As noted by Mr. Boot:
"In recent polling, only 4 percent of Afghans express a desire to see the Taliban return to power. Sixty-two percent have a positive impression of the United States, and 82 percent have a favorable view of our chief on-the-ground ally—the Afghan National Army."
If so, given the goal of expanding the Afghan "army from 92,000 to 240,000, and the national police from 84,000 to 160,000", why have American commanders "said it could be years before Afghan units can take the lead in the fighting in the most hotly-contested areas like Helmand"? Motivation is obviously lacking among America's Afghan allies.
Mr. Boot writes:
"NATO’s war effort [in Afghanistan] has in fact been under-resourced for years, 'operating in a culture of poverty,' as McChrystal puts it. That has made it impossible to carry out classic counterinsurgency operations, because those typically require a ratio of roughly 1 counterinsurgent per 50 civilians. Given Afghanistan’s population of 30 million, 600,000 counterinsurgents would be necessary. At the moment, the total is roughly 270,000 (170,000 Afghans, 64,000 Americans, 35,000 from other nations). Actual force planning, however, is too intricate to be reduced to such back-of-the-envelope calculations. Unique local characteristics have to be taken into account, such as the fact that the insurgency is largely confined to the Pashtun, an ethnic group that comprises 42 percent of the population."
Query: What is the minimum amount these troop numbers are going to cost? Stated otherwise, what is the point of temporarily attempting to win over Afghani hearts and minds, if this is going to impoverish or even bankrupt American democracy?
Mr. Boot writes:
"What we have tried is the other strategy, the counterterrorism strategy, and it has been found wanting. This should not come as a surprise, because it is hard to point to any place where pure CT has defeated a determined terrorist or guerrilla group. This is the strategy that Israel has used against Hamas and Hezbollah. The result is that Hamas controls Gaza, and Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon."
My response: Israel is never going to win over the hearts and minds of Lebanon's Shiites or Gaza's Palestinians. Viewed differently, Israel is engaged in a 60-year-old war of independence, and although it has won several battles, the war is still being fought. The final outcome of this conflict will only be determined by my continued willingness and that of my children to don our uniforms and make the ultimate sacrifice.
Wars are no longer won and lost as in the past, and the Taliban is not going to sign surrender documents aboard the Battleship Missouri. The U.S. needs to weigh its objectives and pick its fights in accordance with tactical strength and strategic necessity. Notwithstanding Mr. Boot's scholarly piece, I remain a headhunter at heart. No need to bring McDonald's to Kabul. Instead, let's chase bin Laden to the ends of the earth and put some lead beween his eyebrows.
[Although I disagree with his conclusions in this particular article in Commentary, I strongly recommend Mr. Boot's book, "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today".]