The thing about this democratic nation building is that the nation builder needs to be committed to the operation for the first three or four elections. There needs to be one or two substantive changes in administration before the nation builder can safely leave ... otherwise, the first administration in power is likely to devolve into a dictatorship.
The two things the nation builder must focus on is the integrity of the election. That means assuring the election is fare. The nation builder also needs to make sure the voters feel secure.
I am happy that Afghanistan is having a run off election. Back to back elections like this give the people a change to hone the voting process.
I am sad, however, that the US waffled on sending additional troops as the additional troops might have help provide better election security during the run off election. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Taliban attacks are already underway to compromise the election. It is the election process that they fear the most as an election process legitimizes a government.
I have to admit, I had agreed with Obama's sentiment that life would be better if the first war with Al Qaeda were restrained to Afghanistan. Looking at maps and watching the hostilities of the "necessary war" unfold, it is suddenly clear that a war with fundamentalists in Afghanistan necessarily becomes a war with fundamentalists in Pakistan.
The strategy of making Iraq the primary theater of battle makes some sense in that light. In 2003, Pakistan was still under the yoke of the dictator Musharraf. If Afghanistan was the primary battleground, then all of the people who went to fight the Americans in Iraq would have flocked to Pakistan and caused a civil war there.
Diverting the hostilities from Pakistan allowed room for a democratic process to emerge in Pakistan.
War is a stupid thing. The best strategy for ending wars is invest the effort to defend the civilians while promoting alternative means of dispute resolution to killing. Conversely, the enemies of the United States have learned that the way to beat us is to kill large numbers of civilians.
Iraq Body Count lists the documented deaths during the war at around 100,000. iCasualties puts the US forces casualties at 4600. These figures are horrible. It was enough to destroy George Bush and utterly wipe out the Republican party. The figures are lower than the genocides of Hussein. It was a quarter of the Darfur genocide, an eigth of the Rwanda genocide.
Considering that the progressive press was cheering on the body counts (making a high body count the primary object of the insurgency) it is surprising that the figures were not higher.
High civilian death tolls are horrid. Any time the US chooses to engage in an area, we have a moral obligation to engage with sufficient forces to prevent the civilian body count as the body count will always be used as in propaganda against us.
The surge in Iraq worked because it got enough troops on the ground to protect the civilians giving people enough confidence to work the new government. The surge in Afghanistan seems to be shy of the troops needed to protect civilians. Much as we want to get out of there. We should invest the US troops to protect the civilians while we are there.
That said. I feel sad that there may not be enough security in Afghanistan to provide the war weary people security during its run off elections.