In the coming weeks, President Obama must decide whether or not to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, as general McChrystal has reportedly proposed. It is plain that our president is taking his time to reassess the war in Afghanistan, because there isn’t a well developed military option presented nor an overall objective clearly defined, with exit strategies. He’s probably asking the simple question, what are we trying to achieve and what will it cost to achieve it? This is what rational executives do, they think, then act, unlike the ready, fire, and aim methods of the Bush administration.
Afghani girls watch U.S. Marines from the 8th Marine Regiment carrying out a patrol in Khorakoh village near Garmsir district in Helmand province October 6, 2009. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih
If George W. Bush fought two wars, it was through pig-headed stupidity or blind adherence to ideology. Dealing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein was an elective choice, not a necessity. Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction nor was he involved in the 9/11 attacks. Yes, attacking the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan did put terrorist elements on the defensive. But choosing to involve ourselves in Iraq only provided a breeding ground for terrorist activities, recruiting and propaganda bonanza for Muslim extremists in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The security and stability situation in both countries have deteriorated markedly in the last six years. Moreover, if Afghanistan is now a war about nothing, Barack Obama did not cause this to happen. He has, in fact, raised our troop commitments there by several thousand men.
Conservative Bush supporters behave as if the current situation in Afghanistan suddenly arose on January 20, 2009. They ignore the fact that the Bush administration chose to leave Afghanistan on the back burner for six-plus years and involve our nation in a hugely expensive and unnecessary war in Iraq. They further ignore the fact that this decision was made with much public dishonesty regarding the very minimal threat posed by Saddam Hussein and the level of risks involved in replacing him.
If I were Obama I wouldn’t listen to a thing any Republican has to say on health care and certainly not the war. His ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said it best, that “Obama’s main initiative of going to Afghanistan is to make sure that they don’t have the ability to attack America again.”
General McChrystal is a right-wing conservative, he is not the guy to listen to. All his military double talk for “we can’t win so here’s a strategy for not losing” is basically saying that the military can’t fight a full-out war because there will be too much collateral damage and we’ll make new enemies faster than we can kill the old ones. How else do you read the phrase: “Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it?”
Well, if we can’t win and he’s asking for more troops that means only one thing, he wants us there forever. Thus I guess the general’s strategy is to prefer losing later than to losing now and just hope something happens in the future to provide another option.
With all our ingenuity, we still have not figured out how to find the needle in the haystack. Vietnam got bogged down with politics. Korea got bogged down with politics. I hate to see our men and women in uniform being killed and the focus of our effort being lost in Afghanistan.
Until we decide to disavow the current ruling criminals that constitute a government over there and replace them with an occupational government, much like McArthur in Japan, we will be sending our sons and daughters to die for a piece of land with limited strategic importance.
I doubt that the average Afghani will protest very much about a foreign government given that all of their previous governments lacked any true interest in governing with the best interests of all its citizens as its primary reason for existence.
Sure there will be Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives who will play that card repeatedly but I believe that as long as we govern for the majority of the Afghanis and go about the business of protecting them from the worst tactics of their would-be rulers while establishing a sound foundation for them to build on they will be more than happy to work with us.
Republicans have a reputation for weakness in international affairs that just seems to compound the problems we face. Perhaps that is why over 96% of American military casualties over the last 96 years were incurred under Republican presidents, despite each party controlling the presidency for 48 years. One has to wonder if Democrats are just better at preventing wars than the Republicans.
The present situation in Afghanistan is dire but did not evolve overnight. It has been slowly deteriorating for the past six years while George W. Bush had us mired in the unnecessary quagmire in Iraq. The new president, whatever his faults, is only attempting to fix this situation.
The writer is professor of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Toledo.