THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time to Sell

If Afghanistan was a stock, we would sell it. Their CEO is a crook, their corporate governance is woeful, and too many of their employees are uncommitted to success. Besides, even if they could actually get a product to market (peace? stability? democracy?) consumers could probably buy it elsewhere for a cheaper price.

Seriously, we should be glad that President Obama is taking the time to think twice before recommitting America to the war and occupation in Afghanistan which, even if wildly successful, will yield small benefit to the American taxpayer.

America lost the initiative in the Afghan theater during the Bush administration. It's easy to point fingers blaming those who got us to this point (so easy that I couldn't resist) --- but the decision to stay or leave Afghanistan shouldn't be a partisan question. The stakes are too high. Also, it is not a question of who's tougher or getting revenge (though I do have a message for the President: get OBL, NOW!!) It is a question of how, from this point forward, America stands to benefit by an extended occupation of Afghanistan, which will entail an enormous amount of American blood and treasure to even have a chance at achieving long-term stabilization.

When America gets out of Iraq and Afghanistan, it will enjoy again its greatest natural strength -- which are the seas. One fact about American power is completely beyond argument is this -- we are a maritime nation. We have taken a long snooze -- since Iraq War I in 1991 -- but it's time that we return to the military posture that fits our strengths and interests. Ships in the water, not boots on the ground. America is surrounded by oceans and friendly nations and is dependent on ocean trade for our economic survival. Though we live on a great continent, the factors that enable our prosperity reside in the greatest "in between space" on earth -- the ocean.

The American people have no desire to plant our flag or our cross in foreign dirt. We are a nation of hard-working shopkeepers, builders, and businessmen. We want to sell the world products ... Big Macs, blockbuster movies and software. And, if it works for the customer, democracy. The most likely cause for war in the foreseeable future will not be a "clash of the cultures" but a clash of appetites. All indications are that we are entering into a period of increasing scarcity of resources -- food, fresh water, and energy. It is foolish to spend our resources and resolve in Afghanistan when we need to focus on retooling our military - trimming our ground forces and increasing our ship building program - to assure our access to resource areas and markets.

Nearly three-quarters of the world is covered by water, 90% of international trade flows across the water and the vast majority of the world's populations live within 200 miles of the sea. Most of America's vital interests involve the oceans or this 200 mile band of adjacent land - all of which are best controlled or influenced by a powerful navy.

If all we are achieving by staying in Afghanistan is keeping them from opening up terrorist training camps, it's not worth it. We can defeat those in ways other than occupation and broad stabilization. Most basic counter-terrorism functions can be accomplished with human intelligence, civilian policing, special force teams and air strikes.

Given their enormous cost and ambiguity -- for land wars to reach the threshold to warrant the sacrifice of our soldiers and the investment of our tax payers, the cost and probability of victory calculus must be compelling. They are not. Even with maximum effort ... who is willing to say that we have more than a 30%...50% chance of victory in Afghanistan? And at what cost would that be? The war in Afghanistan will certainly steal oxygen from other pressing concerns such as the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, the race for mineral rights in the Arctic and Pacific -- not to mention America's ballooning debt and the strength of the American dollar.

I wish that I had all the stage props of CNBC's Jim Cramer so that I could beat a drum and squeeze a bicycle horn to tell you when to wake up ... because this is serious. When it comes to Afghanistan ... sell, sell, sell!!!