Obama doesn't care about Afganistan

Obama visits the army, courtesy of GooglePresident Obama has not announced a definitive strategy for handling the situation in Afghanistan.

Even though General McCrystal has petitioned 40,000 troops a month ago, it does not seem as if developing a good strategy in Afghanistan is a priority for our president. Instead, it seems he is thinking about the politics involved in sending more troops to Afghanistan.

White House officials claim that the president is simply taking his time to develop a good strategy, one that will guarantee our success in a war that has already been going on for almost a decade. I agree that the strategy, or lack of strategy, performed by the former administration is what led to the current chaos in Afghanistan. Not only were there no plans as to how to run Afghanistan once the Taliban was defeated, but there was no plan to fully defeat the Taliban across the whole country. The decision to invade Afghanistan was a rash decision, one made while the American public still hurt deeply about September 11, and demanded that an action, any action, be done to show that attacks such as those would not go unpunished. Clearly, the lack of strategy has resulted in the current mess that Afghanistan and our troops are in.

However, President Obama has been in office for almost a year already. Furthermore, he began working on the policies of his presidency even before he became president, as exemplified by the economic reforms he prepared Congress for so that he could sign them into action when he came into power. Yet, he keeps telling the American public that he needs more time to develop a good strategy in Afghanistan.

Listen, I’m no military expert. I cringe at the thought of learning military strategies and so forth, but I also recall how George W. Bush’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s failure to listen to our country’s generals was greatly responsible for the chaos that we have created in the Middle East. McCrystal has made it perfectly clear that he needs those 40,000 troops, and he has even clarified that this amount of troops would only cover 20 percent of Afghanistan. McCrystal knows that at least 100,000 troops are needed to gain complete control over the country, but he also realizes that he is working with politics, a limited number of troop, and a strategizing Taliban. He knows it’s not all about the numbers, but about strategy as well.
And he, the military expert, ultimately is the most knowledgeable, not a whole bunch of civilians who have never devoted a day of service to their country. Really, when it comes to deciding what the best strategy is, would you trust the inexperienced politician over the military expert?

And before I have a whole bunch of individuals sending me angry messages over how my view is insensitive to our troops and that we cannot send our young and innocent troops to die a war without a cause, let me explain my point of view. I have personal attachments to this war. My fiancé, a Southwestern graduate, will be going to Afghanistan this November, and I, more than anyone else, sometimes wish that our troops would be pulled from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, doing such a thing would make all the deaths and injuries of our troops to have been in vain. Even worse, the Taliban would reclaim power in Afghanistan and allow the reopening of training camps for Al-Qaeda. I am not trying to be a fear mongerer; I generally detest that strategy and abhorred its use of it by the Bush administration. However, the facts are the facts, and if we want to secure a better world, then extremist organizations need to be stopped, and there is no doubt that Al-Qaeda is already one of the strongest extremist terror organizations in the world. To let it rise again and cause instability in other countries, including our own, would only lead to yet another war in the area.

What Obama must realize is that we need to properly address the war in Afghanistan. We cannot let politics ruin our chance to destroy a terrorist base. We need to ensure that the people of Afghanistan have a functioning government and that we will not be attacked by individuals who trained in that area. Only when we have ensured this will it be time to draw a timeline and pull our troops out of Afghanistan.

That being said, it is clear that Obama is not really concerned about creating a successful strategy for Afghanistan. Rather, he is looking for a strategy that will not hurt his popularity even more than it already has been hurt. A good strategy for Afghanistan could have clearly been developed by now. Requests for more time after almost a year in office only indicate that this president, just like the one that preceded him, is more concerned with his image than with the safety of his country. Quite frankly, the troops sacrificing their lives and Americans living in the democracy that these soldiers are trying to defend deserve much better than politics; they deserve proper leadership.

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10 Responses to Obama doesn't care about Afganistan

  1. Andrew says:

    Afghanistan is, at this point, essentially a failed state. The elected government in Kabul is openly acknowledged as corrupt and clientelist, often with open ties to opium producers and warlords (Karzai’s brother, for example, is currently being investigated for such ties: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/world/asia/05afghan.html?pagewanted=all).

