Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama’s good war goes bad

By Bernd Debusmann
November 5, 2009

Bernd DebusmannIn the protracted Washington debate over the war in Afghanistan, the most concise analysis so far has come from America’s top soldier: “If we don’t get a level of legitimacy and governance (there), then all the troops in the world aren’t going to make any difference.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was speaking two days after Hamid Karzai was declared the winner, by default, in August elections so massively rigged that a U.N.-backed electoral complaints committee threw out about a million Karzai votes. That forced a run-off from which his challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah withdrew, saying the second round would be just as fraudulent as the first.

So much for an exercise in democracy President Barack Obama had used as his rationale for escalating the war a few months after he took office. “I did order 21,000 additional troops there to make sure that we could secure the election, because I thought that was important.”

It was. It showed that the United States and its NATO allies are fighting on the side of a corrupt and discredited government in a war, now in its ninth year, for which, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, there can be no purely military solution.

An angry assessment of the Afghan leader last year by Thomas Schweich, a former top anti-narcotics official in Afghanistan, has proved prophetic. Karzai, he said, had been playing the Americans like a fiddle ever since he came to power. “The U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai’s friends would get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009 he would be elected to a new term.”

U.S. officials, including Admiral Mullen, are now calling on Karzai to purge Afghanistan of corrupt officials by arresting and prosecuting them. This is an unlikely prospect. In his victory speech, Karzai said he would work to wipe off “the stain of corruption” but said that could not be done simply by removing corrupt officials.

The implicit notice that there would be no major house-cleaning followed a telephone call Obama made to Karzai to say it was time for “a new chapter based on improved governance (and) a much more serious effort to eradicate corruption…” If previous promises from Karzai are any guide, the new chapter will remain unwritten.

BOXED IN BY RHETORIC

Obama is close to making a decision on a request by General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan for as many as 40,000 additional troops. If the president followed the logic of Admiral Mullen’s analysis, he would send none. But he will, because he is boxed in by his own portrayal of Afghanistan as the “good war” (as opposed to the war in Iraq) and his definition of why the U.S. must be in Afghanistan.

“This is not a war of choice,” he said in a speech in August. “This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

One of the most passionate arguments against this reasoning has come from Matthew Hoh, the first State Department official to resign in protest over the war. Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain, said in his letter of resignation that if the U.S. strategy really was to prevent al-Qaeda from regrouping in Afghanistan, then America should also invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – all countries with an al-Qaeda presence.

“Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons. To…follow the logic of our stated goals we should garrison Pakistan, not Afghanistan.”

Instead, he wrote, the U.S. was following the example of the Soviet Union, a previous and unsuccessful occupier, by bolstering a failing state.

Comments
66 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Afghanistan is simply a smaller version of Egypt. Only with Egypt we only had to buy off Mubarak with money. It took a lot of American and Afghani blood (and others) in order to buy off Afghanistan.

Rigged elections to keep puppet leaders in place, exactly what the US wants. We prefer everyone to be like the Saudi’s so we can just get around the whole democracy thing, but if we have to deal with it this is what the world will get.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

to this day i still dont understand how you can fight a pitched war against an idealogy with world war two there was atleast a defining line as germany had actually invaded other countries so there was a finite goal intelligence and defense of our actual state and national borders would seem to protect more……..by our logic of fighting terrorism the only clear way to win is to kill everyone because anyone could become a terrorist and if there is a more diplomatic way it isnt usually found at the end of a barell in iraq we are fighting for someone elses freedom if the people of iraq wanted our type of government so bad let them persevere as did those of this country even after suffering crippling defeat did not give up and ended up winning against great odds and freed themselves of the chains of oppression otherwise you will be creating another welfare state i agree freedom comes with a cost but one must be willing to pay it themselves or they deserve none….. so we send youths there to protect our people here yet soldiers are still dying there so are we just protecting citizens here?

Posted by kameha | Report as abusive
 

We keep squandering precious resources on adventures that are ideal, but will have no end. Fighting these expensive wars will deprive our own countries of the much needed resources and funds that we direly need. It is sad that almost a trillion dollars have been spent so far on Iraq and Afghanistan; funds that could have solved so many problems, financial, human, social, medical, etc. that more deserve these funds than wars.More soldiers will not win us the war.

Posted by Michael Antoun | Report as abusive
 

get out of afghanistan. the u.s.a. this is an unwinable war.

Posted by frank cooper | Report as abusive
 

The thought occurred to me reading this article that al-Qaeda is doing to us what we did to the old USSR. It was in the news just recently that the Russians have said that Reagan’s massive military spending in the ’80s bankrupted the USSR when they tried to match it and led to its collapse at the end of the decade. Al-Qaeda with a few very inexpensive operations has gotten the United States (and major segments of the rest of the world) to spend trillions and trillions of dollars. The United States is currently on the highway to bankruptcy and we’re currently cruising at 60 mph….

Posted by jeff | Report as abusive
 

We should pull out, Karzai was a joke before this election, it has just gotten far worse with this re-election.

