If David Brooks Thinks He Knows So Much About Afghanistan, He Should Debate Robert Greenwald
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I’m curious to know what Afghanistan David Brooks visited? The deeply conservative NY Times columnist wrote about his recent trip to Afghanistan last weekend, making these sweeping generalizations that Afghans are “warm and welcoming” of our ever-increasing military presence; that the US military is “well through the screwing-up phase of our operation”; coalition forces are learning quickly; aid agencies have no chance until the military kills all the “bad guys”; Afghan leadership is improving; and that 17,000 troops indicate the US is “finally taking this war seriously.” Either Brooks spent all his time hanging out with military leaders or there’s a whole crisis he’s deliberately trying to downplay.
What war Brooks thinks we can win with 17,000 troops is anyone’s guess. As I’ve written before, most foreign policy experts agree that 17,000 troops will be insufficient to achieve stability in Afghanistan. Andrew Bacevich, for instance, said 17,000 “ hardly amounts to more than a drop in the bucket.” But if Brooks disagrees with critics on the left who claim the Obama administration is simply rehashing the Iraq surge strategy, what about voices on the right like Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who claim the only way to bring about “success” in Afghanistan (as they define it) is through an all-out war that requires a massive, long-term military commitment.
As a point of comparison to Brooks’s limited revelations, let’s look at Director Robert Greenwald’s recent account of what’s going on in Afghanistan. Greenwald, who was in Kabul last week, said that while there’s love and respect for President Obama and the United States, nearly everyone he spoke to believe more troops aren’t the answer. The Afghan people Greenwald met–which included members of the Afghan parliament, Afghan Women’s Network, Awakened Youth of Afghanistan, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, and members of the Taliban committed to negotiating peace–want to see the Obama administration commit 17,000 teachers or 17,000 doctors, not 17,000 soldiers. Absent from Brooks’s column was Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis; the rampant malnutrition and unemployment that can’t be solved through military means. Absent was any mention of Afghan people, women included, who are opposed to both military escalation and the Taliban. As Greenwald mentioned in his recent MSNBC appearance, the only bomb Afghans want dropped is an education bomb.
ZP Heller is the editorial director of Brave New Films. He has written for The American Prospect, AlterNet, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Huffington Post, covering everything from politics to pop culture.