Please don't let me ask something inane...
May 4, 2010 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Please help me formulate a great question (or two) for a panel on Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iraq!

I'm attending the following panel on Monday :

America’s Wars: The Way Forward in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq

"A multidisciplinary panel of leading security and area experts from The Ohio State University will explore possible military, economic, cultural, and diplomatic strategies as the Obama administration seeks to wind down the U.S. commitment in Iraq, achieve success in Afghanistan, and ensure the security of Pakistan."

I've taken two Middle East Studies classes with Dr. Payind, and when I mentioned that I'd be attending, his response was "I expect you to have VERY GOOD questions for us. As my student, I expect that you have excellent knowledge of the subject, possibly better than some of the people on the panel."

Well, I thought I was ready, but that threw me. Dr. Payind is an expert on Afghanistan, so I'd prefer to ask something focusing in that area.

If anyone has any suggestions, or even some ideas on possible questions, it would be very much appreciated.
posted by HopperFan to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here's what I would ask about Afghanistan:

"What are the current goals of the occupation? It's been stated that we wanted to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for future terror attacks, but it seems clear Al Qaeda is perfectly capable of organizing either in the Afghan countryside or in Pakistan. Since occupying every area of Afghanistan where people can congregate (as opposed to just the major cities) would require a force probably 10 to 100 times larger than the one currently there, and since there is no evidence the elected Afghan government will ever be able to do any better, what exactly are we trying to do?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2010

Ask about the China angle - the PRC shares a border with Afghanistan and is a long-term ally of Pakistan and major recent investor. Plenty on the web if you want a bit of background, from various perspectives including mainstream US foreign policy analysis as in this Brookings Institute piece.
posted by Abiezer at 2:19 PM on May 4, 2010

If you were asked to the White House for a consultation about U.S. policy in these three countries, what would be your top three recommendations for the Obama administration? Please explain.
posted by bearwife at 2:45 PM on May 4, 2010

Speaking of opium, I've always been curious why the focus on poppies has been eradication, rather than production for legitimate sources. It's not a new idea, but it seems so easy that I wonder why it hasn't gained traction or already been implemented.
posted by anti social order at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2010

What was the success rate of using anthropologists in the field and was the entire exercise ever evaluated or documented?
posted by infini at 3:28 PM on May 4, 2010

There was an interesting article in the Asia Times a month or so ago reviewing Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier by Joel Hafvenstein that quotes from the book on Afghan attitudes to American eradication efforts:
In one passage, Hafverstein explains Afghan attitudes toward opium - and other intoxicants:
In Afghanistan, where all drugs were officially illegal, there was no question about the relative gravity of drug use. Hashish smoking was a widespread peccadillo, opium smoking (as distinct from heroin) only moderately more serious. Down here in Pashtun country, alcohol was the truly wicked drug, the addictive life-destroyer explicitly condemned by God. People indulged in it, certainly, but almost always in bad conscience. And the alcohol trade was a Western hypocrisy which the farmers of Helmand felt very acutely. "Why can American farmers grow wine and send it here, but we are bad men if we grow poppy and send it back?" I heard on a trip to Nad-i-Ali.
posted by Abiezer at 3:33 PM on May 4, 2010

The way forward critically depends on the people of tomorrow, which are the youth of today. Afghanistan and Pakistan are breeding grounds for terrorism. We can no longer ignore the fact considering the export of terrorism outside the region. What is being done to monitor/control the spread of extremism among the youngsters who are being brought up in these countries? If this enough? Have we even begun to realise that to garner long-term gains, we need to think long-term, forgoing short-term "gains"?
posted by xm at 4:50 PM on May 4, 2010

(An example of short-term "gains" are the strategies that led to the birth of the taliban in the first place.)
posted by xm at 4:53 PM on May 4, 2010

How would you define "success" in these conflicts, and at what point do you think that the U.S. can say that armed intervention has served its purpose? Will the end of the conflict also bring the end of U.S./ NATO armed forces deployment to these countries, or will military bases remain for the long term in Afghanistan and Iraq as in Germany and Japan? Do you think that establishing long term bases in this region would be in U.S. interests, and is that opinion based on conditions within the country, within the region, or some combination thereof?
posted by _cave at 4:54 PM on May 4, 2010

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
posted by hortense at 6:05 PM on May 4, 2010

When the surge is complete, how will it be decided whether or not we stay? What quantifiable items will be measured, and what are the numbers they're looking for?

Why are we not moving to help India explicitly with the Kashmir situation as a way of putting pressure on Pakistan to drop their support for the Taliban?
posted by atchafalaya at 8:51 PM on May 4, 2010

Response by poster: These are all great questions, thank you - luckily I was already thinking along a few of these lines, so I have some research already done.

I'll try to post here after the panel to let everyone know if I got in a question or two, and what the answers were.
posted by HopperFan at 10:16 PM on May 4, 2010

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