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.