Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 12:08 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 12:08 | SYDNEY

Afghanistan: Disunity at home


Rodger Shanahan


7 October 2009 08:48

Events of the past week have illustrated just how difficult the political management of the Afghanistan coalition can be. As if fighting a resourceful, resolute and ruthless enemy were not enough (as the deaths of eight American soldiers and a number of civilians in a separate incident illustrate),  there was also the sacking of the UN's number two in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, over his attitude to the organisation's policy on the recent Afghanistan election, and in particular his relationship with his boss, the Special Envoy Kai Ede. 

And of course there is the dilemma faced by the Obama Administration over General Stanley McChrystal's request for more US troops. While the request itself is the objective assessment of the Commander-in-Chief's man in the field, the public manner in which it has been debated has caught the attention of the White House's National Security Adviser, who sent a distinct message to General McChrystal about exactly what level of openness was appropriate on the issue.

Robust public debates are the essence of democratic rule. But when dealing with life and death issues such as military intervention in an increasingly unpopular war, every politician knows that 'disunity is death' in the court of public opinion. If the public is expected to 'stay the course' on Afghanistan, not only will the appropriate strategy need to be adopted and resources allocated, but the political leadership will need to maintain unity of purpose, lest the public tire of the political in-fighting before it tires of the warfighting.

Photo by Flickr user Darwin Bell, used under a Creative Commons license.