Wednesday, December 02, 2009

President Obama on Afghanistan

President Obama was expected to go for a “middle ground” solution to Afghanistan last night, but it looked to me like he tried to run for both end zones at the same time. He flipped a coin and tried to get it to come up both heads and tails.

"We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people." Etc.

Those nineteen men are dead and the men who approved the plan are in Pakistan, or maybe also dead, so what does the events of 9/11 have to do with Americans fighting and dying in Afghanistan today?

"Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq War is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq War drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention – and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world."

Okay, you inherited this. We’ve heard that on the Afghanistan war and on the economy about 12,000 times now. We get that. On the illegality of the Iraq invasion and on things like torture, we “want to look forward not back,” but on the things that you haven’t been able to solve we’ll look back and point out that you didn’t cause them. It’s a fair enough argument that you are dealing with things that you inherited, but the selectiveness of the “looking forward” thing is beginning to wear a bit.

"Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to take control over swaths of Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating acts of terrorism against the Pakistani people."

Numerous sources which I consider credible suggest that al Qaeda has never sought the overthrow of the Afghan government, and you notice that al Qaeda disappears from the rest of the statement, while the name of Pakistan suddenly appears without explanation. The four players, Taliban, al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Pakistan have suddenly become very muddled. In the next several paragraphs those four players are bandied about in a manner that suggests use of the old adage, “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

"I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."

In what way is it in our “vital national interest” to send more troops? What are those troops going to do? Why will it not be in our “vital national interest” to have them there 18 months from now?

He does go on to say that those troops will do about eleven different things, and apparently the complete success of all of those things is absolutely assured in precisely 18 months. Either that or we’ll leave even if those things are not accomplished, which leads me to wonder if doing them is really necessary. He does add that the withdrawal after 18 months will depend on “conditions on the ground,” which sounds very familiar and leads me to believe that the withdrawal thing might be a bit less than ironclad.

"They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans."

The implication is, then, the Afghan forces will be at a point after 18 months that they no longer need us and we can leave. It takes about three or four years to train an adequately competent military leader at the squad level, so that goal seems highly unlikely to me. The fact that Afghan forces are experiencing 25% desertion rates at the moment makes that goal even more unlikely.

Although, as Obama is prone to do, the statement is worded so vaguely that it might mean that he knows the Afghan forces will still be completely hopeless 18 months from now and that we will leave regardless. He talks about "our ability to train," their forces but not about their resulting skill levels, and says they will "get into the fight" but he doesn't say anything about their ability to win it.

"The people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They have been confronted with occupation – by the Soviet Union, and then by foreign al Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes."

And, for eight years, by the United States. And suggesting that they were "occupied" by al Qaeda is a bit of a stretch, I think. I've always heard it said that the Taliban "harbored" al Qaeda.

"Third, we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan."

Some partnership. We are bombing them with pilotless drones, and we have covert CIA military forces operating within their borders.

"First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. … Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action."

Oh, boy, he pulled that one right out of George Bush’s ass. A “Coalition of the Willing” no less. I wonder if includes Iceland with its one troop.

"Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency."

There are a lot of Middle East experts who would argue that point; who point out that Afghanistan is a magnet for “freedom fighters” from all over the Arab world who have come there specifically to help overthrow the American invaders.

"And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border."

Well, no, we were attacked from Boston’s Logan Airport and those “same extremists” died in the attack. More broadly, though, the attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany, and in Miami and San Diego in this country and were merely approved by al Qaeda who happened to be in Afghanistan because we sent them there to fight the Soviets. The al Qaeda hatred of the United States has nothing to do with Afghanistan, and everything to do with our support of the Suadi royalty; a support which we continue to this day.

"So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict. We will have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power."

I like that approach a lot. So, when are you going to start doing that? What’s wrong with starting now; starting with Afghanistan? The use of 200,000 troops occupying two nations, neither of which has ever harmed or posed a threat to us is hardly “nimble” or “precise.”

"For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations."

No, we just want to build massive military bases on their territory.

"This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue – nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse."

Bush used to say this too, but he was a little more blunt about it, “If you disagree with me you are committing treason.” Obama merely says that you are sort of interfering with his goals by “being partisan” if you disagree with him.

Obama seems to hold that if al Qaeda can’t plan attacks on us in the the “safe havens” of Afghanistan or Pakistan then it can’t plan attacks anywhere and we will be completely safe. I sincerely hope that he is not that delusional, and that he has some other reason for all of this death and destruction in Afghanistan. I can’t imagine what that reason might be, and it’s a sad case that I'm presuming that either my president is delusional or he is lying through his teeth, but obviously I’d rather have him be lying.

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