Afghanistan escalation: a terrible decision

Dan Petegorsky

Word is out this morning that President Obama has decided to send an additional 34,000 troops to Afghanistan. If true, this could well rank as the worst decision so far in his Administration.

The fiasco of the Afghan elections, which underscored the Karzai government’s lack of any real legitimacy, might have provided an opportunity for the Administration to step back from the brink and begin curtailing our military presence there. Instead, escalating it now will only double down on our commitment to an extraordinarily opaque mission, in a country whose history offers centuries and centuries of painful lessons for those who have sought to conquer or reshape it for their own ends.

Congress will have the opportunity to question this escalation. Recent history doesn’t inspire much confidence in its desire or ability to challenge or forestall it, but since the decision is bound to be highly unpopular it’s vital that we challenge it.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Dan:

    While I completely see your points about Karzai and the entire elections/government corruption disaster, I'm not convinced that escalation is a bad thing.

    The Bush Administration left President Obama no good options, first of all. They created and left an complete mess over there.

    If we bug out of there now however, a reenergized Taliban surges back into power. The wretched abuses inflicted upon Afghanis (especially women) by the Taliban cannot be allowed to happen again.

    http://feminist.org/afghan/taliban_women.asp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban_treatment_of_women

    http://www.rawa.org/women.php

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/13/taliban-afghanistan-kandahar-achakzai-womens-rights

    I cannot support a policy that leaves these women in the hands of these immoral, disgusting people.

  • Geoffrey Ludt (unverified)
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    Betrayed on Iraq and Afghanistan, Single payer, Bailouts to Wall Street fat cats, "Yes We Can" has become "What'd We Do?"

  • (Show?)

    Carla - I'm surprised that you're using falling back on the argument Bush et al. used, that we're in any way doing this for the sake of the women of Afghanistan. While you cite RAWA, their slogan is "Neither the US nor Jehadies and Taliban," and the latest interviews I've seen from them strongly oppose any increased military presence (for example, in Brave New Films' Rethink Afghanistan.)

    Military escalation only strengthen those who wield the weapons - and those weapons inevitably kill civilians (especially women) in far greater numbers than fighters.

  • (Show?)

    Dan,

    Gotta think that the biggest elephant in this room is heroin. Coupled with an agricutural system that combines the very finest aspects of feudalism, sharecropping, and organized crime you can't ever get to "the average Afghani farmer" because said farmer doesn't exist in any meaninful way.

    The other piece of this has been debated ad nauseum in the White House. Al Qaida isn't all that restricted by geography. There are lots of failed states from which to launch jihad, and that begs the question of "Why this particular 'nation'?"

  • Mike M (unverified)
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    Dan,

    So which Obama campaign pledges do you support?

    Or do you subscribe to the belief that all of Obama's campaign pledges have expiration dates?

    There are no easy answers to the issues that the Obama administration has to deal with. And yes, our Congressional leaders will have much to discuss on whatever plan is announced by President Obama next week.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    For the past 7 years, the United States is engaged in a war it cannot win against an enemy it cannot defeat. The US has pissed away $7.2 trillion to what - capture Bin Forgotten? You cannot bomb your way to democracy. You cannot occupy another country to promote "freedom." Simply stated - more bombs and more military equals more resistance and hence more enemies to be defeated. Just ask Russia or Britian.

    Carla is wrong. Good men and women of the military are going to die. Thousands of civilians will be caught in the crossfire. There is no good to come of this decision in either the short term or long term.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    Why is anyone surprised by this? America loves war.

    "The solution to terrorism is not going to be found in bullets. It's not going to be found in precision ordnance or targeted strikes. It's really going to be found in changing the conditions. It's going to be found in establishing a global safety net that starts with security and goes to economic development and political development and the kinds of modernization which let others enjoy the fruits of modernization that we as Americans enjoy." ~ Gen. Wesley Clark, October 17, 2001, Annual Lecture sponsored by the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy at Temple University.
  • LT (unverified)
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    Carla,

    Where will the troops come from--someone you know who has already done 3 or 4 deployments in the last 5 years?

    Even if the Afghans are corrupt and unwilling to do the work themselves, women there will go back to repression under the Taliban unless we keep sending troops there until today's preschoolers are old enough to vote?

    Tom Friedman was on Charlie Rose and talking about how true success comes with local buy-in. US did not pay Ben Gurion to start the country of Israel. The surge "worked" because the Anbar Awakening had already started and the US troops only provided added security. Camp David peace process was only enabled by Jimmy Carter, it was started by an Egyptian and an Israeli.

    Friedman said if we have to pay the president's brother just to get information to keep US troops safe, then in his words, "up your nose with a rubber hose---5 million troops wouldn't really make a difference".
    He also said if it was clear we wouldn't prop up a corrupt regime, Afghan and Pakistan decisions would be along the lines of "which do we want, the current government or the Taliban? We know we hate the Taliban" rather than some of the games going on now.

    My generation were Vietnam vets. There are now retirees who no longer have structure in their lives and are being diagnosed with late-onset PTSD. Yes, women and others were treated horribly in Afghanistan. This is why we had a partner in the Northern Alliance when we first invaded Afghanistan. But why must US troops still be there when the 10th anniversary of that invasion comes around? Because "protect Afghan women from the Taliban" could easily keep US troops (and the money to support them) there that long.

    But at what point does our country count?

    I will wait and see what the decision is (how reliable are leaks?) and the explanation to go along with it. It is reassuring that there is a promised rationale, unlike Bush telling us we should accept whatever we were told without question. I don't like all the talking points from the Republicans that Iraq = Afghanistan and anything which worked in Iraq will work in Afghanistan---and the president "must listen to the commanders on the ground".

    Not only is Gen. Eikenberry the Ambassador to Afghanistan and former NATO commander, but Richard Holbrooke lived through Vietnam and is involved in this process. Apparently McCrystal and Gates among others will be testifying in Congress about this.

    We need an exit strategy. I have grandnephews who are preschoolers, and any rhetoric which makes it sound like we will still be in Afghanistan when they are in high school scares me.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
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    Welcome to hell, Lyndon Baines Obama.

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    Dan, I tend to agree with you. However, I would like to hear Obama's explanations. I have thought that the US and its allies need to put together a counterinsurgency force of 600,000 plus troops, not counting Afghan troops, in order to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and stabilize the country, or we should phase back or out. Afghanistan is really not our problem. We are bearing far too much of the burden for too little benefit. If other, like China and Turkey, for examples, are not willing to put up large numbers of troops, why should we do it?

    Al Qaeda can find sanctuaries lots of places, and they planned 9/11 from Europe. Our troops are seen as occupiers and just create more blowback. An additional $34 billion (or whatever) in costs could be better spent at home (or in reducing the deficit). If we didn't have troops there now, would anyone propose we go in?

    The US is better off when we get others to deal with regional problems like Afghanistan than when we try to do it ourselves. I'd rather the US be respected for being strong, smart and strategic than as a strong country that wasted its powers.

    At a price of $1 million per soldier per year in Afghanistan, I can can think of lots of ways to spend those $s that will make the US more secure over the long run. For example, for each soldier, the US could have 100 high school students studying abroad in strategic countries like China, Turkey, Egypt, India, Russia, Brazil, etc.

