Afghanistan: Double-Down Is Not A Viable Option

By David Robinson of Beaverton, Oregon. David is a Democratic candidate for Congress in Oregon's First Congressional District. David is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and later taught future naval officers there. He is presently a commander in the Navy Reserves. Learn more at

Stay-the-course and double-down are not prudent or viable courses of action for the Afghan war effort. Adding more than 30,000 American troops to the Afghanistan effort, bringing the projected total to approximately 85,000, is too little to achieve a permanent military solution, and the emphasis of adding combat troops does not address the underlying socio-economic and Afghan government issues that must be corrected to create a viable and stable Afghanistan. There is little likelihood that half the number of troops used in Iraq will achieve a successful combat mission in a country twice the size as Iraq.

While I appreciate that the President has carefully considered all of the options presented to him and that he inherited this indefinite preventative war from Bush, I know he didn't make his decision lightly. The decision to pursue primarily a military solution shows the strong influence of General McCrystal as the United States Military Commander in Afghanistan. McCrystal is a proven combat military commander and strategist – the message we send to the world, the Afghan people, and the American people with McCrystal in-charge is that combat and military operations are the focus of our efforts in Afghanistan. Change should start at the top if we really want a change of condition in Afghanistan and a change of perception of the Afghan people – we should have a Military Commander in Afghanistan who is an expert at solving the real problem and who sends the right message.

The talk of both Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan seeks to tie an emotional response from the 9/11 attacks to current conditions in Afghanistan. This tie obscures people from focusing on the truth in Afghanistan – Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization interested in attacking the United States and its allies all over the world, and the Taliban is a radical, repressive group intent on governing Afghanistan. Conquering Afghanistan will not defeat Al Qaeda; we can fight Al Qaeda by prudently using the intelligence agencies and selected military operations. Deploying our military forces throughout Afghanistan will not defeat the Taliban. The return of a Taliban government is not in anybody’s best interest, and the best way to prevent their return is by helping the Afghans build their governing capacity and strengthening their socio-economic conditions. We can best facilitate this objective by keeping the population centers and major transportation corridors peaceful and delivering the correct economic, technical, security, and educational assistance – this course does not require adding 30,000 combat troops.

While I support the President, I have serious concerns about the direction in Afghanistan. I do not agree with Congressman Wu’s blanket rubberstamp. One of Congress’s responsibilities is to conduct reasonable and prudent oversight of executive branch actions. Congress does this by holding hearings, asking difficult questions, and by demanding answers. Congressman Wu’s statement following the President’s announcement clearly shows he is not attuned to the interests of Oregonians or approaching the issue with the same healthy skepticism as the majority of Oregon’s national delegation. His statements in September and November indicate a lack of intellectual curiosity and rigorous examination, and an abdication of his responsibility to conduct appropriate oversight, and show he will not participate meaningfully in achieving the correct solution to the war in Afghanistan.

  • james r. bradach (unverified)

    I want to wish you luck. Thanks for standing up. Thanks for your service.

  • Blue Aggadora (unverified)

    Who thinks it is an option? The problem is that we have no say, nor does Obama. He's a bone thrown to placate us. Our gov is no better than a third world military junta.

  • mamabigdog (unverified)

    Every dollar we continue to put into this conflict, this tribal war, takes much needed dollars away from Americans desperate for economic recovery, universal healthcare and jobs. We do not have viable partners in the area- Afghan President Hamid Karzai is governing without legitimacy after a fraudulent election, and Pakistan continues to turn a blind eye to their responsibilities in the region.

    I cannot support sending more of our precious troops to this inhospitable place to die for a cause that remains unclear. The solutions of the Pentagon are always more war, more troops, more time, more money. What else did Obama expect to hear? Why haven't our representatives been more vocal about refusing to fund these "adventures"? Where is our voice? David Robinson, we need you in office!

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Bill Moyers will have a segment on his journal tonight on Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan

  • Friends of the Aggadors (unverified)

    David Robinson Cindy Sheehan, we need you in office!

