Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pundit Pablum

I generally avoid commenting on the the various political-military debates about Afghanistan on this site. That's partly because both of my loyal readers (thanks mom and dad!) don't really care about that stuff, and partly because I would be loathe to give the impression that I'm some grizzled frontline soldier down in Paktika who's life is directly affected by the decisions made in D.C. In truth, the causal link between U.S. government policy and my job, although significant, is highly indirect. Washington sets the stage (by deploying the troops) and adjusts the conditions (by spending the money), but it's not like I have to go out on a search-and-destroy mission because word came down from the Pentagon.

However, occasionally I read stuff that just begs for a comment,* and I can't resist. So, I'm inaugurating a new class of posts which will address some of the more interesting, compelling, egregrious and just-plain-stupid stuff that comes from the various so-called experts. I'll try to keep these short so as not to annoy those of you who would rather hear about my close-encounters with Afghan culture.

*OK, so it's more than "occasionally."

And no, I don't have a snappy name for this new class of posts. I tried to come up with one but it's late and I'm tired. Maybe later.

For today's opening sample, I direct your attention to a brief piece that David Rothkopf wrote in advance of President Obama's recent speech on Afghanistan. His point was that the cost of the "surge" in Afghanistan ($30 billion by his calculation) was money better spent at home creating jobs and revitalizing the U.S. economy. I'm not enough of an economist to know if that's true (Keynsian multipliers being such tricky things to pin down), but this paragraph struck me as particularly ill-thought:
That's the choice Obama would be making with this troop commitment. In a nation ... or any enterprise ... with limited resources, everything is about asset allocation. And there is absolutely no credible argument that can be made that could conclude that spending $30 billion in Afghanistan is better for America ... or enhances our national security more ... than spending it in the United States.

Really? Is "everything about asset-allocation?" I mean, we're not running an investment club here. Aren't there other important factors to consider beyond simple economic math? No one argues that we're in Afghanistan to make money, and yet lots of people argue that we ought to stay. Surely they have something in mind other than return on investment.

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