If there are those Afghans who want to fight for their country, and their rights against the Taliban or other extremist muslim groups, we should support them to the hilt, regardless if they refuse to become a United States puppet in the process.

We need allies that want to fight for themselves, not more puppets to prop up with the blood of the working class, to keep fat cats wallets padded.

Posted by moose | Report as abusive
 

I don’t think withdrawal is the answer, but I do think that the current strategy isn’t working. I don’t believe it’s possible to transform Afghanistan into a westernized nation that will hold its own against Islamic radicalism. But, pulling out would only restart a dangerous cycle and might even lead to the fall of Pakistan to the Taliban, something that Iran would no doubt be thrilled about.

Posted by Dusan Ristic-Petrovic | Report as abusive
 

Yeah well whatever happens the hammer will still be there and the Afghan Government will not do anything about once NATO and the US leaves. If the UN gives the money for the program long range poppy eradication fights can be flown out of Iran, by Iran and Russia operators in the southern provinces of Afghanistan. It will take the pressure off the transnational interdiction’s via the supply routes. You may see the Mil Mi-24V Hind over Afghan sky’s as air support for the sprayers. No stingers this time. Running some of the CIA UAV’s out of Pakistan for narco-terrorists targeted killings in Afghanistan.

Posted by TCMSOLS | Report as abusive
 

I am with Matthew Hoh:- the fact the the leader of the 2-Towers escadrille, the one whose name we do not speak, ate pots of mashed potatoes in Germany does not mean NATO must bomb Germany with mashed potatoes, they have enough of that there. They might just retaliate with kartoffeln.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive
 

The basic Q that needs an answer no one dares to ask. “Why are we in Afghanistan”? The standard 9/11, Al-Qaeda, BinLaden etc dos not wash since none of the infamous 19 were Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and there is zero evidence of any of these tribals travelling beyond their own provincial borders to threaten teir neighbors, let alone the West. Indeed if we cut off the funds flow into Al-Qaeda coffers from our friends in Saudia/the Gulf, they would not have any money to give to the Taliban. Guns and fighters are a cash business, no credit. I know the region well having visited Pakistan in April as a guest of the President just as Mullins/Holbrooke visited with their WH concocted Af-Pak strategy. Sent Biden and Clinton a 3-page treatise. Biden replied politely, no word from Clinton… Ah Well.. its Obama’s Waterloo..

 

Pardon the continuation but, in the treatise, I explained that sanctuary denial is the only solution and that if the 200 odd Al-Qaeda (Secy Clinton estimate, not mine) are a burning problem just invade the sanctuaries (in Quetta, Baluchistan) and destroy them. Drones are useless in populated areas.. Very Cheap Operation.. no need for 100,000 troops, just under 5000 special ops stratgically located and supplied, will suffice…one only needs to study the fate of the “invincible” Tamil T to learn that sanctuaries are the key to “terrorist” survival.. In my first hand experience, the credit goes to George Bush who signed the order to declare the TT a Terrorist group and to Treasury for enforcing it. Shorn of funds and even weapons, the Grand Master of modern T tactics knew the end was inevitable.. he perished on the “battlefield” in May this year… by the way, I was born in Sri Lanka..

Posted by pravin | Report as abusive
 

Can you think of one reason to invest in Afghanistan?

 

Response to Mr Harris:… According to the NY Times, Ahmed Wali Khan (Karzai) has invested quite profitably in “providing protection to poppy growers”…another area that comes to mind is “scrap metal” considering the enormous quantities of charred/bombed out metal hulks littering the countryside. At $300 per month, young Taliban soldiers are quite cheap. Almost all the aid groups and various Sovereign groups (Italians, British, Germans ..even the Americans) “contract to lease” Taliban militia for protection.. scrap steel fetches over $220 per ton across the border..

Posted by pravin | Report as abusive
 

What is there about “quagmire” that General McChrystal doesn’t understand?

 

If NATO pulls out in the morning and AfPak does start to fall to pieces, I’d imagine the men in power in places like India, China, Russia, Iran would have a much more immediate and direct problem than western Europe/America.

If nuclear weapons did get loose, they’d be a lot more likely to do local damage than make it thousands of miles to our shores.
This ignores the much more relevant drug problem, which for some reason is only a problem for the west and causes no problems locally, hmmmm I wonder……..

Of course at the moment these countries are just sitting back and relaxing while the blinkered morons in charge over here do all the work, spending all the money and blood that goes with that…… seems slightly strange to me?!?

All the while our children fall behind, our infrastructure to pieces and lets not mention healthcare!

It truly is a strange world we live in.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive
 

I recall that the planning and training for the 9/11 attacks took place in Hamburg, Germany, and in the USA, respectively. Afghanistan was where Osama made video/audio tapes, and from there initiated wire transfers via a satellite phone.
To assert that the US and its allies are in Afghanistan to “prevent another 9/11″ is to call all of us idiots, and apathetic idiots at that. Now we are also told that we must fight in order to “send a message” about our resolve. I’m not sure why we are really still there, but given the available facts our leaders must either be idiots themselves, or liars, or both. And it speaks volumes about the American people.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive
 

I have to retract my earlier statement. I decided to look up some 2009 Afghan public opinion polls by reading much of the 2009 Asia Foundation report from July, to get some idea of what the general population may feel like about their current situation.