  • Nick P. (unverified)

    Not a word about the fact that the U.S. military is going to be butchering Central Asians. Not a word about who this benefits- i.e. a narrow financial elite. Not a word about how this advances the same geopolitical strategy as Bush. Just thinly-veiled nationalism and the requisite pro forma statements about "supporting the President" to secure the base.

    And people wonder why I hate the Democrats so much.

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)

    Congressman Wu’s statement following the President’s announcement clearly shows he is not attuned to the interests of Oregonians or approaching the issue with the same healthy skepticism as the majority of Oregon’s national delegation. His statements in September and November indicate a lack of intellectual curiosity and rigorous examination, and an abdication of his responsibility to conduct appropriate oversight, and show he will not participate meaningfully in achieving the correct solution to the war in Afghanistan.

    Thank you. I've tried before to make these points about Wu and encountered a scrum of hacks on my neck. One has to wonder how much of the gullibility is done willingly. When he voted against Barney Frank's effort to get the DEA off Oregonians' back, anyone that didn't get what he's about, just doesn't get it. Glad there's one person on staff that does!

  • John Silvertooth (unverified)

    I would favor Rep. Kucinich position on Afghanistan over the President's.

    However, I would remind everyone that during the campaign Obama clearly stated he would fight the war in Afghanistan and take it to Al Queda in Pakistan- if anyone didn't hear it they were not listening.

    Despite those statements, I voted for him and still support him. I'll continue to support bringing the troops home but in a way Obama deserves the chance to make his policy work. I am afraid that it won't and I am hopeful that he has the courage to admit failure and change his ways. Biden seems to have a better sense of it.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)

    What did we expect? Hope and change? This is the president who told us that single payer is "off the table." He assiduously bargained away the opportunity of three generations in order to preserve the hegemony of large insurance firms and large pharmaceutical firms. He claims this very weak pile of crap that is crawling out of the sausage factory is as good as we can do with the money that we have.

    He has thrown that money as a bone to large irresponsible banks, and now he is about to throw what's left away on an immoral war in Central Asia that will benefit only the military industrial complex. It will validate every horselaugh that the right wing choked out about that Nobel Peace Prize. It will piss away 2010, and it will make sure that people know, really know, that electable Democrats will never threaten The Way Things Are Done.

    Welcome to the steaming pile that used to be your country.

  • Tom Brandt (unverified)

    I agree 100% with David about Mr. Wu. He is a rubberstamp kind of person. He is in his 6th term in Congress and has earned/accumulated a level of seniority that should give him some leverage to influence legislation to the benefit of Oregon. Yet he does little that leads to that goal.

    Surely he is a bright and intelligent man. His higher education credits testify to that. Yet he does not have a spark of leadership that I can see. On a scale of one to ten, I would rate him wishy washy.

    We need a new person to represent our 1st Congressional District. From the moment I heard that David Robinson was running for Congress, I was for him. It took me only a day to decide to work actively on his campaign.

    David has the background, vision, world view, and domestic view to step into this job and make a difference for Oregon.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    The Afgan war will be over just as soon as (a) all defense contractors have made as much money as they want, and (b) all Afgan people have accepted the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

    I assume that Obama's 18 month time line will be sufficient to accomplish both of these objectives, but maybe not quite.

  • ZoMan (unverified)

    Well said. If all we do is increase the troops there will be no change in the months to come. Without other foreign policy changes, we are just delaying the decision until 2011. Thanks for running.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    This war stinks on every level. There used to be one good thing about US military escapes. New cuisine. Friggin' oregano didn't even exist on our shelves, until after WWII and sales went up about 1000% by 1947 (and pizza places). How many of the ubiquitous Thai and Vietnamese restaurants would be here? People in LA didn't even much eat crawfish, until they told friends in WWII that they did, and then started doing it when they went back home. Bottom line, our food would stink, if not for our colonial interventions. Ditto the UK.

    I heard something a few years back that really shook me about how different this has become. It was a story on morale among troops in Iraq, and they mentioned that they had theme meals, and everyone was looking forward to the next on, in particular. It was going to be an "Iraq Night". I was stunned. They had been there 2 years, and were just tasting the food.

