I suppose that one has to accept that the US has a clear national interest to eliminate Usama bin Laden, even if al-Qaeda currently appears to be incapable of pulling off large terrorist attacks a la 9/11.  I am guardedly optimistic about the Obama plan for Afghanistan-Pakistan even if it does smell a lot like Vietnam because it appears to me that it has a built-in exit strategy.  Nail bin Laden, beef up the local police and army, leave.  The part I don’t like is the cost of the operation, which could exceed Iraq because of the incredible pricetag on supplying the troops, and the nation building bit.  No doubt Afghanistan would benefit from a nice infrastructure and civil institutions as well as a rule of law, but there is absolutely no evidence that the foundation for any of the above exists.  Quite the contrary.  Far better to let the Afghans figure out what works for them and as long as they do not again become a terrorist base, leave them alone.

Obama should also be given credit for realizing that there has to be a strategic plan for central Asia, something that Bush never quite figured out, and I expect that he will try to bring in all of the local players, including Iran and the Taliban, to work out some kind of modus vivendi. Again, that sounds a bit like the Paris Peace talks and Vietnam which produced an unsatisfactory result, but as long as the Afghans are not invading their neighbors or blowing up Rockefeller Center the rest of the world can just hold its collective nose and ignore them.

I would like to see more on what Pakistan might be encouraged to do to eliminate al-Qaeda since they have been trying and failing to do that for nearly eight years.  Also, nothing in the Obama plan really addresses the pervasive corruption and drug dealing, which could make any stabilization program problematical and virtually guarantees that the police force will be ineffective.  Karzai is hated and has to go no matter what, but with whom do you replace him.