Summed up the biggest issue for most in Afghanistan is security. Many Afghans cited good security as a reason for optimism for the future, and conversely many people cited insecurity as one of their biggest problems.

If an increase in troops and effort in Afghanistan is focused towards more security, it would not only help keep optimism in place, but would seem to increase it significantly.

The corruption is a big problem, but that is a thorny political question that good security in Afghanistan would be an essential part of fixing.

A high percentage of people in Afghanistan have favorable opinions of the United States, the ANA (their army), and the ANP (their police). So continuing to provide more training, equipment, and experience to the ANA and ANP seem to be very worthwhile ventures and is viewed favorably by most.

In the end I am against withdrawing from Afghanistan, especially anything unilateral and abrupt. At the same time the cost to US troops having to do multiple tours is becoming really high. The problems in getting combat veterans the medical and financial support they need hopefully will be a part of addressing the situation in Afghanistan. The problem is massive, but ditching the everyday Afghani to a mess that we mostly created is just plain wrong, especially when they clearly are supporting our efforts in general.

Posted by moose | Report as abusive
 

All soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq reading this article should throw down their weapons and walk away. That will end these wars and force the politicians to settle their differences in other ways.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive
 

America seeks to create a strong democracy in Afganistan.

If that fails, it will settle for a strong government (democracy or no) which has a large enough military to deny the region to terrorist groups.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

Who is running this war? The US or Karsi?

What happened to the old ways where is we did not like who we put in power we could pay off someone local to simply assassinate that person? The next Karsi would think twice about being such a rip off artist.

We waste so much money and blood with this politically correct bullshit. Karsi and others like him read us so well and laugh to no end.

Or…. is Karsi really what we want and that is why he has not been chopped yet. Think about it – first couple of want to be kings where assassinated.

Makes you think – what the hell is this war really about?
Is it a testing ground for our military brass with their weapons and tactics.

Maybe this good war is not gone bad – it’s gone just right and will go on for another 6 years – till we wake up and stop letting the military run the show.

Posted by Various Animal | Report as abusive
 

Imagine even after the humiliating blow in Vietnam dumbo US has not learned a lesson. It is about squandering money on war machines. It keeps the defence contractor like Black Water
happy. So much billions wasted to keep defence industry

Posted by nick | Report as abusive
 

NATO/The Allies must stay on! Al-Qaeda has already constructed bases (including through infiltrating Muslim NGOs, parties and universities) all over, globally, including in oil-rich (the oil is also important strategic target) South-East Asia, especially Malaysia, Indonesia particularly oil-rich Acheh and Kalimantan and Brunei. Thus by pulling out of Afghanistan, will make them victorious but most important of all, ‘righteous’ amidst the gullible ordinary believers in the Muslim world, especially the poor or uneducated! Al-Qaeda is relying not just on the brutal wars but also on Cultural Imperialism – and by winning in Afghanistan, it will definitely aide in promoting further their “religious” crusade against ‘western’ modernity and powers!

Posted by Katharina Sri (former: Noor Aza) | Report as abusive
 

This topic has landed in a fast spinning tumble drier.

Let’s put the conspiracy and agenda theories aside.

Let’s also assume that we have all faced the frontline. Let’s also assume that we are amidst World War III. Let’s also assume that Shiites and Sunnis are not good friends and will remain that way inclined.

Increasing troop numbers, together with armament, is going to set off World War IV. We deal with facts and opinion, but have absolutely no idea what the prevailing emotions and tempers are of all involved at the coal face. It’s a festering time bomb that only requires an incremental stray bullet, missile or bomb, and it will go off and send shrapnel far beyond what any human being could ever have imagined.

This is a UN, IMF and World Bank problem. They must sort it out.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive
 

The US is in its twilight and it is desperate. The US economy is hardly yet in in its worst conceivable state considering the systemic flaws it faces. The best thing the US could do is leave Afganistan. And the best thing any intelligent American can do is leave the US. Start voting with your feet and make delusional US foreign policy “their” problem. None of you and none of us will make a difference in the US – not unless the current US system is massively “overhauled.” Chattering away on comment boards like this is a waste of time. Vote with your feet and your money – stop buying American products and brand names.

Posted by mei yu xuan | Report as abusive
 

The UN proudly announced the reconstruction of 684 schools in Afghanistan, hospitals too, roads and more.

Two spanish journalists went to visit these buildings and guess what, couldnt find ONE school but found frozen students learning in tents under billboards displaying beautiful modern type schools that were never built, well at least they have nice 3D images so they can keep dreaming about them.

The UN answered their questions by pretending these schools were built in rural areas (LOL) while 4 millions+ afghans found shelter in Kabul (where there’s been no school built once again).