    Thinking about it, it really speaks volumes. This isn't Viet Nam or Korea, where you go on R&R and sample the local wares. They hunker down in the green zone eating Micky D's and the Colonel. If technology were more advanced, they'd be sitting at the Pentagon, doing everything remotely. War, meaning conflict between humans, isn't what we're doing. Which is one good reason you can't "win"; "win" is a property of wars.

    As it's not human to human anymore, there's no cultural cross pollination. Probably just as well, anyway. I was listening to what the Aussie cricket team were doing in Kolkata, and as I imagined the delights of Bengali cuisine, they said that they had gone out the night before to a Cajun restaurant. If troops did get to go out and sample the local would probably be Micky D's and the Colonel!

    Damn. This should have been a stand-alone post. As if.

  • Patrick Story (unverified)

    It’s Obama Versus the Military-Industrial Complex

    Obama’s speech did not change my opposition to the occupation of either Iraq or Afghanistan. But tellingly, the only former president that Obama quotes is Eisenhower, who in his farewell speech of 1961 famously warned against the rise of a “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower defined the MIC as “the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” that could threaten democracy itself.

    From that same speech, Obama quotes Eisenhower’s imperative that, to counter the MIC regarding national security, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.” Obama then states outright that “we have lost that balance and failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy.”

    It’s clear why Obama evokes Eisenhower, whose name is poison to today’s warfaring national security elite in Washington. In spite of Eisenhower’s warning, going to war became the untouchable policy decision regardless of the consequences for other national programs.

    Therefore Obama is saying much more than the occupation of Afghanistan requires a time limit. He’s saying that going forward, both the opportunity costs and the dollar cost of any war or occupation must be addressed, which sends out a shock wave to the careful listeners among our policy elites.

    We are about to experience an enormous pushback by the MIC against Obama, with lots of shouting about “the price of defending liberty,” etc. Those who agree with Obama’s new policy, however tentative its beginning in Afghanistan, should be prepared to support him.

    Disclosure: I have submitted the above to My Oregon

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Obama acquired several points by allegedly deliberating what path to take in Afghanistan.

    For a number of years prior to the outbreak of the First World War, the German General Staff worked on plans for the invasion to conquer France. On Day 1, for example, the First Germany Army would cross into Belgium. On Day 2 the five armies would be at five other locations closer to Paris. And so it went with proverbial German precision for about two weeks when the words written by an obscure, impoverished Scottish farmer/poet, Robert Burns, came into play. "The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley." The German army came to a halt in Flanders fields and along the Somme where they and the allied forces remained slogging it out for four years of appalling barbarism.

    It's too late for President Obama, but Congress might want to consider before they fund this madness - The best laid schemes of mice and men in the Pentagon went agley in Vietnam and Iraq and will very likely do so in Afghanistan.

  • mathematician (unverified)

    Re: "Adding more than 30,000 American troops..."

    The so-called "peace movement", which is little other than a partisan anti-Republican exercise in futility that supports DP interests and ignores the suffering of our victims while whining about the costs to US, continues to LIE about all measurements of U.S. personnel and deaths attributable to our occupations.

    As Tom Engelhardt reports:

    ...the President granted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the right to “increase the number by 10 percent, or 3,000 troops, without additional White House approval or announcement”...In addition, an unnamed “senior military official” claimed “that the final number could go as high as 35,000 to allow for additional support personnel such as engineers, medevac units and route-clearance teams, which comb roads for bombs.” So now, in surge math, we’re at 35,000 U.S. troops. Add in the expected NATO contribution of about 5,000 extra troops and -- voilà -- you have 40,000 on the button.

    Furthermore, the actual number of military personnel is far greater than this suggests, since the level of Blackwater/mercenary forces is perhaps double again the numbers being reported.

    Like the number of deaths attributable to U.S. policy in Iraq (close to two and a half million since 1991) and the number of U.S. military bases worldwide (well over a thousand), the "peace movement"'s measurements low-ball our viciousness continuously.

    Any real justice (not peace-on-our-terms) movement needs to begin with a truth and reconciliation process.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "The so-called "peace movement", which is little other than a partisan anti-Republican exercise ..."

