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Posts Tagged ‘Get out of Afghanistan’

Short version: Read the book.  It’s interesting and well written.  I believe Woodward will end up being considered one of the great historical journalist / authors of the last 40 years (and probably then next 10 or so, too).  The book highlights the reasons for our eventual political and military failure in Afghanistan.  It is inevitable…
Long version: Today I completed Bob Woodward’s latest book: “Obama’s Wars“.  The book is an insiders look at the Obama Administration, the US Military and the on-going prosecution (mishandling) of the war in Afghanistan.  By insider, I mean it is quite obvious Woodward is being fed information by a host of characters to get their view of history in his story.
The book makes several things clear – the “war” in Afghanistan is un-winnable by any normal use of the term “win”.  The current Karzai government is corrupt and not supported by the Afghan people.  The fall is inevitable.  The only question is how much money and how many lives will we waste before we wake up, smell the coffee and get out?
The best we can hope for is to kill a bunch of Al Qaeda, avoid a complete government breakdown in Pakistan (and consequent loss of up to 100 nuclear weapons to terrorists) and not completely bankrupt the United States.
Every account of every review of the situation says we can’t “possibly” stem the tide in Afghanistan unless we commit far more troops than we currently have for far longer than we can possibly afford.
The author is clearly trying to kill a political run for the presidency by General Petraeus (a potential Republican nominee) in 2012 by making him out to be a fairly self-centered and self-serving man.  He (the General) clearly states (repeatedly) that this war will take generations, yet repeatedly asks for troops while promising to be able to move us closer to victory (with numbers far less than he knows can achieve this).  A “victory” he knows will not come in anyone’s lifetime.  General Petraeus is a student of history and knows full well a Democracy cannot sustain a prolonged active conflict – either politically or economically.
The same is true for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is also made out as a scapegoat (one of many) in this tragedy of failure in leadership.  Gates is made to appear to be regretful the US abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan after the end of the Cold War and the continuation of US involvement in this region is his way of somehow assuaging his conscience.  How this will happen or why he feels the need is not fully explained, but he promises the Afghans we will never leave the area!!
The military leadership, the Pentagon, the CIA and the other “war fighting” agencies in the government do not fare well in this book.  They are apparently only efficient at getting their way in the press.  They can’t “honestly” assess a situation and provide options.  In fact, they are insubordinate and plot to refuse to provide any realistic options to the plan they feel will provide some continuation of the war effort – not victory, just continuation.
Those in the military (active and retired) who try to argue against the single option are systematically marginalized and / or derided.
The White House staff does not escape the broad brush of criticism by the author.  General Jones is used to characterize them (WH Staff) as “water-bugs” and they certainly come across that way in the narration.
The only person who survives the ridicule is President Obama, who is portrayed as thoughtful, caring, conscientious and (at times) forceful.  The author appears to be making the case that President Obama cannot simply withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.  He must allow the military sufficient rope to hang itself so he can later justify a decision (an already made decision) to withdraw from Afghanistan.  It appears this decision will come shortly after the Dec 2010 review.  (Just after the Congressional elections – what a coincidence!)
The bottom line for this book – and war – is that President Bush did exactly what he campaigned against – nation building.  He tried to topple a government he didn’t like (Taliban) and then install one he did (Karzai).  When there was initial success: the Taliban were driven from power, Bush installed a corrupt leader who would never be able to unite and lead his country independently.  Bush then lost interest and went on to illegally attack another country (Iraq) to do the same thing.  Now Karzai will fall in Afghanistan and despite the present appearance of progress in Iraq, it will also collapse before the political situation in that area stabilizes.  And no amount of propping up by the US military will make a damned bit of difference…
The remainder of this blog is my personal opinion and not really part of the book review…
Bush failed miserably in both efforts at nation building – although he was clearly a success in initially overthrowing both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
Bush has left President Obama to clean up his (Bush’s) utter failures and, unfortunately, President Obama has followed bad advice and is choosing to slowly extract us from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I personally do NOT believe leaving 30,000 to 50,000 troops (and a similar number of contractors) in Iraq is “withdrawing“.  I want every single post closed and every last soldier brought home.  I feel the same way about Afghanistan!!  Out NOW!!
