I do not really agree with my question -- assuming it is meant seriously. I think most of us feel we need to be operating in AfPak.
But something is telling me to ask it. Here are my answers:
1. We would take a potential 50,000 US troops and others out of harm's way. If we use 9/11 as a measure (moral calculus), we would be saving the lives of perhaps as many (or more) as were killed back then.
2. We could say we are not in the business of extending democracy to nations that prove incapable of maintaining it. We might be aware that, even in the US, it is not an easy thing to maintain a democracy.
3. We could say that our intention is to protect our own citizens at home and abroad and that our response to any terrorist acts will be swift and proportional. In other words if someone pulled something off in the US or killed Americans abroad, we would be prepared to make an immediate response, limited by moral calculus.
4. We could argue that it simply has not worked -- even with the best will in the world -- to try to change a country that has not been able to change itself. And that henceforth we would contribute heavily to create a greater UN capability to assist any country that wishes to grow democratic institutions, have elections, etc.
5. We could argue that the present course in AfPak is so reminiscent of other military failures in the past, that even though we mean well, we have no confidence that this helps.
6. We could suspend drone attacks and use them for proportional responses in the event of further acts of international terrorism. We could internationalize this process to share both costs and responsibility.
7. We could assume that we would be accused of having walked away, abandoning both countries to differing fates, Afghanistan to a resurgent Taliban and Pakistan to a perhaps lethal instability with nuclear consequences. I suppose this reason is seen to trump all others on this list.
In essence, if we avoided a disproportionate response, we would be doing what I believe we should have done after 9/11. We didn't and look what happened. Nothing says that eight years from now we might not be saying the same thing about a costly and failed AfPak strategy.
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