    On so many levels, this seems like a bad move by Obama.

  • Jason (unverified)
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    Carla,

    As always, it's all Bush's fault.

    Dan,

    I respect your opinion, but the unrest over there will only get worse if troop levels aren't elevated. Say what you will about the Iraq war, but when Bush increased troop levels before he left office, we have since seen the largest period of peace since the war began.

    I think it's always easy for us to judge from the outside. There's so little about the situation in Afghanistan that any of us truly understand as ordinary citizens. I trust Obama do make the right decision, whether it's reducing or adding troops.

  • artsasinic (unverified)
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    Thank you LT! You said it all.

  • (Show?)
    I cannot support a policy that leaves these women in the hands of these immoral, disgusting people.

    Can you support it when the policies we're using to supposedly help them are killing them and turning millions of them into refugees?

    Part of the problem in Afghanistan is that the US helped foster more than a decade of war there beginning in the late 1970s. Pakistan and Iran have several million Afghans who fled the fighting; during the Soviet invasion, the warlord era, and the period the Taliban were in power. Another million people fled after the US and NATO started bombing.

    Most of the Afghan refugees (and those born in the camps in the decades since their establishment) have been repatriated, but as in Iraq, the unspoken element to the US invasion are the millions who are still living in other countries. There's no place at home for them to go. They have no money. And in most cases it's not safe to return. 30,000 US troops aren't going to change that. They sure as hell aren't going to do anything in the short term about the Taliban, which was a movement that grew up in the Afghan refugee camps in response to the seemingly endless fighting of the warlords, who were indiscriminately killing people.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    BHO declared his fervent support for this war during the campaign. His decision to escalate the conflict should come as a surprise to nobody.

    The opportunity to win in Afghanistan slipped away years ago when Congress failed to keep the Bush Administration from taking the country into war in Iraq.

    This is a lose-lose situation no matter how you slice it. Best to declare victory, bring our brave troops home and prepare our response for the next terrorist attack.

  • (Show?)

    Say what you will about the merits of the decision, but if you voted for Obama, you did so knowing that it was his intention to redeploy troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. He made no secret about that during his campaign.

    http://in.reuters.com/article/southAsiaNews/idINIndia-34595620080720?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

  • (Show?)

    Military escalation only strengthen those who wield the weapons - and those weapons inevitably kill civilians (especially women) in far greater numbers than fighters.

    Dan, first I apologize. I typed my comment in a hurry and I should have noted that I don't know how I feel about escalation yet. My concern is based on the treatment of women. While I think your point that weapons will eventually kill civilians in greater numbers is likely true, I've never thought the Taliban was about simply offing women. They're about subjugation and the essential slavery of them.

    What I also should have said: I think it would be horrible for us to leave. And yes, that's based on the way that the Taliban have treated women. It's also based on what women from Red Crescent Society are saying as well:

    http://weblogs.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120360648

    While I admire Greenwald and the work of Brave New Films, I sincerely believe they're glossing over the problems for women.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120049497

  • Robert Collins (unverified)
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    From Alexander the Great to the British Empire to the Soviet Union nobody has put down Afghanistan militarily. We're not going to do it either.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    As darrelplant posted, Afghanistan had a liberal government as far as social policy is concerned: it was the Takari government in the late-'70s. But that government was a bit too much left-leaning for Washington, so it was undermined via assassination. And the Soviets hadn't really been aligned with it, but after repeated entreaties the Soviets did respond with the 1980 invasion. Probably the Soviets did so because they knew Washington was behind the destabilization.

    The Afghans are still paying for having been pawns in that game.

    And, of course, the Reagan Admin. having sponsored the Mujahadeen and the Clinton Admin. having sponsored the Taliban makes one wonder where was the concern for women?

    Would the U.S. really be doing all this for protection of women's rights? Maybe, maybe not- maybe the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Balochistan pipeline has something to do with it.

    And what about the reports that the U.S. is sponsoring the fundamentalist-Sunni Jundallah to carry out attacks against Iran? Another instance of the U.S. sponsoring extreme misogynists for political purposes, and it's still going on.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    Dan, it's incredible how much lateral talk is responding to this. Your points are valid. Is anybody really questioning that?

    Thanks for breaking with the Dem herd. It is a terrible decision. For now at least. There's steps that could lead to this conclusion, but those steps haven't been taken.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Lord Beaverbrook: isn't all this "lateral talk" attempting to devine the reasons why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan? And don't those reasons need to be investigated in order to decide whether or not to support this decision?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    One of the best arguments against American/NATO intervention in Afghanistan was posted on the Informed Comment web site (http://www.juancole.com/) on November 22, 2009 It will be a long read for some, but worth it for anyone wishing to be informed.

    Carla and anyone else buying into staying in Afghanistan "for the women": Go to the Real News Network (http://therealnews.com/t/index.php) and check the two-part series - A Woman Among Warlords. The "woman" is Malalai Joya, an Afghanistan woman who is also a member of the Afghanistan parliament. She wants all foreign troops OUT!!! And for good reasons.

    This plan of Obama to send more troops into Afghanistan, if true, is another stage in the evolution of Obama from an inspiring orator with promises of a new America at the beginning of his presidential campaign to another failed presidency of betrayal. We should all have been skeptical of his future conduct and policies when he threw the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the Palestinians under the bus for political expediency.

    Next stage: Instead of having health plan debates on C-Span we got a classified list of visitors to the White House, one of whom proved to be the wheeler-dealer from Louisiana, Billy Tauzin, who made sure that Big Pharma would be taken care of in any health reform with continued high prescription drug prices for the people candidate Obama claimed to care so much for.

    Then there is the on-going Israeli-Palestine charade with Binyamin Netanyahu essentially telling Obama and the United States what Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy. "Go [email protected]#k yourself." (With the leaks orchestrated by Generals Petraeus and McChrystal, these generals, supposedly subservient to the civilian commander-in-chief, were essentially saying the same thing.) Now if that doesn't make you a proud Democrat and American, I don't know what will.

    Change? What change?

    Don't blame me. I voted for Ralph Nader.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Apparently McCrystal and Gates among others will be testifying in Congress about this. "

    And the chiefs of staff for pro-war Republicans and spineless Democrats are getting the rubber stamps ready to approve whatever this arm of the military-industrial-mercenary complex asks for.

  • (Show?)

    Carla and anyone else buying into staying in Afghanistan "for the women": Go to the Real News Network (http://therealnews.com/t/index.php) and check the two-part series - A Woman Among Warlords. The "woman" is Malalai Joya, an Afghanistan woman who is also a member of the Afghanistan parliament. She wants all foreign troops OUT!!! And for good reasons.

    Bill--I hope you will check out the NPR stories that I've posted here as well.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Carla: I checked the NPR links and didn't find any support for escalating the war. For example:

    "Ms. SURAYA PAKZAD (Founder, Voice of Women): Increasing troops and military is not the solution. But we cant leave Afghanistan in this condition because now because of the strategy what we had implemented in Afghanistan, now Taliban become bigger. I like the idea of a dialogue, talking with the people who are fighting

    BLOCK: Youre saying talk with the Taliban.

