Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

First order of business is to let you know that I was recently offered a new writing gig. Yay for me, right? I will be a music writer for which is a new website that focuses on everything Omaha (I guess the name would have implied that). I just submitted my first piece which is basically a preview of all of the great concerts coming to the Metro area this month. I was "discovered" through this here site. So, I guess after five years, something good did actually come from this.

In other news, I made sure to tune in to President Obama's speech last night at West Pointe. In all honesty, I don't know what to think. I am very torn on this issue. After 9/11, I fully supported former President Bush's initial invasion into Afghanistan. I wanted (and still do) for us to find Osama Bin Laden and kill him. It looks like we almost did at the end of '01 in Tora Bora, but Bush's military leadership outsourced the job to Afghans, who screwed it up. That seems like the last time we, as a nation, were fully committed to catching and killing those responsible for planning 9/11. I never supported the Iraq War. Even in 2002-03, I could tell that the case being made for Iraq was bogus. It's true. We took our eye off the ball with respect to Bin Laden and Al Qeada, and got too wrapped up in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, had no WMD, and posed no threat to us. I will never forgive George W. Bush for his failure in this regard. He promised we would get Bin Laden, and then he completely forgot his name. Instead, thousands of American soldiers were killed or wounded for a war that ultimately ended up benefiting Iran and Exxon. We didn't even get cheap gas out of the deal!

All of that is my long winded way of getting to the present time and the current president. After more than seven years of virtual neglect by the Bush Administration, most senior Al Qeada leaders have escaped into neighboring Pakistan. All throughout the last eight years, myself and many others on the liberal side have argued for a re-commitment to Afghanistan, and to finish the job that was neglected by the last administration. But now that we know that Al Qeada is no longer in Afghanistan, I'm not entirely sure why we need to keep adding troops to that theater.

Last Spring, President Obama sent some 20,000 more troops to the country which gave that war the highest number of American forces ever. Now, with the Iraq War finally coming to a close, the president has decided to send an additional 30,000 to Afghanistan. Why, exactly? The Afghan people have little invested in their current government. President Karzai's administration is rife with corruption, and large portions of the country are not under his control. Are the Afghan people really going to step up and join the army to fight for a government that steals elections, sells drugs, and hasn't been able to get its act together after many years in office? I doubt it. The Afghans are not Iraqis. Iraq had a functioning civil government and a national military before we came along. They understood the concept, and felt personally invested in their future as a nation. A casual glance at Afghan history will tell you that is not nearly the case there. Most folks there consider themselves to be a member of their tribe as opposed to a citizen of a nation.

So, if training up a national Afghan military is less than likely to yield the results we want, the Afghan government is hopeless, and Al Qeada has escaped, what are all of these additional troops going to do? How will any US strategic goal be met? How will our national security be enhanced?

On the other hand, there is Pakistan. This is the kind of place that could keep a person up at night if they really considered how dangerous the country is. Like Afghanistan, there are large portions of the nation that are not under government control. There is a radical element inside Pakistan's military and intelligence communities, and the government has made numerous deals with the militants who are sheltering Bin Laden. But, unlike Afghanistan, there are nuclear weapons in Pakistan. That is the scary part. Those nukes cannot ever get into the hands of Al Qeada or others who would use them for terrorist acts. But we can't just invade Pakistan. We've already bullshitted our way into one war, so the same tactic of making up a false premise to invade would not work.

Let's not kid ourselves. We have been actively engaged in military operations inside Pakistan for a long time. It started under President Bush, but has been escalated by President Obama. Only these operations are done by the CIA, which has its own air force, its own weapons, its own mission, and is accountable to practically no one. Perhaps the CIA is achieving some measure of success. Who knows. We don't really admit to what's going on there, so we really have no idea.

If I understood the president last night, he was essentially arguing that we need to secure Afghanistan and get them a military. This, in turn, will force the Pakistanis to re-double their efforts at fighting the Taliban and Al Qeada inside their country. This is necessary because if the Pakistanis don't do this, their government could be overthrown by those extremist elements, and then we would have the nightmare scenario: a jihadi state with nuclear weapons. At least, I think that's what he was saying.

The problem, for me, is that I still don't see why we need so many additional troops. After they all arrive, we will have over 100,000 American soldiers there, plus NATO troops, plus over 100,000 contractors. All of this is necessary to push the (very weak) Pakistani government to take care of its own problem?! I mean, they don't even have the will or ability to expel Bin Laden from the country. 9/11 was conducted by 19 guys, and planned by another dozen or so. Much of the plot was hatched in an apartment in Germany. Having a million soldiers in Germany would not have prevented their plotting, nor would having a million soldiers in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Unlike what the Bushies have been saying for the last eight years, fighting terrorism is not best handled militarily. It is an intelligence and law enforcement issue; and almost all of our success in fighting terrorism has come from human intelligence and not from planting an army in a country and inviting terrorists to come in and attack. I think we can all agree on that now.

