Earlier today, the Atlantic Wire compiled the best cases for leaving Afghanistan. Commentators have also offered plenty of reasons to remain. They range from the predictable "war of necessity" argument to Justin Gardner's decidedly unusual declaration that the U.S. must stay in the country long enough to legalize opium. Here are the five best cases for the U.S. to stay put:
- 'Reasonable Chance of Victory' vs. 'Certain Defeat' An easy choice, argued prominent think-tanker Anthony Cordesman in the Washington Post, adding that "between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money, or leadership necessary to win." General David Petraeus's offered a corollary to this argument in remarks that were edited and published in the London Times: "[W]hile the situation unquestionably is ... serious, the mission is ... still doable." The strategy of "focusing on the population," he observed, drove down "insurgent attacks" in Iraq "from more than 160 per day in June 2007, to about 20."
- Leaving May Be an Answer, But It's Not a Strategy "Good question: What is our strategy in Afghanistan?" the National Review's Mark Levin responded, in early September, to a George Will column advocating an exit. But, Levin argued, one can counter that question with another: ""What is our strategy after we leave? ... An Afghanistan left to its own devices clearly is a danger to our nation, as was demonstrated on 9/11. If we leave, then what?"
- Set the Right Precedent The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens, argued that the Soviet abandonment of Afghanistan, followed by the collapse of the U.S.S.R., made for a dangerous precedent in "Islamist mythology ... Put simply, it was the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan that laid much of the imaginative groundwork for 9/11. So imagine the sorts of notions that would take root in the minds of jihadists—and the possibilities that would open up to them—if the U.S. was to withdraw from Afghanistan in its own turn."
- In Leaving, We Break Faith With the Afghan People One of the most stirring calls to renewed American resolve in Afghanistan came not from the U.S. but from Canadian Terry Glavin in the National Post:
Among Afghans, the big fear isn't the spectre of Taliban militias rolling across the landscape and recapturing Kabul. It's the stink of a looming betrayal that emanates from the defeatism abroad in rich countries like Canada ... We have no cause to doubt the resolve of the Afghan people. It's our own resolve that's the problem, and while peace in Afghanistan may require more soldiers and firepower, not less, all the troops in the world will do no greater service to the Afghan people and their cause than plain words, spoken in plain language: We will not betray you. We will not abandon you. We will not surrender. We will not retreat.
- In Leaving, We Break Faith With Our Own Dead The Washington Post's Richard Cohen offered an American counterpoint to Glavin's call to arms. "When we go" from Afghanistan, he wrote, "if we go--we will have to acknowledge that we have broken our vow not only to Afghans who have supported us--the Taliban, unlike us, will get its revenge--but also with the dead of Sept. 11, 2001."
*Honorable Mention for Originality: Justin Gardner at Donklephant argued in response to George Will's column advocating an exit that the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan long enough to legalize opium. Allowing Afghans to sell opium to pharmaceutical companies--as India and Turkey do--is the only chance of "build[ing] a stable economy" and setting the country back on its feet, he wrote.