So finaly they went to see the hospital in Kabul to have at least images of something standing. Well almost because that hospital is in ruins. They discovered that the italian NGO in charge of the construction spent half the budget (2.2 million $) buying expensive materials in Italy and flat screens that never showed up in Kabul anywhere, besides the afghan contractor who got 900000$ for the construction is nowhere to be found today.

What has been built are palaces for the Afghan nomenclatura in huge numbers. Wondering where the money goes ? Wondering why very small support from the miserable afghan population ?

Posted by Sadmad | Report as abusive
 

Provide security? Like blowing up wedding parties, and dropping bombs on schools, and claiming x terrorist kills while ignoring numbers of civilians among the bodies, and being attacked in our own bases, and the warnings that Taliban would take over tomorrow if we turn our backs today? That kind of security? The word “security” gets bandied about as if it were a real option. Maybe we can say “Okay, okay, okay, we’re sorry for all the collateral damage, but we’ll be good from now on, really”
We never should have stayed this long. Now is past time to go.

Posted by mirth | Report as abusive
 

With regard to the comment from Hadjenek about General McChrystal, I do not think anyone in the US Military is a defeatist, it is their job to win and the civilian job to make certain they have the timely resources to win.

I will bet money on the US Military, if we (as a people)want to win it bad enough. I would hardly call what news I’m seeing a quagmire. I’m not so certain about giving money and aid to Afghans. I do not subscribe to the ‘hearts and minds’ crap. If they want their country free, they should do it without a handout – that’s heart.

With regard to Pravin, thanks for the info, I think the question is ‘Is this what we are going to be winning?’ I think you’re saying, an opium producing scrap heap that sucks Money.

What’s the answer, well, I’m glad that is not my job.

 

This war is lost. We were supposed to have gone into Afghanistan in the first place right after 911. But bush didn’t want to jeopardize his business relationship with the BinLaden group and so decided to leave their son alone. Even though he was responsible for so much death on American soil he wasn’t touched. To my mind this is the highest form of treason.

The Bush presidential library is not open to the public as other presidential libraries are. He doesn’t want his presidency examined.

Because Bush decided to leave Afghanistan on the back burner, he allowed the Taliban to rebuild their forces. Obama’s attempt to clean the country up will only result in the shedding of our childrens’ blood and a quagmire even bigger than Iraq. The people of Afghanistan will suffer under Taliban rule and we will get blamed for this. But there is nothing that can be done if they don’t fight for themselves. Karzai was appointed by the Bush administration so forget honest Governance.

We just need to get out and take care of our problems at home.

 

I stand corrected. The Bush library isn’t built yet. I completely misread the information I was looking into. It will be built at SMU. There was a petition to stop the project. But the higher ups at the school decided to go with it anyway.

 

People paint Afghanistan as “trap for empires”.

The truth is that Afghanistan as territory was overrun by Brits, Russians and Americans with easy.

The challenge is to establish friendly government.
Despite common believe it is also possible.
Russians successfully installed one ruler after another(Ammin -> Carmal -> Nagibullah).
They have one thing in common – they all were bloody monsters.

Look at history. Most Nations were forged out from tribal societies by strong (brutal) rulers who use bribes, intimidation and violence. This rulers got rid of strong tribal leaders and unite weak one. Tribal society works along family/clan/tribal lines. What we call ‘corruption’ is the only right way of life for them.

The problem that West tries to inject Democracy into tribal society.

We must stop experiments on humans.

We need to install someone who will act along local customs (yep he will be brutal sometimes like General Dustum).
But also willing to follow long term agenda of pushing Afghanistan toward XX-XXI century.

Posted by Sergey | Report as abusive
 

War is not about winning, it is about completing. If it costs us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars and that is winning, what the Sam hill does losing look like?

The Taliban are not good guys. However, it wasn’t the Taliban did not attack us on 9/11 and they are the main insurgent force we are fighting in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai may mean well, but for all practical purposes he has proven ineffective without the power or will to address the corruption in his own government. He could start by firing his brother, has he? No. Was he serious about open and honest elections by removing those responsible for the prior election corruption? No. Has he made any effort to clean up his government, make it more transparent and open since his reappointment? Well, I have yet to hear of any shake-ups.

The US is supposed to be responsible for protecting Afghans, rebuilding Afghanistan and fixing its government. Well, that hasn’t worked very well in the past and I don’t expect it will work much better this time. However, I do expect it will cost the US plenty trying. I think we can use the money and resources more effectively at home or even for development of countries where their leaders honestly want “good government” instead of wanting to use the “promise of good government” as leverage for draining us dry. Holbrook went to Karzai months ago and told him about US concerns about corruption. If anyone thinks this is suddenly going to change, well I have a bridge to sell you in Alaska – “the bridge to nowhere”.