    This is not to argue that the U.S. invasion and collapse of the Islamic Emirate haven’t had any positive results (e.g. demining efforts, girls attending school, etc), but if Afghans widely acknowledge that their regime is corrupt and generally unaccountable, why should we continue to commit to further increases in troop levels (or, for that matter, further forestall withdrawal)? Meanwhile, the violence linked to UAV bombings and Obama’s not-so-covert expansion of the war into Pakistan is causing a backlash, and the resultant destabilization will probably play right into the Taliban’s hands. Continuing our military occupation of Afghanistan will only help the Taliban regroup and re-mobilize, as it’s still the Coalition’s most effective opposition, and the post-Taliban government is still considered weak and illegitimate, undermined by its dependence on external support. You argue that refusing to commit to an Afghan “surge” will ultimately aid the Taliban; I take the opposite view. In Iraq, the “surge” failed to assure any long-term stability–instead the U.S. and its allies simply bought off sections of the insurgency (now salaried members of “Awakening Councils”). In all likelihood, the “surge” was probably not militarily decisive. Given this example, I fail to see how a larger military presence will somehow prove helpful or succeed strategically.

    In this article by Fred Branfman, Vietnam and Cambodia vis-a-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan are explored in depth–the author effectively argues that, without the “secret war” in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge ultimately never would have been able to accede to power. A similar case can be made for the Taliban in Afghanistan and western Pakistan:

    http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/20091009074114464

    In any case, I’m not convinced that more troops are needed. If anything, I hope that Obama actually flouts Gen. McChrystal’s recommendations and charts a new course in Afghanistan–namely one of de-escalation and eventual withdrawal.

  2. Andrew says:

    The points I’ve already raised skirted the most basic question: Why are we in any position to decide how Afghans should govern themselves, especially when, at the very least, a basic majority support U.S. withdrawal, and even larger majorities support an end to airstrikes, and negotiations with the Taliban (up to and even including their involvement as coalition partners in a new government)?

    You wrote:
    “And he, the military expert, ultimately is the most knowledgeable, not a whole bunch of civilians who have never devoted a day of service to their country. Really, when it comes to deciding what the best strategy is, would you trust the inexperienced politician over the military expert?”

    Who decides the public policy objectives underlining military strategy? When I read sentences like these, I really wonder whether civilian oversight and control of the military is just a lost concept. The military is not a detached entity; it’s completely subordinate to the polity and its dictates (at least in theory). Of course the president should decide the course of military strategy in Afghanistan. Given the military’s consistent record of confidentiality and falsification, whether involving the abuse of detainees in its prisons or the harassment and rape of female soldiers in its own ranks, I’m more apt to trust civilians anyway.

  3. scott says:

    Andrew:

    Your comment, “Given the military’s consistent record of confidentiality and falsification… I’m more apt to trust civilians anyway,” displays such an offensive & ignorant bias that it undermines any credibility you might otherwise enjoy.

    The military is not perfect, but you should thank them for providing you the liberty to scribble your revolting, uninformed drivel.

  4. Andrew says:

    Scott,
    Your comment actually challenges nothing I’ve argued, other than the fact that I refuse to constantly defer to an institution that has done very little in the past 60+ years, I can honestly say, to “provide the liberty” I currently enjoy. Was providing the advisers and training to countless military juntas and death squads across Latin America, Asia,and the Middle East defending “liberty”? How about the hundreds of bases and thousands of military personnel stationed in areas as diverse as Colombia, Germany, Japan, and Kazakhstan? You shouldn’t confuse (post-)Cold War Realpolitik and strategic policy aims with quaint ideological notions of “liberty”. Do you seriously believe that the bombing of Grenada, for example, constituted a defense of “liberty”? If you extend your case into the earlier 20th century, it’s even more ridiculous, given the open and crass role the U.S. military played in propping up pro-American client states (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roosevelt_Corollary#Shift_to_the_.22Good_Neighbor.22_policy).

