Engaging Overseas: Lessons for Afghanistan and Beyond

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The Owl in the Olive Tree, 2019

President Trump’s announcement of further troop reductions in Afghanistan raises a substantive question. To what end are US forces engaged at all, after 17 years of a conflict that remains unresolved? Some argue that we should exit interminable conflicts in fragile states because we cannot win. When we try to be the world’s nation builder, mediator, and police force, the result is costly and often counterproductive. Others argue that we must intervene because we can do something and that developed democracies have a moral obligation to work toward stability in struggling nations.

Both views are wrong. In some situations, doing the things we can do will make a real difference at a cost we are willing to absorb. In other situations, it will not.

Eli Berman and Jacob Shapiro explore these issues in a new post featured in the The Owl in the Olive Tree. The Owl in the Olive Tree is the blog of Minerva, aimed at sharing the insights of social science into the social,cultural, political, economic, and environmental dynamics of security. Each post highlights key points distilled from longer, empirically-based research that Minerva-awardees have published. Content appearing in the Owl in the Olive Tree does not constitute Department of Defense policy or endorsement by the Department of Defense, but does highlight the diversity of voices it seeks out in its effort to engage researchers on security-related topics.