The First Draft: Afghanistan inspires Freudian slips about that other battlefield – Iraq

December 2, 2009

President Barack Obama may have invoked Vietnam to banish that ugly specter of defeat from his shiny new Afghan strategy. But a day later, Iraq seems to be the wartime nightmare dogging two congressional veterans of the Bush wars.

Vice President Joe Biden, who was a Democratic senator from Delaware during Rummy’s “Shock and Awe” bombardment of Baghdad, let the musings of his unconscious psyche slip out Freudian style in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.

While refuting worries among critics that the Afghan strategy’s 18-month timeline might embolden the Taliban, Biden said: “How are they emboldened knowing that by the time we train up the Afghanis, we’re going to be gradually handing off beginning in 2003?”

2003 was the year of the Iraq invasion. The big year for the Obama plan is 2011.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, long a forceful voice on military policy, proved a bolder Freudian by actually mentioning that other battlefield by name.

“I support the president’s decision to have a properly resourced counterinsurgency strategy with the addition of 30,000 troops, plus additional commitments from our allies, and I’m confident that we can succeed in Iraq and come home.”

…confident that we can succeed in Iraq…


The U.S. was confident of success in Iraq long before the proverbial boots hit the proverbial ground. But the result was harrowing — a Middle East nation sent careening to the verge of all-out civil war, with U.S. troops standing in the middle.

Biden and McCain may not be worried about anything like that.

UPDATE: But as Neoavatara points out in the comment section below, the parallels between Obama’s Afghanistan surge strategy and George W. Bush’s Iraq surge strategy are striking: a temporary infusion of about 30,000 U.S. troops to impose security in the hope that political reconciliation and security training will gain momentum.

It’s also noteworthy that Biden and McCain didn’t turn Freudian until the questions touched on timelines, an issue hotly debated in Congress during the height of the Iraq war.

In fact, the mood seems fairly upbeat about the Obama plan. That may be because U.S. military assessments have long characterized the Taliban as a relatively weak, rag-tag force largely lacking in the martial skills and materiel that former Iraqi army officers once leveled at U.S. troops with help from Islamists from al Qaeda in Iraq. And a similar strategy worked in Iraq.

Not that advocates don’t see pitfalls in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army General David Petraeus, the architect of the Iraq surge who is credited with pulling that country back from the brink, told MSNBC that the Obama plan is realistic.

He then held forth with characteristic prudence: “It will be very challenging. There will be nothing easy about it. There has been nothing easy. Afghanistan is hard and it’s hard all the time and we have our eyes wide open about that.”

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Photo Credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (McCain); Reuters/Bogdan Cristel (Biden); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Petraeus)


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The key to understanding the impossibility of Obama’s dilemma is that he is trying to defend a Global Empire with American blood and treasure.Obviously Obama will not articulate this reality, and thus his plan entails seminal incongruities, which are seen by a few, but sensed by the wider audience of Americans.Obama has tried to gloss over these incongruities by using the historical techniques of Empires’ salesmen — he has engendered fear by characterizing the enemy as a “spreading cancer”, or ‘falling dominos’ like communism — but the real spreading cancer is the Global Empire that hired him to guilefully defend it with American blood and treasure.Historically, the salesmanship of Empire has always been based on promising the domestic population that they will share the ‘spoils of war’, or the ‘safety of winning’, in return for fighting, and paying, for imperialist adventures.But Obama, although a consummate salesman, will encounter increasing resistance from the American populus because of the unique incongruities of fighting and paying for a Global Empire with domestic dollars and dead, and without any benefits actually accruing to the American public.Obama’s dilemma in selling and defending the escalation of war first in Afghanistan, and then in Central Asia and the greater Middle East, is the same as his dilemma regarding his escalating defense of the very same Global Empire on Wall Street —- that all the benefits are privatized and all the costs are socialized.Alan MacDonaldSanford, Maine

Posted by Alan MacDonald | Report as abusive

Ironically, the Obama strategy in Afghanistan is identical to the Bush Iraq strategy in 2006: troop surge, improve security, enhance native forces, and clear/hold territory. The exact same strategy that Sen. Obama detested is the one he took 3 months to ponder and came to. Now the question is, will he be steadfast until victory is achieved? 017

Posted by Neoavatara | Report as abusive