The one thing I did like was that President Obama gave this effort a time frame. As much as the right likes to say this is a bad idea, let's be honest, until President Bush finally relented and gave a date certain for the US leaving, the insurgents kept on fighting and killing us, and the government did little to nothing to work out its differences. Now that a period has been put on the end of that sentence, the Iraqi government is finally making some political progress, and life is returning to normal for the Iraqi people. The Iraqis understood that we were not there for colonization or occupation. The Afghans need to understand this as well.

In this case, I think we need to make sure that Karzai and our own military leaders understand this war will not go on forever. President Obama inherited a shitty situation, a neglected problem, a burnt out NATO, and emboldened Taliban, and angry allies. For the military to insist that more of the same will somehow yield better results seems counter intuitive. The military will always ask for more troops and more time. That goes without saying. And as long as Karzai has the American military at his disposal, he has little incentive to reform his government and make the necessary alliances with tribal leaders. If both Mr. Karzai and the military brass know that they must get results by a certain time or it's game over, they both have a stronger incentive to actually do what needs to be done, rather than stall and delay.

Despite what one might hear on Fox News, the president essentially took Gen McChrystal's recommendation entirely. While military leaders under the last president were allowed an indefinite time to accomplish a vague goal; under this president, the military has been given a time frame and clearly defined goals. They must achieve success. The country cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road for another decade.

So, while I am torn as to why we need to escalate the war after so much time has passed, I have confidence in President Obama. Obama has confidence in McChrystal, so I guess I do, too. I certainly hope everything goes the way we are planning, but I am far from certain. Will we end up leaving in 2011 or 2012 with the situation essentially the same as it was in 2002 or 2003? After all the fighting in Vietnam after 1969, we ended up signing the same peace deal proposed by LBJ in 1968! Yet how many US soldiers died from 69-73? How many Vietnamese? I don't want to see this same thing happen again.


T. Paine said...

Splash, I realize that my rebuttal is a complete waste of time on this as you cherry pick the facts that support your agenda and ignore those that are contrary to it.

It doesn't matter that Iraq DID have WMD's and the rest of the world, including the UN, knew it.

It doesn't matter now that Obama FINALLY met with General McChrystal after months of his requesting a meeting, and then took a month to decide on a course of action after the fact.

It doesn't matter that Obama gave the general only 30K of the 40K troops that the general needs to accomplish his mission in Afghanistan.

It doesn't matter that Obama has completely tied the hands of the troops he is sending with asinine rules of engagement.

It doesn't matter that Obama prosecutes the war on terror like a crime instead of the acts of war that they are. (Despite the fact that this tactic failed horribly and repeatedly under Clinton.)

What matters is that Obama is trying to find some middle ground to appease his left wing base and yet still make good on one of his campaign promises.

It matters that he is playing politics with the war there and in trying to avoid a Viet Nam scenario, he is only ensuring that the exact same thing happens again. Hell, he might as well be getting out his ojai board and contacting McNamara on the other side.

Frankly, I'd rather he just bring everyone home right now if he is not going to prosecute the war with full gusto. Bush made that mistake at first in Iraq and took justifiable criticism for it, including from Obama. Too bad he doesn't listen to his own advice.

Our next president will have a mess to deal with over there in 2012, but at least we won't be needlessly throwing American lives away for a war he doesn't really want to fight anyway in the meantime.

Dave Splash said...

The strategy you advocate is a proven failure, and no amount of tough talk from Cheney or blaming Bill Clinton (really, you righties need to get over Bill Clinton) will change that fact. I applaud President Obama for taking the time to re-evaluate the situation, test the old assumptions, and think through the scenario that will yield the best result for the country and achieve our goals. We are not at war with Afghanistan. Our enemies are Al Qeada and the Taliban. Armies were not designed to fight idealogies. The militaristic approach you support has not yielded any success against the actual people who plotted and planned 9/11. Most terrorist acts are committed by individuals or small groups. An army can do nothing to find the four assholes sitting around in their apartment plotting a bomb attack on an American city. Contrary to what you argue, IT IS intelligence and law enforcement that has the most success in stopping terrorist plots before they happen.

The whole "Obama wants to please his left wing base" is not based on fact. The anti-war elements on left are opposed to any troops being there. Period. They want immediate withdrawal. The president gave them nothing with his plan. As a candidate, President Obama said repeatedly throughout 2007 and 2008 that he wanted to end the war in Iraq and move 2-3 combat brigades immediately to Afghanistan. He argued then, as he does now, that the sole purpose for our being there is to disrupt Al Qeada and capture or kill Osmama Bin laden. Imposing democracy on countries is not part of the plan.

