The United States was born from a nationalist insurgency. “Given that history, you’d think we might be more sensitive to nationalism abroad,” writes Nicholas Kristof. “Yet the most systematic foreign-policy mistake we Americans have made in the post-World War II period has been to underestimate its potency.” It was true in Vietnam, in Latin America—and now in Afghanistan.
The Pashtun insurgency doesn’t appear to have responded favorably to the 21,000 troops we added earlier this year, Kristof writes in the New York Times. “It’s difficult to see why 40,000 more would help either.” There’s often a backlash when Pakistani troops meddle in Pashtun areas. “If Pashtuns react that way to Punjabis, why do we think they will react better to Texans?” The $10 billion to $40 billion a year needed for the surge could be better spent at home, Kristof writes—and not on spilling more American blood while “inflaming Pashtun nationalism.”