    Ms. PAKZAD: Talk with the - we dont have much strong Taliban in Afghanistan as we have anti-government elements. If we could provide some kind of program to have a kind of forgiveness process that bring them and the government position, but not the same peace negotiation, which is going on today behind the curtains. "

  • (Show?)
    Tom Friedman was on Charlie Rose and talking about how true success comes with local buy-in.

    Wasn't that the same Tom Friedman who explained his support for the Iraq War (to someone named Charlie Rose) in 2003 thusly:

    [W]hat they needed to see was American boys — and girls — going house-to-house, from Basra to Baghdad, um, and basically saying: “Which part of this sentence don't you understand? You don't think, y'know, we care, uh, about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we're just going to let it grow? Well. Suck. On. This. OK?” That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

    I'm just saying, I wouldn't necessarily want to base my arguments for or against a war policy on the pronouncements of the guy whose name is synonymous with a measure of indefinite conflict:

    Critics of Friedman's position on the Iraq War have noted his recurrent assertion that "the next six months" will prove critical in determining the outcome of the conflict. A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting first pointed out this phenomenon in May 2006, citing 14 examples of Friedman's declaring the next "few months" or "six months" as a decisive or critical period, dating from in November 2003, describing it as "a long series of similar do-or-die dates that never seem to get any closer."
  • backbeat (unverified)
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    How can any "progressive" support this crap?

    Disgusting.

  • backbeat (unverified)
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    darrel plant :wave:

    heh heh, way to cite the FU what a freaking mess this is

  • Bo Todd (unverified)
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    Saudi Arabia treats women horribly too, so why don't we bomb them and take their oil? Then we can make money and bring equality to women.

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    Carla: I checked the NPR links and didn't find any support for escalating the war.

    Bill--if you read my comment where those links live, you'll notice that I say I'm not sure how I feel about escalation. My concern is that this is really about leaving altogether.

    If you go back and read the transcripts again, you'll note that there is in fact a lot of concern expressed about this.

  • (Show?)

    From: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120049497

    MARTIN: Mrs. Jawad, to the degree that you feel comfortable, do you have an opinion about whether U.S. troops should stay in Afghanistan or not?

    Ms. JAWAD: I have to say that Afghan people are not short of courage. We have a lot of courageous Afghans that they want to fight and this is our war. And it is - we have to fight our own war. But the problem we have right now is that our national army and national forces are not properly equipped and trained.

    So we still need your temporary presence in Afghanistan because we are grateful, I mean we are, for the sacrifices that the Americans and your men and women and boys and girls are doing for Afghanistan. They are sacrificing their lives to fight for our freedom, and we are so grateful for that.

    And here: http://weblogs.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120360648

    BLOCK: And do you share that fear that if the U.S. leaves, the Taliban would be back in

    Ms. PAKZAD: Of course because they become bigger today. If we compare them to the 2001, we had access to go all villages in the country and had access to work with the women, but now we become smaller, smaller and the area of our work become very small because of Taliban, you know, what you call expand or increase their activity and their operations. And today they are a big challenge. You are hearing about suicide bombing. You are hearing about explosion. You are hearing about death threats. We lost four, five women. They assassinated in the city.

    BLOCK: Fatima Gailani, Im sorry, Pakzad was talking about threats against women. You were nodding your head. This is a very familiar story for you as well.

    Ms. GAILANI: It is a familiar story and Im old enough to remember that when I was finishing my high school, I lived in an environment that the question of my gender, at least in the cities, was not even in our mind.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Bill--if you read my comment where those links live, you'll notice that I say I'm not sure how I feel about escalation. My concern is that this is really about leaving altogether.

    If you go back and read the transcripts again, you'll note that there is in fact a lot of concern expressed about this."

    There is reason to debate about avoiding a precipitous exit, but I believe we can agree that escalation will prove to be another in a long series of folly emitting from the White House, Congress and the Pentagon.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    We must send in more troops. If Afghanistan falls, then Pakistan will fall. If Pakistan falls, then Iraq will fall. Then comes Cambodia, Laos, Korea and Japan. The next thing you know, those Commies will be knocking on the door of California!

    Oops! Wrong war. Nevermind.

  • tl (in sw) (unverified)
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    Tom Friedman was on Charlie Rose and talking about how true success comes with local buy-in.

    Although set in Pakistan, the wonderful book Three Cups of Tea relates several examples where efforts of a small, raggedy group to build schools that educate girls are successful despite the opposition of powerful religious leaders and warlords. I see much more likelihood of success, reduction in casualties, and protection of the rights of all - especially women and girls - through such efforts as that of the Central Asia Institute than in dropping bombs, sending more troops, and propping up questionable governments.

  • Butthead (unverified)
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    Heh heh. I blame Nader.

    Obama's going to let us break things, which is cool.

    McCain probably would have tortured and killed less people, which sucks.

  • Dan w. (unverified)
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    Isn't this war Illegal? At least, that's what we've been repeatedly told over and over again by Progessives.

    But now, suddenly it's ok - let's raise the troop levels....it's for the women. Because Obama cares so much about the women.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Isn't this war Illegal? At least, that's what we've been repeatedly told over and over again by Progessives. "

    Dan w: This is another situation where we separate the progressives from the neo-progressives. The former are still opposed to expansion of the American empire of which the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are a part while the neo-progressives are doing what they think it will take to keep a majority of Democrats in Congress.

    As for "illegal," this is Amerika where we pick and choose which laws and treaties we will adhere to and where we trot out the Constitution when it is to our advantage and ignore it when it is politically expedient to do so.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Tom Friedman was on Charlie Rose and talking about how true success comes with local buy-in.

    Although set in Pakistan, the wonderful book Three Cups of Tea relates several examples where efforts of a small, raggedy group to build schools that educate girls are successful despite the opposition of powerful religious leaders and warlords. I see much more likelihood of success, reduction in casualties, and protection of the rights of all - especially women and girls - through such efforts as that of the Central Asia Institute than in dropping bombs, sending more troops, and propping up questionable governments."

    There is a consensus among many observers of the media that Tom Friedman is full of crap, but the premise around Three Cups of Tea makes eminent good sense.

  • (Show?)

    As Dave Porter notes above, if the objective here is counterinsurgency, then U.S. military doctrine itself calls for an overall troop level in the 600,000 range - nowhere near the combined levels that might be achieved even with Obama's reported escalation. To me, this is consistent with the Administration's pattern of either incremental or half measures. And that's exactly what worries me most.

    There are issues where incremental approaches make sense (though there are fierce debates in each area I might cite); in my mind war is not one of them. I suspect that the troop levels projected are more a response to the political environment than the military one, and that "smaller" commitments now will lead to larger commitments later.

    In the intervening decades folks have always warned of pending military actions as "the next Vietnam." Most often the parallels have been pretty shallow; this one feels much too close for comfort.

    I'd been hoping to finish reading Gordon Goldstien's Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam before this decision came down; I guess Obama just didn't dither long enough....

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Gareth Porter has an interesting article on US choice hardly McChrystal clear at Asia Times OnLine. Afghanistan is not an exact copy of Vietnam and General McChrystal is not a clone of General Westmoreland, but there are enough commonalities for concern.

