The Breakfast Table

Why Doing Peacekeeping on the Cheap in Afghanistan Is a Bad Idea

Living in Washington, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic, my vote doesn’t count for much, except in a close school board election. Yet I love to vote. It’s the only civic duty I get to discharge since I never get selected for juries, with two strikes against me as a lawyer and a journalist. All those people handing out leaflets, all those old women checking the rolls (who will do it when they’re gone?), all over the country citizens doing the same thing for the same reason on the same day—it’s the only thing left, other than perhaps the Olympics or the Super Bowl, that focuses the collective mind.

That’s quite an assumption that the folks coming late to movies are all Democrats since all people who come late are disorganized and all disorganized people are Democrats. I think it’s because you now get six trailers for Movies in Trouble that need hyping before a captive audience and a couple commercials (“Zoom, zoom, zoom” being the one at A Beautiful Mind). I plan (in an organized way) to start arriving 20 minutes late, which is precisely how long these things run. I do agree with you on the linkage. I speculated in a column after Colin Powell’s speech at the Republican convention that Powell was in the wrong party. If only the Democrats were more orderly, he’d be one of them.

I made a startling discovery this morning. By squeezing the toothpaste tube on the corners at the top, you CAN get the toothpaste back in the tube. The knowledge isn’t going to make me any more careful about oversqueezing—it could encourage it—but I’m dropping the figure of speech. I’ll replace it with a ubiquitous sports one, like hardball.

I don’t want to go abroad again, but I can’t help worrying that doing peacekeeping on the cheap in Afghanistan is shortsighted. We had something like 60,000 peacekeepers in Bosnia (down to about 1,000 now, I think). We need a force like that in Afghanistan. The administration needs to start strong and shrink, not start weak and face the music later, when the situation is dire and war-making, not peacekeeping, will be needed.