The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Monday, May 9, 2016

Update for Monday, May 9, 2016

Just one link today, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France, that created the artificial states of Iraq and Syria by drawing arbitrary lines on  a map. While the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi states obviously have more proximate causes, they were always inherently unstable and could survive as long as they did only as brutal dictatorships. Paul Mason in The New Statesman discusses the Sykes-Picot line. Key excerpt:

Today, the easy lesson to learn from Sykes-Picot: don’t draw arbitrary lines across the map. Peoples and nations must have the right to self-determination. This was the principle US President Woodrow Wilson outlined as America entered the war, and which caused the British and French governments to hide the existence of Sykes’ map from Washington.

The harder lesson to learn is: never rely on national stereotypes; never reduce the conflicts of the world to ethnicity alone. There are also class, gender, religion, politics and history – attributes Sykes discounted as he tried to predict how the sub-groups of the Middle East would react to British policy.

The final lessons is: accept responsibility.

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