    And how does the military lack the record I described? It pressures the current president to withhold the release of prison photos, potentially hundreds or even thousands of cases of unlawful abuse and killings go virtually unprosecuted, and it continues to shroud its actions in confidentiality. Civil society and the public sphere essentially end where the military begins. How is that conducive to “liberty”? Your comment rebukes nothing, but instead demonstrates the rigidity and authoritarianism of the military’s ideological culture.

  5. Linda says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I do agree with you that civilian oversight is necessary. However, I disagree as to trusting civilians entirely when it comes to handling our military situations, and I believe they should accept the advice of the experts, especially if we want to avoid another Vietnam. I cannot stress enough how civilian control of the military is fundamental to our democracy, and in fact is probably one of the factors that has helped our democracy to survive throughout the years.

    I am not one to pretend that our military is perfect. I am aware of its aid in promoting dictatorships across the world, such as the ones in South America, and have read countless of court cases discussing their illegal activities regarding issues such as sexual harassment. In fact, I refused to attend the Air Force Academy because of this reason.

    However, precisely because I have studied the conduct of foreign militaries and have actually been surrounded by these foreign militaries, I can tell you that our nation’s military is one of the best, if not the best in the world. Going from base to base, you see the hard work that the military is conducting to address issues such as sexual harrassment and post-traumatic stress. One thing to be grateful for, as Scott mentioned, is that our military has focused on protecting us and ensuring our freedoms. Unlike other militaries, it has never tried to overthrow the ruling government and implement military rule. You do not learn to appreciate your military until you experience the tyranny of other militaries across the world.

    Sorry for the digression. Another point you made was that Afghanistan citizens are unsatisfied with their government and with the performance of the US in Iraq. Several experts in this area have cited this very precise issue. And they cite this issue as one of the fundamental reasons for staying in Afghanistan. People in Afghanistan think we have broken our promises, promises they once believed in and still wish could be fulfilled. We can only do this by staying in Afghanistan and performing a thorough job. So unless President Obama creates a strategy not based on politics, a strategy aimed at guaranteeing our success, then there really is no point in staying in the area. If I have to choose between keeping our troops and not doing a decent job or pulling out our troops entirely, then I definitely choose the latter.

    Unfortunately, there are safety issues to be concerned about. You mentioned the fear of a backlash, and I must agree that this is a very legitimate fear. However, after much consideration, I’ve decided that we cannot prevent a severe backlash unless our troops do a thorough job in Afghanistan. Otherwise, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will use our failure as an incentive to have more recruits and will have a vast territory to organize its extremist organizations and future terror attacks.

    I do not mean to sound like a fear mongerer. In fact, I detest such strategy and think it is responsible for the chaos that we are currently in. We must be realistic and fact the facts. And while you may cite the facts as being that our current status is failure in Afghanistan, I can argue that another fact is that the total withdrawal of our troops or a lack of a commitment to Afghanistan will ensure further instability not only in Asia and the Middle East, but in our homeland as well.

    And I must stress, especially who anyone who wants to argue that President Obama is taking his time to make the right decision an dnot a political decision, that President Obama has had plenty of time to deal with this situation. But I guess in politics, money and public opinion polls are the priority, hence his focus on conducting a jobless economic recovery and taking almost a year to decide the fate of our troops.

    Now the fundamental question, if you want to revert to total civilian rule, is the following: Who pressured President Bush to invade Afghanistan? Precisely the American public, in its moment of panic and in the bursting of the American bubble. Because we were previously unaware that terrorism existed all over the world and that Al-Qaeda was intent on pursuing us, we reacted in fear, without a clear frame of mind. The result was the American public pressuring President Bush to take action. Many people do not like to recall this fact, but indeed it took place. True, Bush was ultimately responsible for failure in the area because he decided to invade Iraq, but the fact of the matter is that he had the nation behind him when he decided to initiate conflict in Aghanistan. What the American public needs to realize is that once we make a mess, we have to clean it up. Otherwise, we will face a very horrible backlash not only from terror organizations, but from the governments of nations across the world.

