It has always been Barack Obama’s foreign policy instincts that have worried me most. I worried that he both did not grasp the security challenges facing the United States and that he was unwilling to expend the necessary political capital on foreign policy. Given these reservations, I was definitely encouraged by Obama’s announcement of Afghan / Pakistan strategy today. Rather than going for a purely counter-terrorism approach which would have failed in the medium-term, Obama has gone for a proper counter-insurgency approach.
Bob Kagan, whose foreign policy instincts I respect, is most impressed:
“Hats off to President Obama for making a gutsy and correct decision on Afghanistan. With many of his supporters, and some of his own advisers, calling either for a rapid exit or a “minimal” counterterrorist strategy in Afghanistan, the president announced today that he will instead expand and deepen the American commitment. He clearly believes that an effective counterterrorism approach requires an effective counterinsurgency strategy, aimed not only at killing bad guys but at strengthening Afghan civil society and governing structures, providing the necessary security to the population so that it can resist pressures from the Taliban, and significantly increasing the much-derided “nation-building” element of the strategy.”
The Pakistan element of the problem, as Richard Holbrooke admits, remains unbelievably tricky. But today’s announcement, at least, shows that Obama has no intention of abandoning Afghanistan.
PS Bill Kristol is even more effusive, declaring ‘All hail Obama’.