I find it fascinating that in the absence of any measurable success in Afghanistan under George Bush, you and the rest of the right see any deviation from his polices as either weakness or failure. You guys have gone off the deep end. How about giving a change in strategy a chance before deciding it has already failed. Why was it unpatriotic to criticize the commander in chief while troops were on the ground from Jan 20, 2001 - January 20, 2009, yet now the president is just another target for the right to advance its narrow political agenda? Like I said in my post, I supported Bush when the war started and I wanted success. I wanted him to get Bin laden and the rest of his cronies. But he didn't get the job done. Perhaps you righties could just shut up for a while, support the commander in chief, and hope for success. I know that won't happen, however, as you guys would rather lose the war than acknowledge that some Democrat might actually have a valid point or strategy.

Dave Splash said...

Honestly, Paine, I thought you were a little more of a straight shooter and less of a blind, rabid partisan, but I guess I misunderestimated you. Your recitation of the thoroughly discredited, Dick Cheney talking points is kind of sad. I think we are well beyond the right wing mantras of 2002. Maybe you need a factual refresher course. And talk about cherry picking!? Seriously, man?

Your response to my post shows that not only did you not actually read it, but you possess a very biased grasp of the facts of the last nine years. Remember, there are other channels besides Fox News.

There were no WMDs in Iraq at the time the war started. Bush KNEW this to be true, as every single inspector said so, and the Iraqi regime provided proof of its destruction many, many years ago. Saddam Hussein kept a pretense that he had weapons to stave off Iran and other regional adversaries, but there was no significant amount of weapons. Certainly, they were no threat to the US.

Regarding Gen. McChrystal, the president has spoken to him many more times than twice. Plus, you know there is this thing called the telephone. Oh yeah, and video conferencing. There is more than one way to "meet" in 2009.

Maybe you right wingers have forgotten something about America...the president is the commander in chief and the generals follow his orders. It is NOT the other way around. McChrystal submitted multiple plans with various amounts of troop numbers. There was not just one plan submitted. Both McChrystal and his superior, Gen. Patreus have confirmed this.

And why is thinking about a problem such an anathema to conservatism? We have been in Afghanistan for eight years. After some initial success, there has been virtually none in the remaining years. The Bush/Cheney team abdicated their responsibility to the country and the troops. So, after 7 years of failure, you would begrudge a president who inherited a failed policy an extra month to come up with a new strategy? What has changed in the country from November 1 to December 1? A new 9/11? Bin laden is making threatening videos? No. Nothing. In fact, the only real change is that everyone now KNOWS that Hamid Karzai is corrupt and has little public support. The Bush/Cheney model, that you hold in such high regard, would say that no matter what happens domestically in Afghanistan no strategy can ever be changed, REGARDLESS OF FACTS ON THE GROUND. Any change = weakness. Any adaptation = surrender. Any re-evaluation = failure. That is the Bush method. The method that the American people overhwelmingly rejected a little over a year ago. (cont)

T. Paine said...

I could write a thesis paper on why you are wrong and why we went to Iraq, but what is the point? You have made up your mind and nothing will change it.

Further, there WERE unaccounted for WMD's in Iraq prior the second war. The UN issued a resolution (I think it was 1441) that said that Iraq must allow inspectors back into Iraq and stop playing games with the inspectors or force could be used to enforce the resolution.

The UN knew there were weapons there, most of Europe knew it, hell even Hillary knew it and thus her vote for authorizing Bush to use force (before she joined the false chorus of "Bush lied" for her own political cover. Remember her being taken to task by Obama in the campaign for that?)

The fact that Bush was foolish enough to telegraph that we were sending troops months in advance gave Saddam plenty of time to hide what few WMD's he had left... probably in Syria. One thing is certain; left alone Saddam would have re-constituted his WMD program again.

As for Afghanistan, you evidently are making some huge assumptions that are inaccurate on my behalf.
I am not nor have been pleased with how Bush prosecuted the war in Afghanistan. He also did that in half measures instead of providing overwhelming force to find, capture, and kill bin Laden and eradicate al Qeada.

Now commander in chief and brilliant military strategist General Obama is going to ignore the advice of his generals on how to win the war, give them 3/4's of the troops asked for, saddle them with dangerous rules of engagement, and tell the enemy how long they have to wait us out before they can have the country back. Real damned smart.

I don't have a problem with a time table for draw-down; it should be told to only high-level Afghan government officials and our military commanders though. NOT to our enemies.

