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Posted on December 8, 2009

Thanks to the World Affairs Council, we had Peter Galbraith on campus last night speaking about Afghanistan.  What a mess, though his talk was like a condensed PhD seminar.  Between him and Bill Clinton last week (at a local part event), I’ve come away thinking the latter was right when he said: Every president faces two or three incredibly complex issues for which there are no good choices and the outcomes of any choice are largely unpredictable. Afghanistan is one such case.
Galbraith, with amazing mastery of the history, players, and key issues, could offer no better solution than the one Obama has put forth, though he predicts it too will be unsuccessful. He sees three options:
1. We can pull out quickly and abandon the enterprise, losing the country quickly, but that is immoral as it does in a lot of good people and we won’t like the resulting events.
2. We can stay with the current level of troops and lose the country slowly, maybe hanging onto parts of it;
3. We can add troops, as Obama is doing, and set back the Taliban for a while, but we have no credible partner in the government (he despises Karzai) and the military counter-insurgency is fated to fail without an ability to put in place a competent government with the best interests of its people in mind.
He provided insight into Pakistan’s role in the overall problem and convinced me that the real problem is Pakistan more than Afghanistan.  From any vantage point, it is a grim and troubled situation.
On a far happier note, this Thursday at 2:00 in Walker, Gary Carkin’s International Drama Club will perform the Princess and the Pea.  Gary uses drama as a teaching platform for his ESL students and I marvel at their bravery, standing in front of peers and strangers and performing in a language they are still mastering.  These performances, though short, are always marked by humor and energy.  If you have a little break at that time, I’d urge you to attend.
It will take your mind off intractable world problems for a while.

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