The First Draft: Afghanistan inspires Freudian slips about that other battlefield – Iraq
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.”
Photo Credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (McCain); Reuters/Bogdan Cristel (Biden); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Petraeus)