Posted by PJW5552 | Report as abusive
 

America is now faced with Hobson’s choice – America must stay and fight to prevent a reemergence of the Taliban but must get out because her very presence in a fundamentalist Islamic country & culture is the prime cause for the reemergence of the Taliban. pravan’s comment about invading the sanctuaries to eliminate the Taliban is quite correct – but its even simpler than that. The present Taliban leadership and source of inspiration for jihad fervor is Mullah Omar who claims legitimacy direct from the Prophet by using the Islamic theatre of donning the purported religious relic the Prophet’s cloak and calling for jihad as a fard ayn – duty – of all Muslims. Eliminate Omar and his leadership supporters and you’ll see the Taliban degenerate into rival tribal clans battling for their share of the drug trade. (He’s in or near Quetta, Pakistan – its not that big a place and he’s not that hard to find) Then you’ll be able to get out of Afghanistan. As the Russians and the British learned to their cost before you, with Afghan jihadists its negotiation by elimination – kill them then leave or be killed yourself. And fellow poster pravan’s suggestion? You cannot invade the sanctuaries as the US would be committing an act of war against a democratic ally – and in the Muslim world, you only have the one. If you wish Pakistan to remain a democracy – for all its many, many faults it is a secular democratic state – stay out. But better start developing a coherent exit strategy for Afghanistan, where despite the efforts of your very impressive commander there, McCrystal, the US remains on a hiding to nothing and will continue with its allies to expend its treasure and the blood of its youth for little or no result. Despite what Obama says, America’s security does not in the end depend on (an unachievable) victory in Afghanistan.

Posted by Wonchang | Report as abusive
 

Building roads and providing health services for women and children would be an enormous achievement – it would help provide governance in areas of Afghanistan where they have had none (save briefly of the awful variety under the Taliban) for decades. These civil measures and the creation of an effective police force and military are essential components of any COIN strategy and as important or even more so as any military success against the Taliban. The reality is the US and its Western allies will be there for years but some of America’s most stalwart allies in the WoT like Australia have stated they will not be sending more troops and will be pulling out once their mission (training military and police in Oruzgan province) is completed – about 3-4 years max. The choices facing the US regardless of Obama’s public statements about US commitment in Afghanistan are stark. Katharina is right in that US and allies like NATO and Australia, Canada do need to stay – for now at least. But as I said before – its Hobson’s choice – if the West led by the US stays – as ‘infidels’ in Muslim lands – it will remain a source of jihadi inspiration used by Muslim extremists around the world. If there is ANY precipitate withdrawal it will be seen as a victory by jihadis over the infidel – just as it was when the Russians withdrew – and a source of even greater inspiration for Islamic extremists. A COHERENT exit strategy is urgently required and should be strongly articulated by the White House. But this is happening under Obama and many more young Americans will inevitably die before America can extract itself from this quagmire.

Posted by Wonchang | Report as abusive
 

Sorry – I meant to say a coherent exit strategy is NOT being articulated by Obama, much to America’s great cost.

Posted by Wonchang | Report as abusive
 

Read the comments, heard the gov and Pentagon spin and talking blowhards… But truth is for those that missed the last mess.. Welcome to NAM Ver 2.0

Suggest you all read archives of the war in 60′s.. just sub Afg for NAM and you got today… except then we drafted which has a lot to do with why we are still at war in Afg now.. We are a nation of moral cowards as we (99.5%_ of us) KNOW we and our kids will never go there.. just keep sending the “Vol AKA “Thank God there is no Draft Army” to fight and if they get lots of combat tours.. well sure beats the hell out of our precious Johnny or Mary going.. So get out your little imported flags and go wave them to fighting folks, usually lowere economic enders, going off to throw the dice they come back from this tour.. now go wave the flag along with Congress and other sunshine (never served) patriots..

Yep welcome to NAM Ver 2.0.. even down to Ho was our guy as were the Taliban.. and the ole “Win the hearts and minds even if we have to kill them to do it”… those 58,000 names and souls on that wall must be in tears as they heard it all before..

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive
 

I am a big fan obamas, but when he said we would stay in afganistan for as long as it takes, i felt he had painted himself in to a corner. He of all people should know there are no absolutes,particularly in politics and in war. As a vietnam war vet I know it what means to waste the lives our soldiers on a war that can not be won or lost. I have yet to find anyone who can tell what we would have gained by “winning” that war that we did not gain by “loosing”,or, if we had not fought it at all. The elaphant in the room here is corruption. Most of the corruption is centered around drugs. when is the last time the U.S. won a war on drugs. I rest my case.

 

america has not only ‘lost’ the war in afghanistan, but lost its way in history. we have gotten caught in a triangulation by islamic groups who can move ‘the war’ all around the, so called, middle east. one day it can be in afghanistan, the next in iraq, after that yemen, then pakistan or somalia. we are doomed to chase ‘the war’ around and around forever if we are to maintain eternal vigilance.

however, it all comes to and end when there’s nothing left to defend. when the rich and smart have moved away and america becomes no more than foreclosed housing between wal-marts and decaying former factories spray painted by feral youth sex-drug gangs pursued by cops looking for their vig and egged on by republicans waving the tea bag flag of freedom for off-shored medical insurance corporations wanting a little bit more.

all civilizations come to an end, and we have, simply, come to ours. our peak was when we put a man on the moon. we are a long way from that now.