As for the police vs. war mentality you are egregiously wrong, sir. Clinton used intelligence and police tactics against terrorism in his administration. The first World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, USS Cole, embassy bombings etc were the result of that stupidity.

Bush, after the 9/11 attacks, took it for the act of war it was and put the terrorists on defense in an all out war. No other successful attacks have occurred since. Bush put the terrorists on the run and didn't give them time to plan and execute any attacks as they were too busy trying to survive. Sorry, but if Obama reverses course on that, we all will pay for it with another attack.

Dave Splash said...

I'm not going to go back and forth with you and re-litigate the Iraq War. There were no WMDs in significant quantities, and the bogus theory that they were moved to Syria has been debunked. We were monitoring the regime for years prior, and there is little chance that our intelligence, the Israeli intelligence, or anyone else would have missed the transportation.

The American people in poll after poll and election cycle after election cycle have signaled that the war was a mistake and that it distracted us from the real fight against Al Qeada. I am one such person.

But, see, you misunderstood my post all together. I was not trying to say that Obama's strategy was the best plan I've ever heard. My post showed that I have doubts about the necessity of adding troops and even continuing in the war. But, what you see as all of the success in using armies to fight an ideology, I see as a series of failures. Not failures of the military, but failures of the commander-in-chief, George W Bush.

Considering all of the terrorists put on trial by either the Clinton administration or the Bush Administration in civilian courts have yielded convictions, I fail to see any failure. I guess you like the idea of locking people up indefinitely without trial, torturing them, and then telling the world to fuck off when they ask about it. Me, I want to display to the world that our system of laws is the best in the world, and that even human pieces of filth like KSM can get a fair trial. America leads best when it leads by example.

While you Bushies like to say there weren't any terrorist attacks under his watch, you conveniently forget that 9/11 itself happened on his watch, and it was due to his putting terrorism on a low priority after assuming office. He ignored the warnings of the Clinton Administration and refused to allow his senior staff to meet with experts like Richard Clarke. If you want to blame Obama for some possible future attack, then you need to be prepared to blame Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld for 9/11. Fair is fair.

But my point that conservatives are guilty of doing what they decried as anti-military and un-patriotic still stands. If it was wrong to criticize a war time president who is a Republican, I fail to see why your standard has changed. Hell, I bet President Obama could get Bin Laden's head on a stick, bring it to Congress, and you guys would still attack him for failing. That's how much your all consuming hatred of Obama has become.

T. Paine said...

Dave...last comments and then I'll leave this alone...probably :).
There is indeed credible intelligence that Syria has some of Saddam's old WMD's. Where you come up with this being thoroughly debunked, I have no idea.

Further, it was a the failure of intelligence, particularly U.S. intelligence, that allowed 9/11 to happen to begin with. I doubt they were able to track Saddam's hiding of WMD's in the build up to the war either. You might say my confidence is a little thin in our intelligence gathering there.

I understand your point about fighting an ideology too, and I do see some validity to it, but that doesn't change the way things must be done to combat that in Afghanistan, in my opinion.

As for bringing KSM and other terrorist scum to civilian trial and affording them U.S. Constitutional rights in doing so, it is absolutely preposterous. I am absolutely for rule of law and providing them a trial by military tribunal though.

In that way classified evidence and intelligence sources are not exposed in a public trial because some God damned ACLU lawyer files a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of these murderous vermin. (I did a posting on my blog a short while back on why bringing KSM to New York in particular was dangerous, stupid, and set a horrible precedent.)

I further agree that 9/11 happening is also Bush's fault too. He was not changing anything from the Clinton administration regarding how terrorism was fought and intelligence collected and diseminated until AFTER the attack. He absolutely shares a huge part of the blame!

Further, I hope that our military does succeed with what President Obama has given General McChrystal. I don't want Obama to fail in this. I simply don't understand why Obama doesn't listen to the experts and provide them with all that they requested to ensure victory though.

If, in the course of the war there, Osama bin Laden is captured under Obama's watch, I will indeed give him credit where it is due. Frankly, that is more than what the left or he did for Bush though.

Snave said...

I think it's a shame that outfits like the Project for a New American Century were so influential. If more people had questioned such bad advice, we might not have gone to Iraq and might have instead concentrated on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The PNAC people put their empire-building plans above national (and world) security. And even after "9-11" they weren't about to see their plans derailed.

Because our country seems to not learn from history, I wouldn't be surprised to see the PNAC rearing it's ugly head again at some point, and when it does, I won't be surprised to find that many who adhere to their philosophy are prominent Republicans. And I won't be surprised if someday we elect another pro-PNAC person president.