    Many in the so-calll "peace movement" are as opposed to the Democrats as they are to the Republicans because there is a sizable pro-war (or, perhaps more accurately, pro-military-industrial complex) contingent in the Democratic Party.

  • Julie (unverified)

    I understand that Obabma didnt make an election promise that we were going to be out of Afghanistan by a certain date but I didnt expect this from him. I know Obama is a good man and that we will get back on track for a stronger health care bill, which he did promise many times. But you give me HOPE that we can find the right way to light a fire under our Congressman and Sneators to get them to exercise this oversight function you mention.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
    (Show?) has two excellent articles (Dec. 6) on Afghanistan by Frank Rich and Eric Margolis. Margolis has extensive experience in South Asia and knows Afghanistan and Pakistan well.

  • mathematician (unverified)

    Re: " I know Obama is a good man and that we will get back on track..."

    You strive toward a dream; you live within an illusion. And societies that cannot distinguish between illusion and reality die. If you look at the twilight periods of all great empires – Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian — there is, in those final moments, not only a deep moral degeneration but an inability to distinguish what is real from fantasy.

    (Chris Hedges, America's identity crisis in an age of consumerism and spectacle)

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "I know Obama is a good man and..."

    You obviously believe Obama is a good man, but what evidence do you have to prove he is such a man? He has made pacts with entities that are indifferent to ethics, morality, human rights and international law, and he has now opted for a path that will bring more death and other forms of misery in Afghanistan.

    Change? What change?

  • No dem (unverified)

    "Many in the so-calll "peace movement" are as opposed to the Democrats as they are to the Republicans because there is a sizable pro-war (or, perhaps more accurately, pro-military-industrial complex) contingent in the Democratic Party"

    I disagree. The dismally small group of anti-war protestors who came out after Obama's announcement of the surge were still trying to find excuses. They were getting themselves off the hook by chanting: this is not what we voted for" and such crap. Of course it is exactly what they voted for. Few people have the nerve to see beyond the two eh.. I mean one party system, and continue to cling to what they believe is their side. Until that changes we are all screwed.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "Many in the so-called "peace movement" are as opposed to the Democrats as they are to the Republicans because there is a sizable pro-war (or, perhaps more accurately, pro-military-industrial complex) contingent in the Democratic Party"

    How about the approximate half of the Democrats in Congress who supported the illegal war on Iraq?

  • (Show?)

    It's pretty funny seeing a bunch of anonymous trolls (and Mr. Bodden, who is not anonymous) with their panties in a bunch all trying to claim the throne of who is more Naderite-than-Thou.

    Reasonable people can, of course, disagree over whether this strategy is the least-worst option the President had. But if, in a couple of years, it turns out that he was right, that this "surge" stabilizes the country, reducing the horrendous Russian casualty rate of 30,000 deaths per year from cheap Afghan heroin and putting Afghanistan on the path to recovery - will the Portland Yippie-left acknowledge that? Or will they be like their equally insane teabagger counterparts on the right, and just move the rhetorical goalposts, pretending Obama has failed because Afghanistan doesn't immediately look like Sweden?

    My bet is that President Obama will be far more successful than the cheap juvenile alienation crowd will be gracious. That's just a guess, but so far, I haven't been wrong much.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    What I posted two weeks ago is just as applicable to the "good man" sentiment today. Unmodified. This debate doesn't go in circles much.

    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).

    This is why (already quoted Eisenhower a gazillion times, so that too) Obama has little to do with it, and his character has next to nothing to do with it. But then, there are those that could get to know Baby Bush and change their mind about his Presidency. We're kind of hung up that way. The two aren't related, though.

  • mathematician (unverified)

    I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to find that the self-appointed (less than a year ago) "progressive" Earl Blumenauer is missing in action on the very modest HR 3699 and HR 2404 that would stop Obama's troop escalation for his AfPac war and call for a so-called exit strategy (Progressive exit strategy: Get the fuck out of there.)

    Someone (besides me) needs to tell Earl that his voting for war spending bills and his opposition to minimal "peace" actions like this one are not "progressive".

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