Posted by dr arp | Report as abusive
 

You realize that the same issues and problems come up again and again because not very many people study history. Historically, the same exact things are occurring that have occurred before in Afghanistan. Since the Afghanistan conflict is much like beating a dead horse we shouldn’t be sending more troops. We should instead begin to look for a way out of the conflict.
In the 1840′s the British empire ran Afghanistan and helped to prop up a corrupt government. Back then, the drug trade escalated too, just like it is now. Many of the same exact promises were made to the Afghan people.

Posted by Brian Bigelow | Report as abusive
 

It is sad to realize that al-Qaeda’s strike on 9/11 has inflicted such devastating and lasting damages on us with our own inadvertent concurrence. Our anger had blinded us in the quest to finding thoughtfully calibrated cost effective measures necessary to insulate the spread of calamitous economic effects in the system. Even now, warmongers stridently demand escalating military operations where no foreseeable economic gain can be assessed, and no political gain can morally be justified.
Why exactly the American pride plays such a poignant political role in rationalizing between delivering Osama bin Laden dead or alive on one hand, and returning to growing nation’s wealth, on the other hand, is “beyond my pay grade”.

Posted by M | Report as abusive
 

What is really sad is I am willing to bet a ton of the people now crying for pullout, were back there in 2001 screaming bloody murder for war.

On top of that, very few of the people calling for pullout are making any good suggestions as far as how and when. Its just a fantasy answer of “Pullout now!” Nevermind the consequences and the fact that doing that would just show anyone who deals with the United States not to count on our word when the fire gets hot.

If Afghans were all screaming for us to leave it would be one thing, but the majority by a significant amount want the United States to continue helping stabilize the country, and to get rid of these extremists trying to take over there country.

As far as all the geniuses making the Nam comparison, do some reading, these are arid mountains, not jungles.

The casualties sustained in Nam were way higher then now on a daily basis.

We carpet bombed Vietnam to hell.

We were cleaning up the French’s mess.

That’s just a few easy comparisons.

Posted by moose | Report as abusive
 

Osama bin Laden played GW Bush and his gang of imperialists like cartoon characters in a video game. OBL knew all he has to do is to hit the raw arrogant nerves of these brain-challenged neocons and they will do the rest to destroy America for him. OBL even spelled out his strategy in public – so sure was he of the stupidity of America’s leadership of the time.

And OBL was right. It happened exactly, even far better, than he hoped for. Which explains why he sees no need to appear in videos for a while. He is not a man who need to bask in triumphism once he won. Unlike GW ‘The Idiot’ Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ photo-op on the aircraft carrier. This picture truly depicts a historical moment of Grand Hubris. On par with British PM Chamberland airport reception in 1939, where he read his famous agreement with Hitler on “Peace In Our Times’. The poor PM soon realized his classic imperial hubris and died within 6 months of the Poland invasion.

So, with this background, what about Obama? First, he permitted both of Bush wars to continue since he took office. Second he authorized some 20,000 troops to Afghanistan to ‘ensure’ a democratic election outcome. Third, he said Afghanistan is a ‘necessary’ war. Let’s review these:

Bush wars – Obama ‘allowed’ both to continue once he took office. As a new kid on the block, he is in position to challenge the generals then.

20,000 troops – Clearly he was either told lies or he did not comprehend the Afghanistan reality. But all under the waters now – there was no democratic election, no legitimate president elected, and the corruption is as bad as the US.

Necessary war – You know, no empire in all history have ever declared a war as unnecessary. The most potent creator, upholder and blood-sheder of all empires is their military. And the US has the biggest ever – costing a cool $1 trillion ever year. It has hundreds of generals and admirals, and more equipment a mathematician can calculate. Do not ever ask generals to stop a war, or expect them to ask for less troop and equipment. They are trained to fight and win at all costs. Including domestic costs. But is Afghanistan really necessary? Yes, necessary for the American empire. Because the empire is for the benefit of the military, the armament industry, the Wall Street masters, the imperial class. But utterly unnecessary for the nation.

If Obama wishes to stop the Afghanistan war – he must fire Gen McChrystal immediately, and prepare for a military coup. As Truman did with Korea; as JFK did with the Cuba missile crisis. Truman fired MacArthur but got away with his life because Ike took over. But JFK did not – and Vietnam took off.

This is how Obama can earn his Nobel. Both generals and president put their ‘lives’ on the line. If Obama decides to continue with the campaign he can expect two decades of blood, finances drained dry. During this time OBL would be gone but his ‘sons’ will likely live to see the final imperial collapse.

Who said leadership is fun?

Posted by Tom K | Report as abusive
 

People keep saying that Afganistan is a trap. This is because they misinterprate history. Afganistan has been taken by various powers, who were willing to use military force. And they held it as long as they were willing to use force.

