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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is Afghanistan a Lost Cause?

In a post on October 10, 2010, I mentioned that I had run across a wonderful resource: Intelligence Squared, which is a UK based organisation that stages debates around the world. The debates are held in the traditional Oxford Style, with as many as 2,500 people attending some events. Typically, those attending vote prior to and after a debate, and the winning debate team is decided by which way the vote swings. So, for instance, if prior to the debate the audience favors the propositions by 55% but after only 51% favor it, then the opposing team is considered to have won the debate.

In that intial post, I referred to a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared US, and the proposition under consideration was, "Islam is a Religion of Peace." A couple of days ago, I listened to another debate I found stimulating, one that debated the proposition, "Afghanistan is a Lost Cause." Those who argued in favor of the motion were Matthew Hoh and Nir Rosen; those who argued against it were Peter Bergen and Max Boot. Here's their bios from the Intelligence Squared US website:

Matthew Hoh is a former State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over US strategic policy and goals in Afghanistan in September 2009. Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, Matthew served in Iraq; first in 2004-2005 in Salah ad Din Province with a State Department reconstruction and governance team and then in 2006-2007 in Anbar Province as a Marine Corps company commander.

Nir Rosen is the author of Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World, about civil war, sectarianism, occupation, resistance, terror and counterinsurgency from Iraq to Lebanon to Afghanistan. His first book, In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, was published in 2006. He has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Time, Mother Jones, The New Republic, Rolling Stone, Boston Review and other publications. He has been reporting from Iraq since April of 2003 and has spent over four years on the ground there. He is a fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security.

Peter Bergen is a print and television journalist; a senior fellow at the New America Foundation where he co-directs the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative; a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security and CNN's national security analyst. Bergen has reported for a range of newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. He is editor of the AfPak Channel, a joint publication of Foreign Policy magazine and the New America Foundation ( His most recent book, The Osama bin Laden I Know(2006), was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2006 by the Washington Post.

Max Boot is one of America’s leading military historians and foreign-policy analysts. The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and the Los Angeles Times, and a regular contributor to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and many other publications.

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