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Monday, December 07, 2009

Dems Clinging to Spin on Obama's Afghanistan Policy Despite Clear Evidence to the Contrary?


I know it's considered gauche in some circles to recognize that we still have two "wars" sucking billions of dollars out of our treasury and making it very hard to fund our essential services, infrastructure, health care and employment needs right here in the US of A. After eight years, It's apparently even worse form to see President Obama's dramatic escalation of the Afghanistan-whatever-it-is for what it really is.

If you got all your news by following various progressives on their blogs or Facebook or Twitter, there's a good chance you wouldn't even know that something that will be significant for decades to come was happening in regard to Afghanistan policy. Better to make jokes about Palin or Beck or mock the GOP tea-partying fools than own up to the fact that the man we elected to effect real change is instead continuing the BushCo follies in foreign poicy, albeit with a lot more "thought" and calming rhetoric, and considerably less braggadocio and enthusiasm.

Significant numbers of Democrats -- including many Dems in Congress -- are apparently clinging to the "hope" that the latest "surge" will be short-lived, and that Obama meant what he said when he claimed we could start a serious troop reduction by July of 2011. They apparently believe the fairy tale that, by then, we'll have accomplished (or at least made significant progress toward) the outrageously unlikely goals Obama delineated in his speech last week.  

In just 18 months, we'll have transformed the Karzai regime into an effective and efficient central government. In just 18 months, we'll have trained up tens of thousands of recalcitrant tribal members to create an Afghan military and police force that would provide adequate "security" so we can, as Bush used to say about Iraq, stand down when they stand up. What hooey.

Something for Everyone
Just days after Obama's Afghanistan speech to the nation we have his Defense Secretary, Secretary of State and others spilling the beans on TV about what's really in store for American troops and taxpayers. According to an article in the New York Times today,

In a flurry of coordinated television interviews, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials said that any troop pullout beginning in July 2011 would be slow and that the Americans would only then be starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces under Mr. Obama’s new plan.

... “There isn’t a deadline,” Mr. Gates said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “What we have is a specific date on which we will begin transferring responsibility for security district by district, province by province in Afghanistan, to the Afghans.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Gates said that under the plan, 100,000 American troops would be in Afghanistan in July 2011, and “some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.”

Got it? The July 2011 date is apparently a sop to liberals -- something designed to give us the ability to remain in denial about what's really happening with the war machine so we can avoid facing reality. At the same time, the administration has clearly decided that they must placate those upset with the idea that our military follies in the region might not be infinite:


“We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times,” said Gen. James L. Jones, the president’s national security adviser, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re going to be in the region for a long time.”

Phew. I'm sure all the arms makers and private war and security contractors are breathing a sign of relief -- not to mention the mine manufacturers that were already heartened by Obama's refusal to join about 150 other nations in signing the international ban on land mine use. Hard to believe we remain in solidarity with China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia in refusing to get rid of the weapon that maims and kills indiscriminately for decades after an armed conflict ends. This is what passes as the Change We Can Believe In these days.

As explained in the New York Times, Obama's intent isn't really to level with the American people on what, exactly, his administration will be doing in Afghanistan, but to obfuscate and spin so that all factions think he's on their side:

As they seek to explain the new war strategy, administration officials face the task of calibrating the message about America’s commitments in Afghanistan to different audiences, foreign and domestic, each of whom wants to hear different things.

Calibration, not truth. Is anyone else seeing a clear connection to Bill Clinton's triangulating, approval-seeking, baffle them with BS approach to governing and PR? We voted for leadership but, at least to this point, it appears we're getting more split the difference, "moderate" obedience to the powers that be than anything resembling any decisive breaks with the past.

As if things weren't muddled enough about what Obama intends, note that his spokesman claimed last week that there's no wiggle room in the July 2011 withdrawal date:

I asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs if senators were incorrect calling the date a "target."

After the briefing, Gibbs went to the president for clarification. Gibbs then called me to his office to relate what the president said. The president told him it IS locked in -- there is no flexibility. Troops WILL start coming home in July 2011. Period. It's etched in stone. Gibbs said he even had the chisel.

As Glenn Greewald asks:

Is it remotely possible that the months of extremely careful, cerebral, thoughtful deliberations produced complete ambiguity on this central point, or is it that Obama's plan is designed to be sufficiently ambiguous so that nobody knows what it actually entails and everyone can therefore be told that it means what they want it to mean? And which is worse?

Winning or Losing?
 At this point, it might be useful to consider how well we're "winning" what's called the "war on terror." We're still spending a couple billion dollars a week, more or less, on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can see the speeding counters for the total amount spent on the wars since 2001, as well as separate counters for Afghanistan and Iraq, at Cost of War. That's not counting the "covert operations" undertaken in Pakistan and who knows where else by the CIA and other shadowy elements in our military-security-intelligence apparatus. 

You can't tell me there's no better and more economical way to track and stop terrorists than continually borrowing huge sums of money to wage eternal war -- as it was called when Bush was doing it.

Do you think bin Laden and his cohorts are unhappy about the astounding amounts of money (not to mention lives) we have lost in seeking to stop terrorism by invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq? Could it be that luring America into these wars was meant all along to bankrupt us monetarily, spiritually and emotionally? While America's education and health care systems, social safety net and infrastructure continue to be devastated by so much of our attention and cash being spent to wage military actions, "the terrorists" must be laughing among themselves. What better way to paralyze America and entice us to explode our national deficit so that we are ineffective for decades to come? 

Sometimes I can feel like we're playing right into their hands. How about you?

December 7, 2009 at 12:12 PM in Afghanistan, Military Affairs, Obama Administration | Permalink


I HOPE Heinrich, Lujan and Teague will vote against the money for this or I don't know what they plan to run on in 2010. We elected them to stop the wars not keep them going.

Posted by: Roger | Dec 7, 2009 2:01:56 PM

You hit the nail on the head again. It would be a different story if Bush or McCain was doing this in Afghanistan. Are the Obama people still being groupies?

Posted by: Old Dem | Dec 7, 2009 2:52:31 PM

We need to be as tough on Obama as any other politician. He's acting like a politician not a leader.

Posted by: Marie | Dec 7, 2009 3:54:55 PM

I don't believe they can or will get out of there that fast. This is a lie and nothing more. Do they think we're that dumb? Bothers me very much

Posted by: Sean | Dec 7, 2009 4:21:49 PM

Afghanistan wore down both the British Empire and the USSR. We think we're different?

Posted by: Peace Now | Dec 7, 2009 5:15:44 PM

If this was the Bush/Cheney admin...there would be 20 comments here decrying the escalation.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 7, 2009 9:07:52 PM

Obama campaigned on getting out of Iraq and focusing on Afghanistan. Perhaps he is keeping that promise with more vigor than expected...

Meanwhile, the insurgents in Iraq continue their bombings and killings. Another 100-plus killed yesterday. So what is their excuse now for murdering their own, as the US withdraws?

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Dec 8, 2009 6:08:28 AM