Russia took Afganistan, likewise with force. And would have kept it, were it not for American funded forces who fought them until they decided to leave.

The Taliban took control of Afganistan. Because they were willing to commit atrocities on the Afgani people to ensure their support and complience.

America could easily do the same. Commit atrocities to put the taliban to shame, so they flee rather then take the risk of being captured alive. But then we lose the moral highground that people find so important.

So we just have to accept that we will have to fight in a civilised manner against monsters. With one hand behind our back, and taking extra time to ensure we win the war without becoming monsters ourselves.

And that means a long, drawn out war against terrorism. And civilians will die. Get used to it, because it will be going on for the next decade at the least. America is just taking part in the global fight against terror.

And there is a global war on terror. Pakistan, Yemen, China, Russia, Iraq, Afganistan, Lebenon, Gaza. All areas where local conflicts are occuring. The world is slowly waking to the threat that militant islam represents.

People say that Afganistan will ruin America like it ruined the soviets. But they forget that the invasion of Afganistan was called “Russia’s Vietnam”. Because America had seen it all before, been there and bought the t-shirt.

In Vietnam, America proved that it can fight in decade long conflicts. Even to a bloody stalemate, even as part of a larger global conflict, it can still survive the strain.

And America and the West can do it again. Even if it takes another twenty years of war, Islamic terrorism will fall.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive
 

The Ruling Class want this war, as they do the Iraq war, and as they did in Viet Nam. The President does the Ruling Class’s bidding for them. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House.

The Ruling Class make money on war. They own the defense industry. They own the corporations that supply all the war material, including food, clothing, ammo, tanks artillery, bombs, aircraft and fuel for all combat equipment and creature comforts.

In war, there is little oversight. “The Mission” is the thing. That comes first, and anyone who doubts the need for more and more supplies and weapons is looked at as unpatriotic, or, an appeaser, or, a coward.

Kill, bomb, and strafe, is the military’s answer to everything.

Posted by AlteredStates | Report as abusive
 

Not oddly the ONLY PLAN THAT IS WORKING. much like Uncle Ho in NAM is when OBL publicly stated, “I want the USA to come to the Mid East and I will defeat it economically.. So far he has won, and he did also mention grinding us down on the ground.

Mr President, suggest you read some of the books by those officers that felt NAM was a losing war, most gave up their careers to tell the truth…you should honor their honesty…. remember NAM’s “Mac and his whiz kids and “hi tech will win it for us”..

Seems like from the postings only the NAM vets have this war dialed in…and a lot of “Westmorlands” are running about with great ideas on how to win.. We can probably expect to start getting a “weekly press briefings”.. let’s call it the Kabul Follies”.. Older vets will know what I refer to and why! Want to end it, bring back the draft.. and watch the “patriots” line up deferments.

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive
 

We still do not know all the motivations for the attacks of 9/11.

As with the shooting in Texas, we know so little about what motivates people to go on killing sprees.

One thing is certain: we never take responsibility for sparking any conflict. It is always ‘the other guy’.

How can we lead the world when so many see us far differently from what we think we are?

Remember those who said they’d be cheering and waving at us when we invaded Iraq?

And who can remember those who fought against the British 233 years ago? Did we not also resent being occupied by a foreign power?

Posted by Bernie | Report as abusive
 

I can happily say based on these comments that more and more people are getting it.

Obama is every bit the warmonger that Bush was.

And as has happened my entire 24 years on the earth, the neoconservatives will have the last word.

Their agenda is to continue to strenghten the world economy at the expense of the US economy.

Their agenda is gain more resources and land through wars, sanctions, and the installation of puppet leaders.

This is what will happen from now until the end of humanity or the end of the man’s pursuit of world domination. Frankly, I’m not sure what will come first.

So for the average middle class american do everything you can to avoid government. Don’t pay your taxes, don’t send your kids to public schools, don’t vote for the 2 mainstream parties-actually voting itself is no longer important.

You have to do your best to ignore what our gov’t does to us and the world, otherwise you lose your mind.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

If you would better understand Viet Nam and American potentialities read Bill Colby’s Lost Victory. IMHO we should never have intervened in French Indochina-especially after WWII to keep the bloody French in power. Read the works of Dr Bernard Fall. Ho Chi Minh would have brought a legitimate government to power after WWII without the violence triggered after 30 years of warefare…
We had programs WORKING on the ground in late 1969-1972. The PRVN admits we had them beaten on the ground because the people of SVN were seeing progress. But just like the mistake of JFK allowing Diem to be taken out, once the Democratic Congress neutered Nixon we cut all aid to the viable SVN Government which was then defeated by a classic military overmatch conventional invasion 1975.
In Afganistan, we are dealing with corrupt government again, and multiple tribal groups that will simply not get along! There is no group for us to work with to improve the lot of the average Afgani family.
IMHO, America and NATO should withdraw as we are not willing to commit (rightly so) the military assets with subsequent bloody results, thankfully still un-acceptable to Western standards.
We still are not down to Soviet military standards, no matter what the Military-Industrial Complex paranoics say. Imperialists? What a joke! If that were true we would control the Middle East and look at Iraq-selling THEIR oil by the way to China.
I’d say we do not want to control these places, develope our own domestic energy assets-and let OPEC carry their own water next time. IE when Kuwait or the House of Ibn Saud is threatened…

