Go back to Berlin

Consider this a warning in the spirit of Winston Churchill:

Afghanistan could fall. Pakistan could fall.

The president should return to Berlin with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a major address mobilizing the free world and calling for hard actions to prevail in Afghanistan, stabilize Pakistan and build peace between Pakistan and India.

The president should reject war bonds to finance banks and propose patriot bonds to support troops and veterans, to enlist Americans in common cause.

Afghanistan could degenerate into a quagmire at best and a Taliban victory at worst. Pakistan could become the first failed nuclear state. We face the real possibility that nuclear weapons could fall into terrorists’ hands. The situation in Iraq is uncertain. The prospect of a dramatic decrease in American troop levels within six months, under current plans, is nil.

No great power in history has ever entered Afghanistan with military power and left with major success. After the defeat of the Soviets we had a chance to rebuild Afghanistan, but failed. After the defeat of the Taliban we had another chance, but failed again.

The lesson of history is clear: War cannot be fought on the cheap. To succeed in Afghanistan, it will take more troops, far more economic aid and far more reforms than we contemplate today.

In Afghanistan, poverty is rampant. Corruption is everywhere. The drug trade dominates the economy. We are not winning the battle of ideas against an enemy that throws acid in the face of schoolgirls, while our ally passes laws that humiliate and abuse women.

To stabilize Pakistan it will take far more economic assistance, far more reform and far more profound diplomacy between Pakistan and India. We cannot allow so much of our military aid to Pakistan to be wasted defending against a feud that should have ended long ago.

While more troops are needed, even more importantly, we must offer people the hope of a better life — and to do this, our visions and our plans must be far grander and the burdens must be far more fully shared:

• The president with Secretary Clinton should return to Berlin and address the nations of NATO and the people of Europe with the JFK spirit about the need for greater collective action to defend our collective security. More NATO troops to join us in the real war. More European finance to join us in the battle of hope and ideas.

Make no mistake: This will be hard. Certain European leaders prefer smiling family photos to hard actions needed to win wars.

Obama should do what Kennedy did: use his popularity and prestige where it is hard, not easy. Explain why these actions will protect Paris, Berlin and Rome while defending New York, Washington and Chicago.

• The president, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Holbrooke should lead an all-out push for a historic diplomatic breakthrough between Pakistan and India. This would bring enormous military, economic and psychological gains for stability in Pakistan and security for the world.

• The president should enlist Americans with a patriot bond, to raise money for the vast unmet needs of our troops and vets. We must never again send troops to combat with 1 percent of our people bearing 98 percent of the sacrifice.

Either we are in this together, or we are not.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.