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    Dan, again I tend to agree with you. Pending hearing his plans and explanations, I tend to think Obama is seeking the domestic political center with this decision. That's why a rather small, but expensive, troop increase that at best buys a little more time to develop the Afghan military might make sense. Critical in listening to Obama's plan will be his exit strategy and how long our troops need to be there. Developing an Afghan nation that protects its women could take a generation. I don't think the US wants to sustain the proposed level of troops for that long.

    Let me note, that whatever level of troops the US send, that the US will have an ongoing humanitarian, as opposed to a national security, interest in Afghanistan for a generation or more. We would like to see a stable nation, responsible to its people, develop there. We will be willing to give developmental aid so long as the government is reasonably well run (little corruption) and not hostile to us. So, the US is likely to be involved there, perhaps on and off, for some time.

    Effective counterinsurgency soldiers and developmental aid workers can do their jobs best when they know the languages of the population they are fighting/working in. Oregon could help. We could have an educational system that offers online courses in Pashto, Dari (Persian), and the other minor languages of Afghanistan. But we don't, because we have neither the structure of a statewide virtual school nor leadership that cares.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    These excerpts are from and article in The Independent (UK) by Patrick Cockburn, one of the West's best and most knowledgeable foreign correspondents on the U.S./British involvement in Iraq that appear to be a propos to Afghanistan:

    "In Iran some Shia theologians argued at the time that the second coming of the Mehdi might well be at hand, because only divine intervention could have persuaded the Americans to behave so stupidly as to get rid of Iran's main enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The coming to power of a Shia-dominated regime in Iraq, the first in the Arab world since the time of Saladin, was bound to enhance Iranian influence over its neighbour.

    "Members of the Iraqi opposition in the weeks before the invasion were metaphorically touching wood in case the Americans and the British realised what they were getting into. In December 2002 I was at an Iraqi opposition conference in a hotel on Edgware Road in central London when an Iraqi friend spoke to me nervously: "I have only one fear," he said. "It is that the Americans will realise at the last moment that attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein is not in their own best interests.""

    and

    "What is so striking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the British foreign policy establishment seems to have lost its sense of what is dangerous and what is not. It may be that following dutifully behind the Americans is so ingrained that the capacity for independent judgement has atrophied."

    The complete article is at http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-britains-ignorance-of-iraq-is-already-apparent-1826920.html

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    Here's another very balanced piece by Steve Coll on the various interests and options, written last month: The Case for Humility in Afghanistan.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Dan: I sort of agree with you that Steve Coll's piece is balanced if you accept its contradictions.

    "The United States has two compelling interests at issue in the Afghan conflict. One is the ongoing, increasingly successful but incomplete effort to reduce the threat posed by al Qaeda..."

    Recent reports indicate there are only about 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We need another 40,000 troops to take care of them?

    "To protect the security of the American people and the interests of the United States and its allies, we should persist with the difficult effort to stabilize Afghanistan and reverse the Taliban's momentum. This will probably require additional troops for a period of several years, until Afghan forces can play the leading role."

    Afghanistan is no threat to the United States unless people see it as "Pipeline-istan" supplying the U.S. with oil. In that case, other claimed intervention for "democracy" and "humanitarian" reasons are hogwash. The biggest threat Afghanistan will pose to the United States is one of economic bankruptcy. "This will probably require additional troops for a period of several years,..." at a million dollars per soldier per year for how many years?

    Skip to

    "To succeed, the United States must "redouble efforts to understand the social and political dynamics of...all regions of the country and take action that meets the needs of the people, and insist that [Afghan government] officials do the same.""

    It is unlikely that redoubling heretofore minimal efforts to understand the social and political dynamics in Afghanistan will help much.

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    I thought the reason we got into Afghanistan was to kill or capture the people behind the 9/11 attacks. I mean, I think the idea of helping the people of a country devastated by more than two decades of war and unrest is laudable, but I don't think you actually help those people by upping the level of war and unrest in the country for eight more years and an unknown number of years into the future.

    Al Qaeda — the people behind the 9/11 attacks — long ago decamped from Afghanistan. At this point we're told that the Predator and Reaper drones are the best tools we have to take out leading members of the organization, because they're in areas inaccessible to both US and Pakistani ground forces. Of course, even the drones tend to take out a lot of civilians for each al Qaeda strike.

    The people we supposedly went into Afghanistan to capture and kill are now pretty much accessible only by air attacks we can control from nearly anywhere in the world (although the drones typically need to be launched closer). Presumably, if some member of al Qaeda strayed back into Afghanistan again, we could use an air strike to kill him since we're already doing that in Pakistan.

    So I'm at a loss. The Taliban are still in most of Afghanistan. The US military has never truly controlled large swathes of the country unless they were standing on it. 30,000 or 40,000 more troops aren't going to make that much of a difference, although the level of violence might go up. I just don't see how we're going to make a positive long-term effect on the country by staying indefinitely. Do we kill every Afghan who is associated with the Taliban? Will that piss off their relatives enough to make them take up arms? Do we just keep killing them until they stop fighting? It didn't work so well with the Vietnamese. It worked with the Native Americans, but we really had to grind them down to nothing before they stopped defending their homes. And the Soviets went broke trying to do that with the Afghans.

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    Bill - I don't necessarily agree with all of what Coll writes in the piece, but I do take him very seriously; for my money his Ghost Wars is the best book I've read on the background of the Afghan war (through 9/11).

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election." Otto von Bismarck

    Keep that in mind when Obama explains his escalation of the war in Afghanistan next week.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Here is a good analogy from Foreign Policy in Focus:

    "Hitting the Brakes on Afghanistan

    Imagine finding yourself in the driver's seat of a car heading directly at a brick wall. You panic: What to do?

    Fortunately, there are three people in the car with you, and they all have very firm advice. The person in the passenger seat tells you to push the pedal to the metal. Right behind you in the back seat, your friend is urging you to accelerate only modestly. And the fourth person in the car recommends that you maintain your current speed.

    You might be thinking: These are my only choices? I'll hit the brick wall either really quickly, rather quickly, or pretty darn soon. The end result will be the same. The car will be destroyed and all four of you will be in the hospital.

    Since these are the choices now being presented to President Barack Obama for his Afghanistan policy, who can blame him for being slow to make up his mind? His top general is telling him to send 40,000 troops. His vice president is telling him to send 10-15,000 troops. And his secretary of state and Pentagon chief are urging the middle course of 30,000 troops.

    Isn't anyone out there telling the president that he has more levers at his disposal than simply the gas pedal? Isn't anyone pointing out the obvious?

    The brake, Mr. President, the brake!

    Frankly, the car metaphor isn't precise. It's actually a bus heading toward that brick wall. A really, really big bus. And we're all on board, the entire U.S. population. The president's advisors are all clustered up at the front. Their voices are pretty loud. But we can all make our voices heard if we all shout together from the back of the bus.Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and keep the message simple: Don't send more troops to Afghanistan, Mr. President.

    Peace groups around the country are coordinating this call-in campaign in these few days before Thanksgiving so that the president knows, before the expected announcement of his Afghanistan policy next week, that there are other choices. Here's a link (http://noescalation.org/) to some additional talking points about different congressional options.

    "It is unlikely that we will soon have another president with the moral and rhetorical force to talk us out of a foolish commitment that cannot be sustained without shame and defeat," writes (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23431) Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books. "If it costs him his presidency, what other achievement can match it? During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would rather be a one-term president than give up on his goals. Here is a goal no other president we can imagine would have a possibility of reaching. Presidents who just kick the can down the road are easy to come by. Lost lives and limbs are not."

