Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last Stop Before Obamastan

I've been out of town and on the road for the last several days. My regular readers can only imagine my off-line frustrations at having access only to the retail news offerings of the MSM: it doesn't serve any useful purpose to throw one's shoes at your hosts' TV's. I do not understand how anyone more intelligent than I, like my sons, can take this clustered stuff passively. Their immune system is stronger than mine.
That said, it's past time to record some observations on flotsam carried before my eyes and ears on the River De Nile this past week.

Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and a member of the Obama war council, is the latest insider to dissent against President General McChrystal's plans for Afghanistan. He has sent a pair of classified cables to Washington expressing deep reservations about the possibility of sending more U.S. troops, calling it a "bad idea". Eikenberry is no light weight, Johnny-come-lately to the Afghanistan quicksand.  As a  three-star general, he commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan 2006-2007. Obama appointed
Eikenberry,ambassador one day after the general retired.

Earlier in the week, another old Afghanistan hand now in Obama's camp, entered caveats. General James Jones, in his capacity of supreme allied commander of NATO, has dealt with Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai at length. This week in an der Speigel interview, General Jones shared his misgivings pertaining to escalation:

Generals always ask for more troops. Take it from me.

... and of course when I was there I asked for more troops. When we started in 2003, we had to develop a plan. So by definition, you have to ask for people.

I believe we will not solve the problem with troops alone. The minimum number is important, of course. But there is no maximum number, however. And what's really important in Afghanistan is that with this new administration we insist on good governance, that it be coordinated with economic development and security, and that we have much, much better success at handing over responsibility for these three things to the Afghans.

we cannot solve the problems with only military forces. You can keep on putting troops in, and you could have 200,000 troops there and the country will swallow them up as it has done in the past. There are many empires who tried to make Afghanistan a stable and different country ....
Then there were also the cautions of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ex-Secretary of State) Gen. Colin Powell, also experienced with Afghanistan. (A comment earlier in these pages has estimated that only 13% of the preconditions of the Powell Doctrine are currently in effect in Afghanistan.) Powell's cautions on ABC News to Obama went like,
This ... isn't just a one-time decision. This is the decision that will have consequences for the better part of his administration. So Mr. President, don't get pushed by the left to do nothing; don't get pushed by the right to do everything. You take your time and you figure it out. You're the commander-in-chief and this is what you were elected for .... not be rushed into a decision because this one is the decision that will have consequences for years to come ....

If you decide to send more troops or that's what you feel it is necessary, make sure you have a good understanding of what those troops are going to be doing and some assurance that the additional troops will be successful ..... You can't guarantee success in a very complex theater like Afghanistan and increasingly with the Pakistan problem next door, but you have to have some sense of what these additional troops will be able to do.

And secondly, take your time, and third, you've got to ensure that you're putting this commitment on a solid base, and the base is a little soft right now. We've got a president in Afghanistan that had a rough election; a lot of corruption associated with the election; a lot of corruption in the government .... And so the president has to measure that; what kind of base is he putting this new strategy on because it isn't just what we do; what do the Afghans do ....
And President-sElect Hamid Karzai? Even he had his opinions. Karzai told PBS's The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer:
The West is not here primarily for the sake of Afghanistan. It is here to fight terrorism. The United States and its allies came to Afghanistan after September 11. Afghanistan was troubled like hell before that, too. Nobody bothered about us.
That happens to be the fooking truth. Why else should the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bother? If Karsai would have told the whole truth, he would have added that the USA is only staying in Afghanistan because of American domestic political calculations.

Make that "miscalculations". 

To catalog Republicant complaints of Obama's alleged "dithering" on McChrystal's pet project's requirements would unnecessarily prolong today's column. Suffice it to say, the transparent GOP goal is to have Afghanistan transformed into Obamastan before the next presidential election.

I wish I could credit the bipartisan-compliant Obama for having sufficient prescience to escape the fate they have in mind for him.


  1. VIG; Great post ! !

    Karzai=Diem. imo; some of this [rethinking] might have started with Abdullah. It was a calculated move on his part, and maybe on the part of the West. Obama does not want to carry this troop escalation baggage with him when he goes to Asia. Many countries no longer wish to be part of the "willing". The Shrubster call of " you are either with us or against us" is null and void. Obama needs to keep a tighter leash on Shillary. Her and her covert State Dept. team is in the Patreus, Mc Chrystal camp beating the war drums. W.T.F. is Holbrooke being sent to RUSSIA ??????