Posted by RussRamey6 | Report as abusive
 

Reading these comments makes me realize that the author and many of the contributors have no understanding of how hard it is to create a free country where freedom has never existed before and how difficult a task it is, especially in a region with no heritage of democracy. The Independence of the United States came about under extremely adverse conditions and the outcome was in doubt for many years. The United States Constitution was signed in 1787, eleven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There was a lot of pain, suffering and hard work over that eleven year period to make a nation out of colonies which already had the benefit of colonial government and British heritage regarding the right of citizens and British Law. In Afghanistan there is only a rudimentary understanding of freedom and liberty and no heritage similar to that of American Colonies in 1776. If the opinion “everything perfect or nothing at all” enunciated above were followed during the discouraging years after 1776 with all its failures and set backs the United States would never have been and we just wouldn’t have made it to the Constitution in 1787. Its understandable that many Americans, especially liberals don’t feel that anything is worth painful sacrifice and are ready to bail out as soon as things become difficult. Nothing has changed in Afghanistan which we were on the verge of winning a year ago. What has changed is a weak administration which is strong on spin and weak on principles and action. The Taliban correctly see Obama and his ilk as a repeat of the Carter Administration who gave the Jihad it first big break. The Liberals and Obama sure are doing a great job getting Iran from going nuclear, aren’t they? I’m sure they will allow Afghanistan to revert to an unimpeded Terrorist training camp as well. Our stake in Afghanistan isn’t based solely on having a Simon-pure political partner. Heck, if your looking for political corruption don’t have to go to Afghanistan … just look at the US Congress and the corrupt autocratic practices of the Democrats regarding Health care Legislation! Congratulations to the American Left!

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive
 

I was in Vietnam from 1969-70 and worked as a psychological operations officer with 3 combat divisions in the northern part of Vietnam (I Corps): 3rd Marine Div, 101st Airborne, and 1st of the 5th Infantry Div (Mech). I also spoke Vietnamese in a rudimentary fashion, having studied it at the Defense Language Inst in Ca.

Three of us, including a specialist and my interpreter spent nights in hamlets over that year in areas formally controlled by the Viet Cong. The people welcomed and protected us as all we had were 2 M-16s and one 45 pistol among us. The Vietnamese had come to hate the communist and many had stories of their persecution in the north. They all feared our leaving.

The liberals of my country have blood on their hands for the loss of Vietnam, as does Nixon, who lost his credibility and political power after Watergate, and following his resignation Ford was unable to keep supplies going to our Vietnamese allies as the North Vietnamese saw an opportnity with a weakened and confused US government.

The same obtains today. Obama is weak, confused as to his mission in Afghanistan and other troubled spots in the world and he will cause us unmitigated agony of defeat unless he gets some sense into his leftist head. I have little confidence he will. He will betray those who threw their lot with America,

Posted by seven degrees | Report as abusive
 

Moose, suggest you read of the NAM and the strategy and how we supported corrupted government(S), how we destroyed villages, how the “bad guys” had the support of the people, and how the more sane people knew we would loose. ‘

FYI terrain is not an issue as we cannot get these guys nor would we Mr Charles, we have “bombed the hell out AFG”, B52-B1 and even a B2 for publicity as well as cruise msle, that also has and is killing innocents with the drones. Our casualty rate is not to far off that of NAM when you adjust for the other sides numbers and just like then, we are losing. Strongly suggest you “review” a bit more and note we are talking over all, not you nits. The same spin was used for NAM, same contractors made huge profits, and the same lower economic end is fighting and repeated combat tours to avoid a draft, they are being chewed up, lead by the same mindless career military incompetents that learned their trades as Jr Officers when NAM ended. Same ones now retire and use contacts and become lobbyists.
So read what Col Hall and others wrote, simply sub AFG for NAM and it fits pretty well. By the way surveys DO NOT show the AFG;s want us or anyone there, they like many in the region hate us for killings, justified or not of civilians, AKA NAM again AKA EXACT SAME “Win the hearts and minds spin” going on now, and reports are the villages are NOT USA friendly, as in NAM they will NOT tell USA taliban about AKA Mr Charles about. Open your tunnel vision a bit and look, not much difference and many of us have heard all this stuff about AFG during the NAM.. and even our “Allies” just like NAM, starting to talk of pulling out AND as in NAM Europe not into this one. NAM had little to do with French, what it had to do with was a religious war and the fact we sold out Uncle Ho after he helped us in WW2. Red you history of HAM and learn a bit, same for AFG. then go wave your little imported rah-rah flag.
AMUSING how your second paragraph reads like the chicken hawks during the NAM.

Posted by chuck | Report as abusive
 

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