    The crash can be avoided. But we must call the White House and let the driver-in-chief know that we're here, we're clear, and we don't want this war no more. "

  • Bill McDonald (unverified)
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    He was smart. He was handsome. He was brilliant. When he spoke about things the speeches were magnificent. His family was wonderful. He won the election the old-fashioned way, by forging a powerful bond with a majority of the American People. I'm not going to write him off just yet, but outside of stem cell research, the Supreme Court Justice, and successfully picking a nice White House dog, this has been a monumental disappointment. Matt Taibbi's new piece is called Obama's Big Sellout. I haven't read it but I sort of sense what's in there. Everywhere I look I see a pragmatic man who talked a great game. I still believe the candidate was basically good. If it was an act, it was one of the best ever. Lawrence Olivier couldn't have given a better performance.

      Maybe the experience overwhelmed his soul and he just lost his way. People facing the rush of power and success act unpredictably and that's just after being on a reality show.
    
      Being President is the ultimate reality show, so intense that it becomes make-believe. So serious that it becomes surreal. Heck, the attention alone could have done it. How can you fix an economics bubble when you're living in a presidential bubble?
    
       To be fair, maybe he's under orders.
    

    Maybe the notion that he can actually decide these things according to some personal version of right and wrong is as naive as it gets. I'm sure that's a factor. How do you start healthcare reform by making a deal not to go after Big Pharma? That's just one of many signs that some sinister forces are guiding this.

    Whatever the reasons, this is not going well.

       America is teetering on the edge of a cliff. We didn't just need a great leader right now. We had to have one.
    
       It's starting to look like it was too much to hope for.
    
  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election." Otto von Bismarck

    Keep that in mind when Obama explains his escalation of the war in Afghanistan next week. And the chorus line of pro-war pundits on television sing his praises while consigning more young American men and women to their deaths and Afghanis of all ages and genders to theirs. Not that many Americans give a damn about the latter.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving. There may not be much to be thankful for next year.

  • Jim (unverified)
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    On this issue Obama is no different than Bush, or any other president for that matter: the US has the right and privilege to impose its will on others, and of course, we only mean to do good when doing that. It is clear from many comments above that many people on this list believe that.

    With this escalation Obama joins the list of all other post-WWII presidents who would be hanged if the Nuremberg principles were applied to them. And if we are not raising holy hell about it, the shame is ours.

  • Seafactor (unverified)
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    On a beautiful November day in President Obama’s hometown of Chicago there were no children to be seen out on many areas of the City’s South and West sides. Why? Parents are terrified for their babies safety. Children are prisoners in their own homes due to the violence and thuggery permeating neighborhoods (See the beating death of Darrion Albert). What is our president doing protecting us from Afghans? Children are being slaughtered here and he does <nothing> but posture. When will someone in power stop using the poor as stepping stones to power? Mr. Obama you should be <ashamed>.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "The brake, Mr. President, the brake!

    "Frankly, the car metaphor isn't precise. It's actually a bus heading toward that brick wall. A really, really big bus. And we're all on board, the entire U.S. population. The president's advisors are all clustered up at the front. Their voices are pretty loud. But we can all make our voices heard if we all shout together from the back of the bus.Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and keep the message simple: Don't send more troops to Afghanistan, Mr. President."

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    When talking of Afghanistan many people refer to past empires that came to regret their misadventures there and a subsequent decline as imperial powers. That is clearly a prospect for the United States.

    There is, however, a difference. The empires that were defeated in Afghanistan were, for the most part, in their ascendancy or at the top of their power. As Ralph Nader implies in his article on CounterPunch - Weak-Kneed in China - the American empire may already be in decline.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Informed Comment (http://www.juancole.com/) has an, as usual, very informative commentary (Nov. 25) on the expected increase in American military involvement in Afghanistan with a link to an article by another knowledgeable commentator, Gareth Porter, on the training of the Afghan army and its 25% turnover rate.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    This can't even be called a policy. Are we fighting Al-Quaeda, or Taliban too? Are we handing power of to the Pashtoons? Urdu speakers?

    "Next, I'm sending 74,000 troops" is not policy. As stated since last November by progressives, "there is no hope for change unless you cause it to happen". He is not Shrub. Merely has the same policies. Shrub could handle camps of anti-war protesters outside Crawford, TX. BHO cannot handle mainstream Dems saying "you are a war criminal. All business stops until you change course". Take to the streets!

    The fact of teh matter is that 99% of these posters will do nothing, BHO will do what he pleases, and it will be the exact same policy that we had before. So, does he think like Shrub, or are neither calling the shots? Which is it? I'm pretty damned tired asking that for a year. If you really give a damn, address that. Otherwise you're just whining.

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    The empires that were defeated in Afghanistan were, for the most part, in their ascendancy or at the top of their power.

    That wasn't the case for the Soviet Union, though. The USSR was already showing signs of falling apart economically by the time they invaded Afghanistan. They'd never been a wealthy nation (in terms of a high standard of living for most of their people) and stories of long lines of Muscovites waiting for essentials and bare shelves at the stores were the flip side to the massive military spending. Despite the characterization of the USSR in the '80s as poised to take over the US in a "Red Dawn" scenario, or by driving tanks 1,500 miles up from Nicaragua to Brownsville, Texas, they were bogged down in Afghanistan -- a country on their own border -- by fighters whose best armaments were the relative handful of Stinger missiles the US gave them. It cost them tens of thousands of dead, although the Afghans suffered far, far worse.

    I don't think the US is in as bad of shape as the Soviet Union was at the end of the '70s — they were headed for a collapse in any case — but the continuation of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (yes, we've still got 100,000 soldiers there, too) aren't going to make the situation here better.

    BTW, current Defense Sec. Robert Gates was one of the many Soviet analysts (along with Condoleeza Rice) in the 1980s who were completely surprised by the collapse of the USSR. And that was his supposed area of expertise. Aren't we lucky he stayed on?

  • Gary Lapon (unverified)
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    The Taliban has a terrible record regarding women's rights, but I don't see the US championing women's rights. They support Karzai, who signed a bill legalizing spousal rape, child marriage, and restrictions on women leaving the home: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghan-leader-accused-of-bid-to-legalise-rape-1658049.html

    So if you put that together, a man can legally marry a young girl, lock her up at home, and rape her. And this was passed under the regime these 30,000 troops will be propping up.

    US foreign policy in Afghanistan is motivated by the desire to control energy resources, nothing more...women's lives are of no concern to the occupiers.

  • Helys (unverified)
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    Liz Grover, a former UN worker in Afghanistan makes the case against troop escalation here I found her story very interesting bit.ly/1TaMYf

    Story about Obama's decision here: bit.ly/obamasafghandilemma

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    US foreign policy in Afghanistan is motivated by the desire to control energy resources, nothing more...women's lives are of no concern to the occupiers.

    No more than our troops' lives are to those that continue to waste fuel all around us.

    So, all those that called that "Cheney's policy", is that "Obama's Policy"?

