LETTERS; Obama In Afghanistan

[link to NYTimes.com article]

Published: February 1, 2009

To the Editor:

Ray Bonner’s review of Bruce Riedel’s ”Search for Al Qaeda” and Tariq Ali’s ”Duel” (Jan. 16) presents President Obama with conflicting recommendations: increase NATO troops, versus Ali’s political solution involving the removal of NATO troops. While it would appear that President Obama has opted for increasing troops, if he does so he would be making the same mistake President Kennedy made in Vietnam.

Playing with the cards he has been dealt, with drug-dealing warlords and a corrupt, ineffectual central government supposedly on the American side, Obama should use the good faith he has generated to seek a regional political solution, rather than follow a blind path aimed at the destruction of the Taliban. General de Gaulle warned Kennedy that he was taking the wrong path. Now is the time for Obama to step back and listen to Tariq Ali. Since the time of Alexander the Great, every outside force that has attempted to ”tame” Afghanistan has failed miserably, and obtaining a balance based upon existing political and cultural realities is the best hope for stability in the Middle East.

Tom Miller
Hanoi, Vietnam
The writer helped establish Parwaz, the first Afghan-run microfinance institution.