    Thank you for your comments. You bring up some really good points.

    -Linda

  6. scott says:

    Andrew,

    You suggest I have not rebuked your argument. What I rebuked was your libelous statement that the military has a “consistent record of confidentiality and falsification”.

    Your vapid response is a mendacious fabrication to spin history to support your infantile hatred of the military.

    You cite:
    1. “…providing the advisers and training to countless military juntas and death squads across Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East…”;
    2. “…hundreds of bases and thousands of military personnel stationed in areas as diverse as Colombia, Germany, Japan, and Kazakhstan.”; and
    3. “…the bombing of Grenada…”
    as examples of military actions which support you prejudice against the military.

    The most simplistic fool knows these were actions the military undertook at the direction of the civilian led government they served. Apparently you know less than the most simplistic fool, or you are intentionally spinning the facts in an intellectually dishonest yet futile attempt to bolster your contemptible bias.

    Indeed,
    a) the civilian led State Department, and Congress determine who we support in the locations you mention;
    b) the military bases would not exist if Congress and the President did not fund them (those are civilians – last time I checked);
    c) the Grenada Operation Urgent Fury was called for and approved by civilian political leadership.

    You selectively cite legitimate cases of abuse, which merit and have been the subject of investigation, prosecution and punishment. But then you make the unsupported and specious leap of logic to assume these abuses constitute the accepted and supported normative behavior of the military. This leap of logic belies your vile predisposition.

    “Civil society and the public sphere essentially end where the military begins.” That is a wicked statement which demands your apology to the military and their families.

    I know you belittle the “quaint ideological notions of ‘liberty’”. Be assured, there are many who would gladly relieve you of yours. It is only a sense of honor, duty, & justice which would impel the military to try and protect liberty for the likes of you. And you treat these concepts like a punch-line.

    I am done with you. Without your published apology to the military, your further scribblings are droppings of a worm beneath contempt.

  7. Andrew says:

    “Indeed,
    a) the civilian led State Department, and Congress determine who we support in the locations you mention;
    b) the military bases would not exist if Congress and the President did not fund them (those are civilians – last time I checked);
    c) the Grenada Operation Urgent Fury was called for and approved by civilian political leadership.”

    Apparently you lack basic reading comprehension. I never argued that these are examples of a *lack* of civilian oversight. I argued that they don’t represent anything even faintly related to “liberty”. The fact that actions like Urgent Fury were almost totally unilateral should sort of undermine your premise.

    Congress approves funding for base maintenance and upkeep. So what? This should indicate, at the most basic level, that the U.S. has been unable to de-mobilize and dismantle its nearly permanent war economy, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We already lead the world in military (I won’t call it ‘defense’) expenditures. What are the uses of such a gigantic global military apparatus, if not for maintaining what’s basically an empire in all but name, and the United States’ current status as a ‘hyperpower’ (borrowing Amy Chua’s term)?

    “But then you make the unsupported and specious leap of logic to assume these abuses constitute the accepted and supported normative behavior of the military.”

    See above.

    “This leap of logic belies your vile predisposition.”

    I’m hurt.

    ” That is a wicked statement which demands your apology to the military and their families.”

    1.) I belong to such a family 2.) No.

    “I am done with you. Without your published apology to the military, your further scribblings are droppings of a worm beneath contempt.”

    I doubt my self-esteem can survive such a righteous beating.

  8. Eric Booth says:

    Scott,
    My nephew died in Iraq, but I don’t think anything Andrew has said has warranted an apology from him to me. I hope you won’t speak for all military family members next time.

  9. scott says:

    Eric

    I am sorry for your loss.

  10. Cavit Ozturk says:

    The USA said that they’ll take democracy to Afganista. It’s so funny while we are watching the soldiers who kills civilians.
    http://herkeseozelders.com

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