Monday, September 28, 2009

Dollars Well Spent

It seems to me that we're not learning much from our failed wars. In Vietnam, we slogged on and on, increasing troop strength time and time again in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the peasants. In the end, aside from dramatically increasing war casualties on both sides, it did little to change the outcome. The war finally ended when we told the propped up local government and military to take over the battle. As soon as we left, the local government and military were quickly overrun.

In Iraq, we've built up our troops and expenditures in concert with the bleaker and bleaker situation. It was only after we changed strategy last year that things are now looking somewhat better. What was the change? It was a decision to pay off the very groups that had been attacking us. They agreed it was more profitable to support us than fight us. The result, called the "Sunni Awakening", should have been called the "Sunni Bribe".

Now the focus has shifted to Afghanistan. We've heard this story before. The military is asking for an increasing number of troops on the ground as the situation worsens. If President Obama agrees to this, he will be repeating errors previously made in Vietnam and Iraq.

Instead, he should change the strategy to overwhelm the population with dollars not troops. There are approximately 30 million people in Afghanistan . The average Afghan makes under $200 per year. If we simply paid each person $1000 in cash, it's likely that they would rapidly decide that they no longer were supporters of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or whomever we think we're fighting in Afghanistan. Instead, I'd bet that they will gladly say that they're Westerners, Capitalists, Yankee Fans or whatever else we want them to be called. This would cost about $30 billion. Yes, this is a huge amount; but it's peanuts compared to the $440 billion we've spent there so far, and even less when compared to the estimates of over $1 trillion most analysts are predicting we'll spend before declaring we're leaving.

If this doesn't work in ending the Afghan war, then we should reinstate the military draft. Within months, the war would be over as the potential draftees and their supporters mimic the demonstrations that led to our departure from Vietnam.