Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
(A version of this article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com)
In this election year, the Administration needs to blunt the Afghanistan issue by showing that the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government can survive the American troop withdrawal in 2014.
To do so, it has staged two recent events. First, on July 7, Secretary of State Clinton announced that Afghanistan would be officially designated as a “non-NATO ally of the United States” which makes it eligible for priority delivery of military hardware and for U.S. help to buy arms and equipment. But the U.S. has thus far failed to indicate what level and kind of troop support—or what type of other security capabilities—will be available for Afghanistan after the major U.S. withdrawal in 2014.
Second, on July 8, the U.S. joined in an announcement of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework under which 70 international donors pledged $16 billion over the next four years to strengthen the Afghan government, by making up an Afghan fiscal shortfall and helping to improve institutions and services in Afghanistan, with up to 20 percent supposedly conditioned on Afghan progress in arresting corruption and creating better governance.
But the framework document—which could be Exhibit A in any catalog of vapid bureaucratese—seems to have come off some development office word processor and bears little resemblance to a nation that is designated the third most corrupt in the world (176 out of 178) in the Transparency International corruption index, is the world’s eleventh poorest (per the World Bank) and has absorbed more than $80 billion in non-military aid from the U.S. in the past 10 years with few concrete, let alone durable, gains. (Says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “the lack of transparency and credibility has been a critical problem…particularly in the almost total lack of credibility in reporting on the impact of aid, quality and integrity of governance and presence of a functioning justice system.” ) Read more
Several Harvard Kennedy School scholars who have worked in Afghanistan were asked to comment on how the United States should respond to the accidental burning of Korans by the U.S. military, and the subsequent deadly rioting in the country. Here are their responses:
Aisha Ahmad, International Security Program research fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. Ahmad, a doctoral candidate at McGill University, studies political Islamic movements, and has done field work in Afghanistan and Pakistan..
(Note: this comment appeared first on the Los Angeles Times World Now)
Afghans are very religious people, and the desecration of the Holy Koran is an extraordinary offense to Muslims. However, these riots are symbolic of a much larger discontent with the international presence in Afghanistan. Read more
The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.
David E. Sanger
By David E. Sanger
Chief Washington Correspondent, The New York Times; Senior Fellow, National Security and the Press, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
This summer, in preparation for the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times set out to assess the costs of America’s response – a daunting task, as many who have tried to tally up elements of the total can attest. The number was astounding: $3.3 trillion.
We drew on the work of many scholars, including some here at Harvard. We weighed which studies seemed based on good data and reasonable assumptions, and set aside some about which we had doubts. And we knew, of course, that when you are dealing with numbers and problems this big, quantification is always open to argument. Read more
The Power Problem: Second in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11.
Linda J. Bilmes
By Linda J. Bilmes
The US response to 9/11 has been a major contributor to America’s current economic malaise.
The most economically costly decision post 9/11 was not whether to attack Iraq and Afghanistan, but how to pay for the ensuing conflicts and the related increases in defense and homeland security. War costs always linger well after the last shot has been fired. But this is especially true of the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts. The $1.6 trillion or so already spent has been financed wholly through borrowing. Add to this a further $800 billion in defense increases that are not directly war-related and hundreds of billions in new homeland security measures. The resulting debt accounts for well over one-quarter of the increase in US national debt since 2001. Read more
By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen
Belfer Center Senior Fellow
I recently saw a great flick entitled “Age of Heroes.” It is about the early days of the British SAS in World War II. A team of 8 commandos was airlifted covertly into Norway on a top secret mission to steal vital Nazi technology. It’s a hard driving, gut wrenching movie. I got goose bumps, just like I did when I watched classic war movies like “300 Spartans” or “Cross of Iron.” It reminded me why I went to West Point and dedicated my life to serving my country–with no regrets. “Age of Heroes” is a vivid reflection of the stuff heroes are made of — their courage, toughness, concern for their comrades, and a willingness to die, if need be, for a higher cause. In World War II, the threat was so real, so clear, so existential. War is a great evil, but unfortunately, sometimes it is unavoidable. Read more
Joseph S. Nye
President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan has been described as a domestic political compromise between those who want a rapid drawdown and those who want more time. Foreign policy always rests on domestic compromises in a democracy, and the initial reaction appears to be that the speech has been a success – so far. But let’s engage in a thought experiment, and imagine a world without domestic politics. In such an imaginary world, what would be the right strategy?
As I argue in The Future of Power, a smart strategy for the U.S. in the 21st century would return to the wisdom of Dwight Eisenhower: strengthen the domestic economy and avoid involvement in a land war in Asia. Afghanistan violates both those considerations. Read more
Joseph S. Nye
Some hawks have cited the skillful military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden as proof that terrorism must be dealt with by hard power, not soft power. But such conclusions are mistaken. A smart strategy against terrorism also requires a large measure of soft power.
Terrorists have long understood that they can never hope to compete head on with a major government in terms of hard power. Instead, they use violence to create drama and narrative that gives them the soft power of attraction. Terrorists rarely overthrow a government. Instead, they try to follow the insights of jujitsu to leverage the strength of a powerful government against itself. Terrorist actions are designed to outrage and provoke over-reactions by the strong. Read more
By Meghan O'Sullivan
Last week, President Obama made a compelling case for why he authorized force in Libya. In doing so, he sought to assure the American people that this intervention was prudent and bore no resemblance to the controversial and costly wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. He pre-empted such comparisons by explicitly stating, “to be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq” as a counterpoint for explaining why he would not seek to overthrown Qaddafi by force.
It may be both easy and convenient to dismiss the Iraq and Afghan experiences at this stage of U.S. intervention in Libya. But neither President Obama, nor the American people, would be wise to ignore the hard-won lessons that have emerged from these conflicts. In fact, while acknowledging the very different circumstances surrounding each intervention, America’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest more than a few cautionary notes and morsels of advice. Read more
By Steven E. Miller
In December of 2006, in the midst of ongoing struggles in the Iraq war, the US Army and US Marine Corps published a new field manual (FM 3-24) on the subject of counterinsurgency – or COIN, as it is known in the acronym-laden world of defense policy. The product of an intense effort at the Army’s Doctrine Division at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the new manual provided a detailed and sophisticated analysis of the character and requirements of that difficult mission. Championed by the Army’s most visible and respected senior officer, General David Petraeus, the COIN field manual was received with acclaim and subsequently it was given credit for helping to improve a terrible situation when it was applied in Iraq. Read more
By Graham Allison
As a colleague who has been learning from Joe Nye for many years, I join the chorus applauding his latest in a string of pearls of wisdom about power in international affairs. The Future of Power is a must-read. Imaginatively, judiciously, Joe tours the horizon of current debates and offers thoughtful, policy-relevant advice.
From questions about the rise of China and decline of the U.S., to cybersecurity and changing metrics of power in 21st century international affairs, he advances the debate. (Read Joseph Nye’s inaugural Power & Policy blog post)
With so much to agree with, what’s to disagree? While my major difference is more one of emphasis than fundamentals, let me overstate it for the sake of clarity. Consider the core question: what is the single biggest threat to American power today? Read more