As un-liberal, un-Democratic and un-Christian as this sounds, we do not need to be there to kill people over there – lots and lots of people.  Yes, many innocents will also be hurt and killed, but the bottom line is their leaders don’t care about them (the average person).  Their leaders only care about themselves.  If we have to blow up a few thousand innocent civilians to get to their leaders, so be it.  It won’t take many “examples” before the rest of the world realizes we are serious and mean business – and don’t mess with us.
The flip side to this is we should also stop propping up the governments of other countries and we should bring all of our soldiers home – from Europe, Asia and Africa.  If a foreign government nationalizes some part of an American company – tough!  You should have kept your capital here where it was safe or you should have invested it in such a way the government didn’t feel they had to seize your assets.  Other than American citizens overseas, we have NO national interests in other countries!!  Read George Washington’s farewell address…  Avoid foreign entanglements!
Self-governing is difficult enough for Americans here in the United States.  Let’s leave other governments to their own people for a change.
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Yes.
There.  I’ve said it!
I didn’t think I ever could (or would) admit it, but it’s time to own up to the fact that as much hope as we placed in the election of President Barack Obama, so far his administration has been a disappointment.
Now, before anyone (and there aren’t many of you) reading this starts flaming me (or praising me), hear me out.
Do I have any regrets in voting for Obama over McCain?  Of course not!  John McCain has devolved from a principled statesman to a shrill mouthpiece for repressive and reactionary conservatism.  His choice of Palin as his running mate demonstrated his inability to make decisions for the good of the country.  Can ANYONE seriously look themselves in the mirror and imagine HER one heartbeat from the Presidency (without having to forcibly restrain themselves from gagging)?
But is it enough to no longer have a criminal (Bush/Cheney) administration in the White House??
I argue that it is not enough.
So what have the Democrat’s done?
Saved the economy by bailing out the big banks.  That’s a qualified “maybe” in my books.
I score that:
Big Banks +1 — little banks -2
Rich Investors +1 — working class folks (and the capitalist economy) -2
“Passed” Health Insurance?
I score that:
Insurance Industry +30,000,000 — working class folks +0.5 (for hope)
Now, I know some of you are saying HOPE?!?
Well, consider – single payer?  Nope.  Public option?  Nope.  Cost effective? Nope.  Cost containing??  Nope.  Universal coverage?  Nope.  (Universal charging, but not universal coverage.)  Well, at least it covers dental and vision as part of HEALTH insurance?  Nope.  It doesn’t do that either.
At the moment, HOPE seems to be the insurance company can’t kick me off their policy if I get a major (“expensive”) illness.  Oh yeah, and my kids are covered for a few more years (26) under MY policy because they can’t get jobs or when they can, their employer doesn’t offer health insurance.  Did I forget to mention that most small companies are only “encouraged” to provide health coverage.  That’s political double-speak for “not required”.
“War” on Terrorism?
Bin Laden? Still goin’
Iraq?  Still occupied (but we’ll be out in a couple of years.  Maybe.  If things work out…)
Afghanistan?  Still occupied (and increasing troops).  Well, at least we’ve stopped firing our generals for telling the public their opinions.  No, wait.  We haven’t stopped doing that either…  At least McChrystal was honest and half right.  Yes, we don’t know what we are doing there.  But he was also half wrong – IMHO – there is no “solution” to Afghanistan, except to leave.
I’m real sorry Bush/Cheney screwed up those two countries!!  Next problem, please!
Pro-Choice?  What good is a Supreme Court decision when so many states have no (that’s zero,”0″, zip, nada) doctors who will perform “legal” abortions.
Pro-life?  Then why do you keep murdering people?  And why are people allowed to keep encouraging you to kill people?
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?  You can bleed and die for us, but please don’t force us to ask you…  And lie to us if you do force us.  (If you want to continue to risk your life defending us.)
Energy Independence?  Please google: “Gulf Coast”, “BP”, or the death of the Gulf of Mexico.  (Ok, I made that last one up.)
So, yeah.  I’d say so far the Obama Administration has done a failing job of running the country.
Where do we go from here??
First – we’re in the majority!  Act!!  Let the Republicans filibuster.  And when they run out of steam, vote!
Second – propose and pass an immediate jobs/energy bill to get us off of oil within ten years.  Blanket the whole of the south-west with solar panels if we have to.  Jobs for everyone and cheaper energy too!!