    And for the umpteenth time, 18 months ago, when we said, "The President doesn't make policy with a free hand any more than Cheney is some powerful insider that can; you will get no change with Obama because its not his decision. Fix that, or it is all monumental self deception"...AGAIN, were we lucky, psychic, or using a better predictive model? Do care that most that you ignored, right here, had it spot on, and your vaunted talking heads, not one of them, made an accurate prediction?

    I can understand that the horror may be too much to handle. So bow out already. Don't inscribe your fears into the flesh of the body politic because its the only kind of enemy you know how to deal with. Will this country ever get real and admit Eisenhower was right, and rote primate behavior has allowed us to give no heed, even as we suffer? WWDD? I don't think he'd be signing on to the likes of either major party!

    DDE's personality was similar to Bloomberg's. How can you rationalize the results of Dem party politics when you have no better situation, but could have had what you wanted if a freaking Republican like Bloomberg had one? We should be mad and feel defrauded. You know, I think I need to find a TEA protester AND a M66/67 canvaser and bang their heads together really hard!

    How about a reality check. Would like to see Carla take her inaugural day photos and give them captions now, things that Obama has actually done. This is what makes my blood boil. "We're going to have a party" trumps killing civilians for oil. Business as usual is more important than our mounting guilt. How you say it is more important than the facts of the matter. And I accuse them of being behind right wing radio, so that they can run against a caricature.

    Anyone that gives one penny to the Democratic Party of America, while we are escalating the war in Afghanistan, should be indicted as a war criminal as well. Meanwhile, those that assured us that they care very, very deeply about this will be trying to get you to do exactly that. These are the times that try men's souls.

  • JJ (unverified)
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    I'm a conservative..I initially supported the War in Iraq and Afghanistan but have been dismayed by the lack of a coherent strategy at times in both theaters. Before the troop surge in Iraq, many on the left were opposed, and I thought they were justified in their opposition. Between 2003 and 2006, we had no coherent strategy there and simply adding more troops to to the same failing plan seemed pointless. However, along with the Iraq surge came a new strategy...a strategy that moved our troops out from behind fortified bases and into communities, and it was a plan the required more troops. All is not fixed in Iraq, but the plan that came with the surge was certainly an improvement. When it comes to Obama's plan on Afghanistan, I'm more interested in hearing about the strategy than the troop levels, and I think it's prudent to withhold judgment on the troop escalation until we learn more about the strategy. If it's just the same strategy with more troops...I think it may be a bad call. But if there is a strategic adjustment that requires more troops (as I suspect we will see), then it's pretty much the first wise decision we've seen this president make.

  • Wrench Monkey (unverified)
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    Re: "Business as usual is more important than our mounting guilt."

    This is also Bruno Bettelheim's explanation of why Jews went along with the Nazis' marching them to the death camps.

    If you care about your children and your grandchildren, you will oppose the duopoly and its support for militarism and corporatism. If you, on the other hand, care more for business as usual, then continue to support your Dear Leader and his regressive cabal.

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    All is not fixed in Iraq,

    That's a pretty impressive understatement. The war we unleashed has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the past six-and-a-half years. The US leveled 70% of the city of Fallujah, as well as large portions of other cities; electrical, water and sewer infrastructure; and numerous other institutions which have barely started to be replaced, in part because the lack of security throughout the country has been so poor that projects couldn't get completed or protected. Millions of Iraqis are living in Jordan and Syria as refugees, some are still in Iran, and there are several million internal refugees whose homes were destroyed or are now in areas that are not safe for them.

    And that's the thing I just can't understand about "supporting" the war in Iraq. Or the war in Afghanistan. The process of occupying a country — any country — tends to kill a lot of people. Innocent civilian kind of people, not to mention usually a lot of soldiers who tend to be related to civilian kind of people. It destroys large portions of the country: see Germany, see Japan. Sometimes it may actually be justified, but everyone has their justifications:

    I am not going to discuss now whether we did the right thing by going there. But it is a fact that we went there absolutely not knowing the psychology of the people, or the real situation in the country. And everything that we were and are doing in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the moral face of our country. – Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, from a tape of a secret Politburo session, January 21, 1987

    "Strategy" wasn't the problem in either country. There was literally no reason for us to attack Iraq. They hadn't attacked us. There was no evidence that they had WMD they could give to terrorists — not that they were affiliated with the terrorists who had attacked us. What there was, was a willingness to attack Iraq on the part of the administration, almost every Republican in Congress, and far, far too many Democrats. Not one bit of actual hard evidence has ever been produced as the piece that tipped those people into an attack on Iraq. No photo, no document, nothing. The entire war was based on hearsay. And our justification for a war in Iraq sans any WMD? Pretty much the same as justification for the war in Afghanistan. "Think of the ___! What will happen to the __ if we leave?" Well, frankly, you should have thought about that before you went in. And you ought to think through the consequences of escalating and prolonging the war before you do that, too.

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    I think it's prudent to withhold judgment on the troop escalation until we learn more about the strategy.

    JJ- that's fair enough; I decided to post this as soon as the news "leaked" out so we could begin a discussion in advance.

    I wish my inner Pollyanna were prevailing over my inner Cassandra on this one, but I'm feeling less than sanguine - all the more so after reading this morning that the Obama Administration will, like the Bush Administration, continue our refusal to join the global convention banning land mines.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    Let's also include that renditions aren't just questionable policy, anymore, after the Italian verdicts, they are crimes.

    I've not heard a coherent explanation of how making them "supervised" changes the core violations of law.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    I'm hearing my inner Lizzie Borden.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    darrelplant: I stand corrected on the Soviet Union.

    As for who is really calling the shots on Afghanistan, this is similar to the question I asked when Obama was first running for the Democratic primary - Who are the people promoting him? You have to give them credit with their ability to recognize that his oratorical skills could trump any deficit his race might have created. Given the fact that Obama and Hillary were in opposing camps it would appear there are two factions in the Democratic Party with both of them backed by the non-partisan military-industrial-mercenary complex. That's where the money is and where it goes en route to some account in Switzerland and/or the Cayman Islands.

    The only hope now is probably just the slimmest of hopes and that will be in Congress that has to fund this criminal folly. But with Congress still bought and paid for by corporations making money off these wars, hoping they will do the right thing is probably bordering on delusion.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Obama said that there would be no more torture on American soil, but we have a lot of money invested in the Bagram prison that is a hell hole for the prisoners incarcerated there, even those that aren't being tortured. But it isn't on American soil. Now doesn't that make you feel better?

  • mlw (unverified)
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    As someone who HAS done 3 deployments in the last 5 years, I think the escalation is probably a good thing. First of all, Carla is right - the plight of women under the Taliban was an abomination that should not be countenanced. Second, I suspect that we will see benchmarks for the Karzai government, much as we did in Iraq (although they didn't call them benchmarks in the end). Third, much of the new campaign will NOT be done through the Karzai government, but rather through local militias and village councils. Counterinsurgency has to be done from the ground up, not from the top down. Finally, there's going to be an exit plan here - a definite plus up and draw down schedule.

    We invaded this country. We owe them a moral debt to leave their country better than we found it. This is not Iraq, where they want us to go home. This is a place where the people want our help and can benefit from it.

    That being said, more troops are a small part of the larger solution. What we really need is more civilians doing development work at the local level. The State Department has been disgracefully absent there. Their last proposal was to fill all their vacant diplomatic/development positions with reserve military members, rather than involuntarily reassigning State Department employees.

