Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Step Back from Mission Creep in Afganistan - Part I

Two months shy of the 1st anniversary of Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq, Teddy Kennedy's prophetic speech on this monumentally mistaken policy, aired on C-SPAN. Senator Kennedy opened by stating the importance of debate and criticism in our Republic:
The citizens of our democracy have a fundamental right to debate and even doubt the wisdom of a president's policies. And the citizens of our democracy have a sacred obligation to sound the alarm and shed light on the policies of an Administration that is leading this country to a perilous place.

I believe that this Administration is indeed leading this country to a perilous place.
Virtually no one who I can think of among Republican Senators has offered equally constructive criticism of President Obama's policies in Afghanistan.

Last Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Progressive Senator Russ Feingold stepped into the role of the loyal opposition left vacant by the entire Republican Party. His article was entitled, The Road Home From Afghanistan: Why a flexible timetable to withdraw U.S. troops will best advance our national security interests. He said, in part,
After nearly eight long years, we seem to be no closer to the end of the war in Afghanistan ….

We went into Afghanistan with a clear mission: to destroy those who helped to perpetrate the horrific 9/11 attacks. I voted to authorize sending our forces there because it was vital to our national security, and I strongly criticized the previous administration for shortchanging that mission in favor of a misguided war in Iraq.

…. But I cannot support an open-ended commitment to an escalating war in Afghanistan when the al Qaeda operatives we sought have largely been captured or killed or crossed the border to Pakistan.

Ending al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan is a top national security priority. Yet our operations in Afghanistan will not do so, and they could actually contribute to further destabilization of Pakistan. Meanwhile, we've become embroiled in a nation-building experiment that may distract us from combating al Qaeda and its affiliates, not just in Pakistan, but in Yemen, the Horn of Africa and other terrorist sanctuaries.

….. We also ignore the lessons of history by pursuing a drawn-out military mission in Afghanistan. The experiences of the Soviets and the British make it painfully clear just how elusive a military victory in Afghanistan can be. That alone should give us reason to rethink an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan.

….. Announcing a flexible timetable for when our massive military presence will end would be one of the best things we could do to advance our national security interests in Afghanistan. By doing so, we would undercut the misperception of the U.S. as an occupying force that has propped up a weak, corrupt and unpopular government, while at the same time removing a tremendous strain on our troops and our economy.

While we have many important goals in Afghanistan, we must be realistic about our limited ability to quickly change the fundamental political realities on the ground. The recent presidential election shows there will be no easy solution to the sectarianism, corruption and warlordism that plague that country. We should seriously question putting so many American lives at risk to expand, through military force, the reach of a government that has failed to win the support of its own people.

Instead of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, we should start talking about a flexible timetable to begin drawing those levels down. It is time to ask the hard questions—and accept the candid answers—about how our military presence in Afghanistan may be undermining our national security.
Like Teddy Kennedy, Russ Feingold calls for an open debate of critical foreign policy issue facing America.

The Party of Loyal Opposition, Republican Party, is bereft of constructive ideas and incapable of offering plausible alternatives. It always falls to Progressives, who understand history, to correct the wayward course of our ship of state.

7 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Your sense of timing cannot be faulted. Today George Will has a ground-breaking column in the WaPO, Time to Get Out of Afghanistan. His recommendation is to de-emphasixe Afghanistan and emphasize Pakistan. His conclusion is not to surge in Kabul, but

.... instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

9/01/2009 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/01/2009 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

At first blush it appears that Senator Kennedy made this statement about the Afghanistan war, and Obama's administration. That is not the case. He was referring specifically to Bush's adventures in Iraq. He supported the need to maintain our national security by defeating a fierce and determined enemy in Afghanistan, the cradle of international terrorism.

On the other hand, as mentioned by Soros Proxy, there is also a need to revise our policy as to how we are going to fight this particular war, without taking our eyes off of Pakistan. At this point there are boots on the ground. Like many others, including the president no doubt, I would like to see a deescalation of troops on the ground in favor of a more technologically directed conflict.

9/01/2009 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger GetaLife-ReadUrNews said...

Dutch Army Brig. Gen. Tom Middendorp, commander of the coalition task force in Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province, described the region as virtually prehistoric. Before reporters recently, Middendorp was pessimistic about potential progress in Afghanistan,

"It's the poorest province of one of the poorest countries in the world. And if you walk through that province, it's like walking through the Old Testament "There is enormous illiteracy in the province. More than 90 percent cannot write or read. So it's very basic, what you do there. And they have had 30 years of conflict."

It's time to circle the wagons around Pakistan.

9/01/2009 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Soros, Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. I don't pay much attention to what George Will says. I mean, after all, he's in favor of the designated hitter. Whassup with that?

9/01/2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Coleen Rowley said...

I've often seen how the ethical and the pragmatic courses are, on some level, entwined. Whether it's called Karma, "Divine Justice" "Reap What You Sow", blowback or law of unintended consequences, it's a force that's always at work. So in trying to make the highly pragmatic, utilitarian military calculations for one's own national security interest(s), which frankly are very hard to do, especially when pragmatic thinking is corrupted by conflicts of interest (Military Industrial Complex and other special interests), it's sometimes useful to think of a situation in purely ethical terms. Chalmers Johnson and many other historian pragmatists write of the sorrows of empire simply because we've been unable to do this and to effectively change course when we spot the mistakes.

9/03/2009 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Profound comment...

9/03/2009 07:16:00 AM  

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