Third – get out of Iraq and Afghanistan!  Six months, tops!  It took less time to invade them and conquer them.  It’s time to bring our people home.  And if anyone is worried about them getting attacked on the way out – make it CRYSTAL CLEAR what happens.  And tell everyone at the same time as we say we are leaving, so it’s clear up front – DON’T MESS WITH US WHILE WE’RE GOING HOME!!
Fourth – Give me a break!!  The President issues a direct order killing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  If the military object, ask for resignations!  Their job is to follow orders and lead soldiers who are “willing” to fight for this country.  If they can’t follow this order, how good will they be in a real war.
Fifth – close Gitmo!
Sixth – repeal the Patriot Act!
Seventh – repeal the Bush tax cuts on anyone making over one million dollars and any family making over 1.5 million.  The time to save our children’s future is NOW!
Eighth –  Fully fund education with a commitment to public service.  Period.  Set up a government agency to issue loans to folks who choose not to serve.  They still get loans, just at a higher rate.  Make schools 10 hour days, and everyone takes arts (of some type) and physical education.  Make schools year-round with a couple of one week breaks.  Get rid of summer vacation.
IF we do ANY of these things, will we still avoid disaster this November?  Probably not.  Will Obama be able to get re-elected and pull back a few of the losses – maybe.
But if we don’t even TRY?  What then for hope?
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I believe that true freedom is paid for with blood and sacrifice…  [Although I am a veteran, I have not – ever – served in an active war or combat zone.]
Given: The war in Iraq was a mistake from the start.
President Bush decided he wanted to take out Saddam Hussein and his government and so Bush used misinformation (unlawfully in my opinion), the post-9/11 public fear of terrorists, and our military to do this.  The “war” in Afghanistan, however, was not a “mistake” to start off.
Having said the above, I believe the continuing “war” in Afghanistan is a major political and economic mistake for the United States – now – and we need to set a timetable for immediate withdrawal of all troops.
Of course, we will have to reprise the Nixon/Kissinger  “Peace with Honor” two step to dance our way out with our usual embarrassing lack of grace, but the truth is we’ve done all we can there and the time is long past when we should leave.
The U.S. is not very good at nation-building.  Just look within our own borders.  We’ve been working on our own country for over 200 years.  We only ended segregation 50 years ago and we still can’t pass an equal rights for women amendment.  What hope do we seriously have in changing a mostly primitive (by our Western standards), but ancient tribal culture into something approximating our own.
I would argue very little…
This is not meant to imply we should not have gone to Afghanistan in the first place, after all, it was the base for Al Qaeda to train “terrorists”.  So, after 9/11, we were fully justified in going in and disrupting the then-ruling Taliban government and hunting down and destroying Al Queda.   We did the first and failed to do the second (so far).
It was obvious after the Tora Bora fiasco (Dec 2001), we lacked the will and political skill to finish off Al Queda, so the time to leave was then – not all these many years, and lives later.
…And we’re still counting (both years and lives).
There simply is no political solution to Afghanistan.  We can bleed our own military forces and economy for years to come and there will never be a political solution.  There is only one  when some one hurts you and you hurt them back, it serves very little good to try to “rehabilitate” them to be like you so they won’t hurt you again.  You hurt them (the political elite, not the average citizen); you make it clear that if they try it again, you’ll be back and it’ll be worse for them next time; and then you walk away.
What we need to do is finish getting out of Iraq while setting a short-term timetable for getting out of Afghanistan – and then do it.  Just leave!!!
We can still promise economic and humanitarian aid to either (or both), but we need to get our precious sons and daughters out of harm’s way.  Then we need to rebuild our forces based on the lessons learned from these two wasteful efforts – mainly, we need BOTH a main fighting force (that was so successful against Iraq – twice) AND a flexible fighting force capable of winning a future “quick punch in the nose”, fight and leave war (like Afghanistan should have been).
Rebuilding the military will not be inexpensive and we should not fool ourselves into believing we are going to get a “peace-time bonus/dividend”.  Rebuilding will be VERY costly.  But the alternative is to not be ready when the “bad-guys” out there misread our departure as failure of will instead of as basic American practicality and our love for the blood and lives of our sons and daughters.
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