President is expanding the war in Afghanistan, I could swear I had heard some of this before.
Phrases and slogans sounded familiar. At first I resisted the feeling. This is a new President.
He was elected under a mantle of change. He was the un-Bush and this was going to be an
administration which won't make the same mistakes as his predecessor. Besides, Cheney was
gone, Rove gone, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Rumsfeld gone; this was the dawning of a new day.
However, denial is not just a river in Egypt. Taking my head out of the sand and staring
reality in the face means admitting President Obama is channeling Bushisms and it's disturbing.
We are sending 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan and expanding the war because
there is a "clear and present danger" to the national security of the United States. Thinking
back to Iraq, the clear and present danger then was proved non-existent. The weapons of
mass destruction which a non-existent al Qaeda in Iraq might have accessed, didn't exist.
Now United Nation's Ambassador Susan Rice says we need to expand the war in
Afghanistan to stop al Qaeda from setting up bases. The only problem is that al Qaeda isn't
in Afghanistan! Bin Laden, Dr. Zawahiri, and the rest are in Pakistan and we aren't going to
invade there. So, we are told, we need more troops to fight an enemy in Afghanistan who is
in Pakistan. This new "clear and present danger", according to Rice, is the possible terrorist
plots being hatched by al Qaeda in Pakistan. Our troops in Afghanistan can't prevent al Qaeda
plots in Pakistan, but we can keep al Qaeda from developing new plots in Afghanistan. I am
not making this up. She might as well have said "we are fighting them there so we don't have
to fight them here"; except, that too wouldn't make any sense because we aren't going to fight
"them" anyway with our new soldiers since "they" aren't in Afghanistan, but...might...someday
...be in Afghanistan, etc. Sound familiar?
As more and more troops were sent to Iraq, we were told their main mission would
be to train the Iraqi military and police so that "...they could stand up and we could stand
down". There were no al Qaeda in Iraq. All WMD's proved to be non-existent. There was no
Iraqi program for nuclear weapons research; and after the fact, Iraq was proven indisputably
innocent. Spilt milk to the tune of trillions of dollars wasted and untold human suffering.
Obama says a large portion of the new troops will be used to expand the Afghan army and
police so "...after eighteen months we can begin to transition control from American forces
to Afghan forces and begin reducing troop levels". In other words, we are expanding the war
in Afghanistan so the Afghans will stand up and we can stand down. But, there's a problem.
In Iraq, the military and security forces have proven to be inept and ineffective. Being judged
inept and ineffective is not a small thing, it's absolutely fatal! Their ranks are full of people
with mixed loyalties in which tribe is far more important than any illusion or promise of
national identity. Just recently, terrorists set off bombs in a popular market place in the
center of Baghdad where the bomber had to get through numerous check points staffed by
Iraqi security forces. At least sixty of them have now been arrested for what was clearly an
inside job. This is inept and ineffective by any definition!
Our experience in Afghanistan is no different. Over the last eight years, the police
and military have been enlarged to no effect. Afghan police are said to be corrupt and have
no support among the people. Afghan military units cannot operate independent of American
help. As in Iraq, except more so, there is little national identity among Afghans where tribal
affiliations are historically the key connections between people. Our American soldiers will
train, and possibly die, trying to convince Pashtuns to kill other Pashtuns, and to serve with
non-Pashtun colleagues for the purpose of killing fellow tribesmen.
As for standing down, Secretary of War Gates testified the day after Obama's speech
that in December 2010 the administration will review how well the Afghans have stood up
and then determine if we can begin to stand down. In other words, the eighteen month end
date isn't worth the video it was expressed on; if the past, as we've experienced it, proves to
be a valid predictor of the future.
The President says it will cost $30 billion to fund the expansion of the Afghan war.
He says the budget process will be transparent and he will work with Congress. However,
he has yet to explain where the money will come from or what he will do if Congress balks.
Money? No problem. As with President Bush, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid
will vote to give the President the money. If they were un-willing to take on Bush, why do you
think they will stand up to Obama? Will the President use emergency authorizations or go
off-budget to fund this war? The magic of money and the smoke and mirrors of politics.
In a recent speech at West Point, ex-President Bush claimed America has the right
to "pre-empt" threats before they materialize. He used the "Bush Doctrine" to justify the
invasion of Iraq even though Iraq had not done anything to us. By comparison, President
Obama, in his West Point speech said we must expand the war in Afghanistan to "prevent"
a return of al Qaeda. The weakness in what our President is saying is simply that Afghanistan
currently does not represent any threat to our national security. Obama's people will admit
al Qaeda has almost no presence in the country; but claim we have to send more soldiers just
in case the Taliban gain control and in case they allow al Qaeda back in. Would the President
support an invasion of Yemen or Somalia if al Qaeda were to somehow gain an increased
President Bush was fond of referring to the "coalition of the willing", the group of
nations who were providing the United States with military support in Iraq. Despite the fact
the United States provided 90% of the troops, Bush claimed our cause in Iraq enjoyed multi-
national support. Interestingly, in his speech at West Point, President Obama made the claim
that our presence in Afghanistan enjoys international support and our allies will step up and
shoulder some of the burden. However, once again, we will have over 100,000 troops, more
than 90% of the force. In this latest expansion, we are sending 30,000 soldiers and Obama
hopes NATO allies will add an additional 5,000. If preventing the expansion of al Qaeda back
into Afghanistan is a matter of international security, why do American soldiers have to fight
and die in so much larger numbers? Once again, the facts and the logic contradict the political
Like his predecessor, President Obama professed his support and admiration for
the troops. Yet, his decision to expand the Afghan war will require soldiers to serve their fifth,
sixth, or seventh tours of duty. The Iraq and Afghan wars seriously overextended the men
and material of our military. Equipment is failing and our expanded commitment means
our ability to respond to new conflicts or hot spots in the world is and will continue to be
severely limited. Aware of the problem, Obama has proposed no solution to either problem.
Suicides in the military have increased to previously unseen rates. In response, the Pentagon
admits they do not have enough mental health professionals to deal with numbers of returning
veterans incapacitated by their war experiences. Again, Obama has not made any proposal
to deal with this very human aspect of war.
It is both scary and disheartening to see Obama engaging in "Bush par-deux". We
were led to believe we would get a more nuanced foreign policy when Obama replaced Bush.
In some ways Obama has delivered. He seeks multi-national support for pressure and
sanctions against Iran. He is trying to get China to pressure North Korea to stop nuclear arms
development. He has shown a willingness to let diplomacy work it's magic. However, our
current administration's decision on Afghanistan is in the worst traditions of the Bush era;
and just as it was a disaster for Bush, it will not work out any better for Obama. Vietnam,
Iraq, and now Afghanistan...the signposts on this road are looking way too familiar; and once
again I feel caged with a knawing sensation of dread. What do you think? I welcome your
comments and rebuttals. Please send them to email@example.com