  2. The United States and its allies came to Afghanistan after September 11. Afghanistan was troubled like hell before that, too. Nobody bothered about us.

    Yeah Karzai, but if you had your peoples best interests at heart you be trying a whole lot harder to help them.

  3. Karzai and his brother are real pieces of work. Corruption has always been there..just BushCo didn't give a shit enough.

  4. Obama spoke to the troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base:

    We will give you the strategy and the clear mission you deserve. We will give you the equipment and support that you need to get the job done, and that includes public support back home. That is a promise that I make to you.

    By my count, that's the 451st unkeepable promise Barry has made. If he makes the wrong decision, which appears 90% probable, the last thing in the world I'm going to do is to STFU.

  5. Powell was clearly marginalized during the previous administration. Here's to hoping that General Jones isn't marginalized during Obama's tenure.

  6. I hear that, Will.

    But when Obama tells the Japanese that he's the FIRST PACIFIC PRESIDENT, he's meaning non-Atlantic; he's not meaning non-militarist. Barack Obama has always believe Afghanistan is his war, because it's a 'good' one.

  7. I don't think the president ever said the Afghanistan conflict was a "good" war. He said it was the "right" war at the time, drawing a comparison with Iraq.

    I am aware that Obama is not super-human. I understand that he inherited a country beset with problems dating back to 1994 when the Republicans took control of the congress, and particularly the 8 years of Bush Madness. As a result, before I start calling him names, as many so-called "progressives" are doing, I think I am going to be a little more patient. I am confident he will do the right thing and virtually certain he knows a helluva lot more about this conflict than I do.....

  8. Obama called Afghanistan " A war of necessity". Necessary for who?

    He did not want to be tagged with "A war of choice". Obama's feet have to be held to the fire. If dems complained about the shrub, then they should also be irate if he [stays the course]. Obama is not a "super human" but he was the chosen one by [TPTB]==THE POWERS THAT BE. They select so we may elect.

  9. Mike, on a poll on Politics Plus, readers were asked to grade President Obama. A few minutes ago, I gave him a "B", and commented in his transcripts the following:

    Barry gets a "B", however his class performance has been sliding of late. On economics, he has to be graded "Pass-fail"; on Health Reform it's a "C". Afghanistan is his mid-term examination. IMO, there's only one question on it and only once correct answer. If he doesn't nail his mid-term, he won't be able to enroll in the second semester of Presidential Politics 44.

    Mike, with all due respect, I think you are using an inflated grading scale.

  10. BTW, "Barry" is used as a term of endearment, not of disrespect.

  11. R-Zone, good point with "War of Choice".

    That's the crux: unless you believe the already extravagantly-surged Operation Enduring Freedom, is 'too big to fail', then there is a choice. There's a choice this year, or X years from now. I am saying the only correct choice/answer is to exit.

    Whenever I'm sailing in marginal or extreme conditions and I realize a change in course or sails is needed, I always execute it early rather than later.

    I am conceding that our ship of state is sailing in extreme and marginal conditions and through no fault of Barrack Obama's.

  12. Here's an obvious question for Mad Mike (I am confident he will do the right thing and virtually certain he knows a helluva lot more about this conflict than I do.....):

    Does Obama know that much more about Afghanistan in 2009 than LBJ knew about Vietnam in 1965?

  13. @Doc; excellent point. I guess it all depends on who has his ear at the time. The last military commander that we had a s commander in chief was Eisenhower. Be coming president does not make one an instant authority on the economy, health care or empire building. The regime bring the president, the president does not bring his regime. Does any one really think that shillary was Obama' choice for sec. of state? Of course not.. Here are some of the experts that the MSM do not want us to listen to.

    SO, i guess it all comes down to whose expert he is listening to at the time.

  14. Colin Powell had his ass handed to him by the previous clowns whom he knew were making bad and wrong / illegal choices. He's trying to give Obama sound advice. Karzai has a bankrupt soul_ he thinks in no other mode than corruption. As for the "dithering" complaint...I consider the source, it's more a distinction of Obama's wisdom.
    It does come down to the experts that Obama employs. Hopefully, he'll pull us the hell out.

  15. Vigil: I am not using any type of grading scale, and if I were I would be grading on the curve. If that were the case he would be getting an A+ for what he has done so far.

    Doc: Your question is fair. I think Obama is far more aware of Afghanistan because of the mistakes Johnson made in Vietnam. I do not believe that comparisons between the two conflicts are valid [in most cases], however I believe that both the good and the bad things we do carry great wisdom historically. The smart leader will mine that wisdom. So again and to answer your question more directly: Yes.