    I support the Afghan surge, even though it probably means that I'll have that 4th deployment in the next year.

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    Given the fact that Obama and Hillary were in opposing camps...

    Any time there's a contest for a single position there are opposing camps. Joe Biden had himself another camp — really more of a pup tent — but he's the guy a heartbeat away, as they say.

    I don't really think there's any question about who's calling the shots on Afghanistan. You can listen to the candid tapes of people like LBJ and NIxon to hear their reasoning about escalation and other decisions on the Vietnam war. LBJ, for instance, bought into the idea that if Vietnam fell to the Communists that the rest of SE Asia would go (although he at least asked "so what?"). A lot of it's just a worry about looking weak for the next election.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)
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    We can't win in Afghanistan. No one can and many have tried. It's a waste of money and lives.

  • rw (unverified)
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    I am so fucking disappointed with Obama/this administration. Eventually he will come skulking out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Or the next-elected will.

    Meanwhile, we continue to slide lower in the whorl that circles the drain. I'm getting dizzy in here.

  • rw (unverified)
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    mlw - when TSA and other Homeland security were established, I was blatantly told these positions were ALL being held as sinecure for militaries and ex-militaries. Look no further as to why State Department and those of us with talent and guts coming out of our ears cannot get our wings up and our faierie dust on the ground.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Wrench Animal: "your dear leader" and "regressive cabal"? You are trying too hard. This really is not North Korea. It's bad, that I'll give you, but please... stop with the clanking hyperbole. Use that opposable thumb.

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    We invaded this country. We owe them a moral debt to leave their country better than we found it.

    That's just never going to happen while we're actively killing the people of Afghanistan.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Respectfully to plant, petogorsky and the other naysayers here. Unless/until you have been in uniform and served in an armed conflict as ordered by your commander in chief you have no standing on the discussion. But thanks for playing.

    Debate whether we should have gone in in the first place all that you want. We are there and we owe it to the Afghani's and their country to leave it after we fix what we helped break. That means stable households, schools, public water, etc, etc. It could also mean more troops.

    I do, however laugh my self silly contrasting this to the Nobel Peace Prize. The irony is wonderful.

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    Unless/until you have been in uniform and served in an armed conflict as ordered by your commander in chief you have no standing on the discussion.

    A truly enlightened view of what civilian control of the military means in a democratic society.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Petegorsky you get it wrong twice. The military in our country serves at the order of Congress and The COmmander In Chief. They are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. The fable of "civilian control" is just that; a fable.

    Of course since you and many here would rather tell the Afghani's, "we quit, we are going home now." I say have at it and see what it does to our international standing. We broke it, we have a moral obligation to fix it.

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    Unless/until you have been in uniform and served in an armed conflict as ordered by your commander in chief you have no standing on the discussion.

    Actually, that's not the way the world works, Kurt, no matter how you have it arranged in your Starship Troopers fantasy. It's a government of, by, and for the people, most of whom have never served in the military but in which all citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution to the right to have their say at the ballot box. Service in the military hardly gives one good judgment: look at all of the U.S. Army combat veterans from the mid-19th century who led the Conferate Army in its act of treason against the United States of America during the Civil War.

    Actually, I'm in agreement that we need to help the Afghan people. We've done them a horrible disservice by dragging them through eight more years of war when they had already suffered so much. I just don't think killing more of them is the right way to go about it.

    Worrying about what might happen if the Taliban take over the country is putting the cart before the horse. Afghanistan under the US/NATO occupation has already been labelled by the US as the worst place in the world for children.

    "Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world," said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF country representative. The death rate equals 257 deaths per 1,000 live births. UNICEF has shown that more than one in four children born in Afghanistan die before the age of five. She added, "Seventy percent of the population has no access to safe drinking water. Thirty percent of children are involved in child labor. Forty-three percent of girls are married under-age." ... Many thousands of Afghan civilians have died since the 2001 invasion in foreign-troop engagements with the Taliban and their alleged supporters and the bombardment of numerous civilian areas labeled as 'militant hideouts.'

    No standing my ass.

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    Correction: "labelled by the UN"

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    Wow, Kurt, you're scaring me. Tell me, in your copy of the Declaration of Independence have you blotted out the grievance that goes, "He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power"?

  • Wrench Monkey (unverified)
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    darrelplant and petegorsky have it right.

    You war lovers never respond to this:

    Ask yourselves how you would respond if Russia had invaded and occupied the U.S., turned the country over to a "government" that it thought would do as it was instructed, destroyed all institutional structures, and then announced that it could not leave because it would be wrong to do so in an "irresponsible" way. That's your "liberal" point of view on foreign policy.

    The OCCUPATIONS of Iraq/Afghanistan (not wars) are immoral and illegal under U.S. and international law. We have NO moral authority, and this lack is a bipartisan phenomenon.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
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    "this could well rank as the worst decision so far in his Administration"

    I think the trillions spent rewarding Obama's bankster friends for wrecking our economy currently has this decision beat.

    I fail to understand how anyone who believes themselves to be a progressive feels anything other than disgust for this administration and the clintonized democratic party.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Kurt Chapman: that "You don't count for shit b/c you are not in uniform" is EXACTLY the attitude you people need to put a lid on. Exactly how sympathetic or trusting do you think we will be towards people who express that kind of entitlement in so many dimensions?

    This is NOT good communication, and you will only further alienate even those of us willing to try to understand your viewpoint even if you, clearly, haven't a single care to understand any but your own!

    Egad that stunk!

  • rw (unverified)
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    Actually, now that Obama and his party are reneging on women's rights, and it's also taking a backseat in Afghanistan, for me the shine is officially off the nickel.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Wrench Monkey - Go Wolverines!

    rw - you are clearly out of your depth here. You haven't a clue. I am open to several different perspectives, its just that the ones from those who have served carry greater weight.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Kurt Chapman, I am accustomed to elitists who have "carried" snobbing those who do not indulge in their belief systems. I am also accustomed to folks such as my cousin who worked in Intel NOT telling us what we would need to know so as to "get it" while also acting the asshole towards "us" who don't get it.... you military kids have a tidy package to play with.

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    I am open to several different perspectives, its just that the ones from those who have served carry greater weight.

    General a weighty enough rank for you? Karl Eikenberry is the (retired) general who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2006-7 and who is now U.S. ambassador there:

    U.S. envoy resists increase in troops

    And a little p.s. - saying people have "no standing" to express their views doesn't generally indicate an openness to listen to their perspectives.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Thanks, DP. I have tried to open my heart and my mind in spite of his bratty entitledness - he will not tell me what I need to know to use my [apparent] robust intelligence to get what he thinks I do not get; but I try to understand things I was raised to reject now. I feel somehow it is worth our kid's futures, and that is not a slogan. I see my grandchildren in my son's kind and thinking face. I see our kids growing up in the sundance, and I see it in the set faces of that hard prayer. There is much blood being spilled, in many ways, for the future and for our children. If Kurt and his ilk will not be bothered to understand how our blood spills and our visions, we can still work somehow to understand him and his kind. SOMEone has to do that work.

