Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Matthew Hoh's Plan for Af'stan: 'A unicorn to make everyone into happy rainbows.'

Joshua Foust has composed a splendidly refreshing 3,600-word philippic, An Exercise In Determined Ignorance, in response to the preposterous "New Way Forward" report recently released by the so-called Afghanistan Study Group under the lead authorship of the celebrity ex-Marine Matthew Hoh. I've compiled an overview of the affair with some necessary background in an essay for The Propagandist: A New Benchmark In 'Afghanistan Strategy' Idiocy. It only scratches the surface.

It is testimony to the sheer volume of Nixonian gibberish and Stoppist non-expertise contained in the report that the revulsion it has provoked has gotten more attention than the otherwise forgettable contents of the report itself. It's also a tribute to Joshua's candour and healthy disregard for dainty in-crowd decorum that even the most gullible of journalists will not likely swoon much the next time big ideas about Afghanistan start emanating from Hoh and his entourage.

Joshua is a serious Central Asia scholar, a military analyst and an often severe critic of American "strategy" (or rather the lack of it) in Afghanistan. His work appears regularly in the Columbia Journalism Review, Current Intelligence magazine and other such venues. He's got a great sense of humour and he's known for his occasional crustiness. The report's release was an occasion that called for serious crustiness, and Joshua did not let us down.

I see the delightfully pugnacious conservative military historian Max Boot has also had a go at Hoh and company, noting that even from the accommodationist and paleolithically narrow "America First" approach the report's authors counsel, their proposed "strategy" would be calamitous: "It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s."

Predictably, Hoh and his companions and some Cato Institute whiners have responded to all this like snakes slithering out of a canvas bag, but that only served to allow Joshua to go after them with greater vim and vigour in his latest, Responding to Critics.

I have had occasion to conclude that Joshua is wrong about some things, as though that counts for anything. But what matters is if you want to mess around with big ideas about Afghanistan and Joshua happens to come around, you better be armed.


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