The Crisis Is Real, But We Have a Secret Weapon

Last Sunday, I wrote an op-ed on the COVID-19 crisis for the local newspaper in my childhood hometown, the Hazleton Standard-Speaker:

I’m writing from Los Angeles, where a Navy hospital ship is docked in the port, helping to treat the overwhelming surge of coronavirus patients flooding our health care system. I never thought I’d see such a day, but it’s here. And it’s a warning that we ignore at our peril.

The crisis is real. As of today, over 15,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. That’s five times the death toll on 9/11. In the coming weeks, millions will get the virus. We will lose more Americans than we did in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam combined.

But there is good news. Here in LA, the growth rate is starting to slow. In Italy where it was the worst, it is slowing significantly. In east Asia where it all began, the peak is far behind them, and the economy is starting to bounce back. If we can slow the growth rate across the United States, we can save hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives.

I believe we can do it. But it’s going to require an unexpected weapon: compassion.

You can read the rest on the Standard-Speaker website if you have a subscription or if you want to buy a one-day subscription for $1.

What to Read on Afghanistan

How the Afghan Counterinsurgency Threatens Pakistan — Anatol Lieven

It is this ethno-religious solidarity, more than continuing support by the Pakistani state, that is providing the Afghan Taliban with their bases inside Pakistan. This support from large elements of the Pakistani population will continue as long as Western soldiers are present in Afghanistan. Their presence, as well as US drone strikes on targets in Pakistan, also helps legitimize the campaign of the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani state. Since the survival of that state is a US interest that vastly outweighs anything that might happen in Afghanistan, it follows that the US goal should be to reduce that presence as soon as this can be managed, not to follow a strategy that risks prolonging it indefinitely.

The Way Out of Afghanistan — Ahmed Rashid

The main question, of course, will be how soon the White House and the Pentagon decide that it is time to talk to the Taliban. Victory on the battlefield is not possible but peace cannot be achieved without US participation in negotiations.

Imperial by Design — John J. Mearsheimer

What makes the enterprise so difficult is that victory usually requires more than just defeating the insurgents in firefights. It usually demands nation building as well because it is essential to fix the political and social problems that caused the insurgency in the first place; otherwise, it is likely to spring back to life. So even if it was a sure bet that the United States could succeed at counterinsurgency with the right people and doctrine, it would still take many years to achieve decisive results.

Top Ten Myths About Afghanistan, 2010 — Juan Cole

Fact: In Helmand and Qandahar Provinces, a poll found that 92% of male residents had never heard of 9/11.