Monday, October 12, 2009

The weekend war over Afghanistan

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 1:58 PM

The war about the war was on during the weekend – I mean the war over what to do about Afghanistan. On the Sunday talking head shows, in op-eds and guest columns, and in “who-leaked-what” stories in major newspapers, the Washington battle over Afghanistan policy was front and center. The Obama administration is studying all options in that part of the world, and word got out that the President is paying close attention to Vice President Joe Biden. The Veep’s idea is to re-focus the fight, and attack al-Qaeda directly rather than slogging our way through a nation-building counterinsurgency that would take decades and hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, with little chance of success. Biden’s argument is twofold: one, the resources and lives it would take to build a workable Afghan state  and keep the Taliban at bay, are much more than the U.S. public would tolerate. And two, the U.S. goal is to disrupt and hopefully destroy al-Qaeda, not the Taliban. Last week, the Washington Post ran a major story on the war, in which U.S. intelligence officials said there are few, if any, links between Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and senior al-Qaeda members. That revelation came on the heels of U.S. national security adviser James Jones’ assertion that al-Qaeda has fewer than 100 fighters operating in Afghanistan, and has neither the bases nor the ability to launch attacks on the West.

Well, that’s all the bomb-our-problems-away crowd had to hear. Before you could say “war hero,” Sen. John McCain was on national TV, banging the war drums, demanding that Obama send in at least 40,000 new troops to Afghanistan and make it snappy, dammit. Sen. Lindsey “I Heart McCain” Graham pretty much said the same thing, and the FoxNews loons practically accused Obama of treason for taking the time to study the various reports thoroughly before making a decision. In addition, a group of pro-escalation intelligence operatives, State Dept. rebels, and “military officials” told McClatchy Newspapers that Obama’s folks were ignoring the “serious risks” of scaling back U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, and that the  Taliban and al-Qaeda had many contacts, contradicting the national security adviser.

An insightful column yesterday by Frank Rich of the New York Times, put the Afghan conflict in context. Rich pointed out that the people who are calling for more troops today are the same crew that got us into the pointless Iraq war which, of course, led to attention being diverted from Afghanistan, which led, in turn, to the Taliban’s resurgence. As Rich says, now these same trigger-happy neo-cons, who made mistake after mistake after mistake in Iraq, have the nerve to demand that their views be taken seriously. Even more amazing is that the mainstream press fails to point out these Obama critics’ disastrous record when they were in power. It’s increasingly clear that the neo-cons who brought disaster to our country are so locked into their war-at-any-cost thinking, it’s made them incapable of processing new information or making sound judgments. In some countries, people with the neo-cons’ record of failure would be imprisoned. We don’t do that here, which is good, but we sure as hell shouldn’t be listening to them repeat their fantasy-based views, either.

More troops! Then again, what do I know?
  • More troops! Then again, what do I know?

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