region. May it be so. What makes me wary about this plan is how many moving parts there are — Afghans, Pakistanis and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies all have to behave forever differently for this to work.
But here is the broader context in which I assess all this: My own foreign policy thinking since 9/11 has been based on four pillars:
l The Warren Buffett principle: Everything I’ve ever gotten in life is largely due to the fact that I was born in this country, America, at this time with these opportunities for its citizens. It is the primary obligation of our generation to turn over a similar America to our kids.
* Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things. If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilising role in the world. If you didn’t like a world of too-strong-America, you will really not like a world of too-weak-America — where China, Russia and Iran set more of the rules.