    I suck at it. I do not stand strong. I require better voices than mine to keep it steady, but at least it's a concept in my mind. It appears that Kurt and his kind do not even entertain a vision of a world that is greater than the one he has been taught to accept.

  • rw (unverified)
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    His = my cousin, a Naval Commander.

  • dom youngross (unverified)
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    President Obama sent 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan in 2009. Further escalation beyond that is still only the tip of the iceberg. The big underwater part, the part that actually rips holes and sinks ships, is Obama's proposed exit strategy, which sounds theoretically good on paper.

    That exit strategy calls for us to help the Afghans build and train national army and national police forces both big enough so they can take over handling their own security concerns. It goes without saying that we would equip and fund the new army and police forces.

    In practicality and reality, that shiny new 200,000 to 400,000-plus standing Afghan national 'army' and 80,000 to 160,000-plus national 'police' force we would create as our 'exit' strategy will likely end up joining the heroin trade as being the newest prize up for grabs in tribal-oriented, bribe-riddled, narco-Islamic-state Afghanistan -- to the continuing detriment of 95% of all the Afghans, and inevitably to ourselves.

    Bet the farm that the tribal-oriented, bribe-riddled, narco-Islamic situation on the ground changes the 'well-intentioned' nature of a new large military/paramililtary force for the worse faster than a new large military/paramilitary force could ever change the situation on the Afghan ground for the better.

    What happens if Karzai decides to use that quarter- to half-million-plus new military/paramilitary force to his continuing dictatorial benefit? Great, it provides us with cover to get out and claim success, but Afghanistan is no better off and even more volatile. It then becomes like Pakistan is today.

    And what happens if Karzai is overthrown -- like the Shah of Iran? Not only is Karzai a questionable choice for us to do official geo-political business with, he may not even be around in a few years. Who then gets control of that new military/paramilitary force? The new revolutionary leaders. In that case, Afghanistan then becomes like Iran is today.

    With respect to Afghanistan, the millstone issue that drags everything down, McCain, Cheney, and Palin conservatives and neocons are getting more from Obama than the liberals, progressives, and independents that actually voted for Obama. Liberals, progressives, and independents won a hollow victory with electing Obama. In due time it will become a pyrhhic victory.

    Consider the prudence (sic) of further troop escalation in Afghanistan, and the interrelated prudence (sic again) of creating a new large military/paramilitary force in Afghanistan as justification for that further troop escalation, as you listen to Obama's big upcoming Afghanistan speech 1 Dec. 2009.

    It should be reasonably clear that none of this Afghanistan dither-muddle toil-and-trouble witches brew would be going on if Rep. Ron Paul won last year's presidential election. To everyone's legitimate benefit we would be withdrawing troops from no-win Afghanistan, and better yet, we wouldn't be adding up for grabs the prize of a new, large, national military/paramilitary force in addition to the existing heroin trade in that hell-hole. We'd instead be meeting any and all real security threats to the US without getting mired down in a no-win situation and creating more future problems for ourselves.

    If we know where a target is, we can put a Hellfire or Cruise missile through the window where that target is sitting. It's just a matter of knowing where and when. The lower-blowback form for that intelligence will more likely come through improved aid-trade-emigrate-defect relations with Afghanistan, not through boots-on-ground and a new large standing military/paramilitary force. More importantly, the NEED to do such would be greatly reduced.

    Life is bad in Afghanistan. The infant mortality rate is heart wrenching. Women are getting a raw deal there. It's hard to even imagine life without easy and immediate access to safe drinking and bathing water. So it may seem hard-hearted to say that Afghanistan is not our pressing problem. If life sucks whereever someone is at -- emigrate, and help those so minded to do so. There are many hell holes around the world were life sucks. Some of those are here, within and on our own borders. So why is President Obama so keen on the Afghanistan hell hole? It's not because he's stupid or even misguided. The Afghanistan hell hole is the one with the greatest current and future profit potential, for those who want to make an illicit buck, even if such destroys new licit wealth creation. If further Afghanistan venturing brings more misery, and it will, the potential will grow for making an even-greater illicit buck. That in turn as a vicious feedback loop will yield us more weak presidential candidates such as Obama and McCain.

    There's absolutely nothing to lose now with voting third party, any third party. That will be President Obama's greatest legacy.

    And in terms of listening to those who served, how is it that Matthew Hoh has not been referenced until now?

  • Wrench Monkey (unverified)
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    Yes, as dom youngross has explained it in terms that even Democrat secular worshipers should understand, Ron Paul is far more "progressive" on foreign policy than Obama and his supporters.

    Get Ready for the Obama/GOP Alliance:

    To get a majority today in Congress on Afghanistan, the Obama White House is apparently bent on a strategy replicating the tragic farce that Clinton pulled off: Ignore the informed doubts of your own party while making common cause with extremist Republicans who never accepted your presidency in the first place.

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    Before you go singing Ron Paul's praises, it's important to understand his ties to white nationalism: Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Posted by: Dan Petegorsky | Nov 29, 2009 2:31:50 PM

    Before you go singing Ron Paul's praises, it's important to understand his ties to white nationalism:

    Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul.

    Why? No one has addressed the hypothesis that the President doesn't freely make policy. Libertarians are fact orientated, not personality. I stopped looking for a "good man" as the best candidate when Jimmy Carter left office. He proved that successful policy and personal virtue don't bear on each other, in our system.

    Which is better? A black man, with impeccable race relations credentials bombing brown people for oil execs or- assuming for the sake of argument- a bigoted white man that stops the killing?

    Personally, I'd love to see a system where we directly elect each cabinet position, regardless of party, and let them pick a "chairman of the board" for two year terms, subject to all the usual CEO replacement regs a corp would use. That's basically what Israel used to do, and, one can argue, their policy didn't become the rabid chauvinism that it is today, until they felt the need to have an American style popularity derby for President.

    Character issues have kept this country from discussing governing issues in too many elections. Well, every election. The Dems could have been the ones with their finger in the dike, back in '72. Dropping Thomas Eagleton for having gone to a psychologist established that personality variables that have nothing to do with fitness to govern, could trump your actual record. Kind of like today's practice where you can be selected as the best candidate for a job, out of a pool of 500, but you don't get the job until you pee into a cup. The content (hidden) of your private life is more imporant that what you've demonstrated that you know and have accomplished.

    BTW, Les had a good obit , when he died (TE).

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    Charles Knight has drawn my attention to another recent, and lengthy, discussion of the Afghanistan-Vietnam parallels - this one from the Nov/Dec issue of Military Review. For those with time, well worth reading:

    Refighting the Last War: Afghanistan and the Vietnam Template

  • Wrench Monkey (unverified)
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    Re: "Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul":

    You're not reading very well today, Dan. I said, "Ron Paul is far more 'progressive' on foreign policy than Obama and his supporters," not that he's the candidate of my dreams, nor that I would support his ideas on any other issue.

    My point is that even this allegedly racist right-winger is more progressive than Obama on foreign policy.

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    My point is that even this allegedly racist right-winger is more progressive than Obama on foreign policy.

    That's the wrong way to frame Ron Paul's positions. You can't take one position in isolation from his overall ideology, which is in no sense "progressive." Pat Buchanan, for example, has a generally isolationist foreign policy - but it stems from his "America First"/White nationalist ideology. Doesn't make it "progressive."

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