  16. @ MM; RE "[in most cases]". LOL, good start. Before you were adamant that there were NO comparisons. So at least now you seeing that there are SOME comparisons. LOL.:-)

  17. I noticed daylight in Mike's response, too, R-Zone. I was going to complement him, but whenever I have done it in the past, it goes to his head and he blows up.

    But since you have made the point about Afghanis-Nam, I won't. I'll just say his comment on grading Obama on the curve was excellent. I agree. Grading BHO on the curve gets him a straight A.

    I'm not sure you would go that far, R-Zone...?

  18. VIG; ROFLMFAO, I am a poor judge of Obama. I expect a LOT from him. The last 8 years have been absolute hell. My hatred for the neocons is beyond explanation. Now i fear the NEOLIBS. LOL. I do not have the patience that others have. Guess it is my age, and expectations. Gates sealing the torture pictures got me really upset today. Keeping him, and the rest of the Clinton retreads was not a wise move. Foreign policy and financial systems are filled by them. Of course i believe that the regime brings the president. the president does not bring the regime. The die hard democracts had better not wait too long to hold this guys feet to the fire. AGAIN, I sincerely hope Obama proves me wrong. But i doubt it.

  19. As I posted on my blogspot last week I'm more concern about the war zones of America's Urban Centers.But as the old saying goes, out of sight out of mine.

  20. Mountains vs. jungles. Maybe a few other distinctions, too. Just can't think of 'em right now.

  21. Here is the “2009 problem”: the US has more than doubled troop numbers this year but has little to show for it. That has held Mr Obama back from embracing General McChrystal’s call for 40,000 more troops. Many advisers support General McChrystal’s plan to train tens of thousands more Afghan police and soldiers as the only plausible way towards an exit.

    But they are sceptical that the training can be accelerated as General McChrystal maintains. That doubt is supported by one policeman’s lethal attack on British soldiers this week.

    Already the annual cost of America’s errand in Afghanistan is larger than that country’s GDP. U.S. success depends on Afghans’ perceiving the central government as legitimate, which they will not do for at least five more years. Americans, led by a commander in chief whose heart is not in it, will not sustain the years of casualties and other costs necessary to create self-sufficient Afghan security forces beneath a corrupt regime.

    In July 24, 2008, in Berlin, Obama stressed the need to “defeat the Taliban.” Then, however, he spoke as a “citizen of the world,” not as president. Now he is being presidential by reconsidering some implications of the politically calculated rhetoric that helped make him president. He is rightly ignoring those who cannot distinguish thinking from dithering.

  22. I have always maintained that the only comparison between Vietnam and Afghanistan is they are both wars. The similarity ends there. The wise man will learn from the mistakes made in those wars and not make the same ones.

    Oh and thanks Vigil and I promise I won't blow up:-) LOL!!

  23. As if this hasn't already happened.

    MSM says so anyway.

    Thanks for your incisive "dithering."


    Suffice it to say, the transparent GOP goal is to have Afghanistan transformed into Obamastan before the next presidential election.

  24. Saw your interesting comments over at MadMike's in which my last comment was... Pakistan is a real concern because of the possibility of their nuclear weapons getting into the hands of al-Qaida terrorists.

  25. Excellent blog entry and a superb discussion following.

    I do disagree with your final point, Vig. I do not think the Republican motive for a continued Afghanistan adventure is to somehow entangle Obama. Rather it is a simple global policing mindset that had Republicans supporting every overseas adventure from Viet Nam to Grenada to Iraq to Afghanistan.

  26. Your POV is always welcomed here, Wizard. And you make a good point that it's not necessarily personal with Obama, this GOP buying this previously-owned McChrystal SUV without looking under the hood. OTOH, I suspect they want to stop what they call our socialist president short in his tracks, by any means available.

    You are also agreeing with my earlier posistion that after the Cold War (where there was bipartisan agreement), in the "New World Order", Republicans have favored off-the-budget military spending while screaming at off-the-budget domestic "entitlement" spending. In other words, as I said in a previous column, Surging in Afghanistan = Purging the Democrats,

    The GOP has always sought to strangle, drown and bury their demon, the welfare state, by ginning up their own warfare state.

    Limiting Obama to a single term is part & parcel.

    Thanks for your visit. I look forward to returning it.

  27. On socialist presidents and our welfare state: Joe Biden says what we got is

    "Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor."