Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finding an exit strategy

I think Frank Rich nails it when he says in his latest New York Times column that the US needs to extract itself from Afghanistan. Rich points out that those who are most loudly advocating sending more troops to that country (namely, John McCain and his allies) were also the people who pushed the invasion of Iraq -- a diversion that forced Afghanistan onto the back-burner, which is why we are still there today.

"Afghanistan is not Iraq," Rich writes. "It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention." And the oft-skipped over reality in Iraq is the much-touted "surge" only found some success because a) the sectarian killing had pretty much succeeded by then in purging the Sunni from Shia areas and vice-versa and b) the Sunni rose up in Anbar province because they'd had enough of the insurgents killing of Muslims.

President Obama needs to begin the withdrawal of American military personnel from Afghanistan. The US has been there long enough, the Afghan government is corrupt, our military needs a rest and our treasury cannot afford the price. The fallout will be severe from the the Right, but we are not going to win this conflict in the conventional sense. That already happened just weeks into the start of hostilities. I can see no goal that we can possibly achieve by staying. Let's declare victory and bring the troops home. The president needs to start securing the peace that his Nobel promises.


dylan said...

Jim --

I've yet to find any salient difference between President Obama's conduct of the war and what a President McCain would have done. The only difference appears to have been some dovish rhetoric by then-Sen. Obama (during the campaign). And although Sen. McCain is (to my mind) wrongheaded on the war, he was at least honest about what he would have done.

We note further that President Obama has retained his predecessor's Defense Secretary. (How many votes would he have lost in the primaries had he revealed that he was going to do that?) We note that Guantanamo is not closed. And we note that troop levels in Iraq are about the same as they were on January 19th. So this reader is mystified by the implicit disdain directed toward "John McCain and his allies" -- as if the President were somehow a breed apart from them!

A libertarian anti-war blogger I read frequently, sometimes with agreement, notes that there were two honest peace candidates in the last election cycle : Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul.

Jim said...

Your points are not without merit, and I want to see the president begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan but fear that he is not going to do so.

However, our Nobel laureate has called Iraq a mistake all along and continued the planned withdrawal there; he has ordered that Gitmo be closed (though admittedly there are some difficult questions that need to be answered there); he has committed to making sure that US forces do not torture; he has engaged our allies as partners, not underlings; he has presented our adversaries with rationality, not jingoistic swagger; and, on Afghanistan -- which does threaten to become an endless slog -- he is carefully reviewing options to make sure that the strategy is sound.

Those who redirected America's focus after 9/11 from Afghanistan to Iraq are responsible for the US still being in Afghanistan, including McCain AND Hillary Clinton. I like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, too. In fact, I was disgusted at the way the GOP primary field laughed at Paul when he spoke at debates, as he was the only honest one among them.

Anonymous said...

Jim, its YOUR nobel winner Not mine! How can Obame win this when nomination papers were due 11 daysbefore the election? What the hell did he do to deserve this? what war has he stopped? did he pull our troops back like he said he was going to do? This is a joke Jim and if it was a republican president you wouldn't be saying "our president", and you know it.
The good news about Obama is the most he can be there is another 7 years and then he's gone and unfortunately this country might be too because of him

Jim said...

I'd rather the Nobel committee chose someone who has been doing lifelong work in some field of peace or justice, but the reality is that America's every move hugely affects the rest of the world and the choice of Obama is, I think, meant to applaud the promise that his election entails and the hope that he can follow through on his goals.

There are many hot spots in the world and many complex issues, but Obama's decision to acknowledge that building a missile shield in Poland is not a good idea was a simple step that has led to some positive results. We need the Russians and Chinese to work with us on Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, and the missile shield move has paid off already with Russia's cooperation on Iran.

Winning the Nobel now does have negatives for Obama, but the Nobel committee reflected the feelings of many Europeans, who are tired of eight years of listening to an ignorant fool saying ridiculous things every day while the world burned.

Anonymous said...

Jim, Obama is like Deval the ONLY speak very nice but have no substance. Look at what this governor is doing, slashing the very jibs that he said he would protect. He is closing clinics for people with addictions and closing schools that help the mentally ill(today's Herald). He like Obama just speak well and thats all they do just speak well. I hope the two serve one term because they are disappointments and for the record I voted for the both of them.
Good luck to you Jimbo and I hope you can see through all the smokey clouds! Be well

Anonymous said...

To Jimbo, the last president might have been a fool but at least he said the truth and didn't say I'm going to pull the troops and do differently. Why aren't the troops back like Obama said? what's your answer Jim?

Jim said...

"...the last president might have been a fool but at least he said the truth..."

Where do I begin? George W. Bush rarely spoke the truth. From WMD to Katrina to the environment to torture to the US Attorney scandal...and one could go on all day.

"...and didn't say I'm going to pull the troops and do differently."

Obama is following through on the withdrawal from Iraq that began under Bush. As for Afghanistan, Obama always said that country "is the central front in the war on terror" and promised to increase efforts there. I'm not really sure what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Jim, you know exactly what I'm saying but if you need to defend Obama the fool the do so. He out right lied when he was campagning he said that he would start bringing the troops home. Your defending him because he's a liberal democrat like yourself which is ok because i'm one too. That being said, I will not turn my head on what he said!

Jim said...

Again, not sure if you're referring to Iraq or Afghanistan. Maybe you mean both, but in the campaign Obama clearly spoke of the two countries separately. Here are two excerpts from a NY Times op-ed piece Obama wrote in July 2008:

"We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States."

"As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan."

Now, maybe the president will reevaluate the information at his disposal and conclude, wisely, that we need to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan. I hope he does, but I fear he won't.

As for Iraq, there is a timetable that we seem to be following, no?

The broader point here is the repugnant level of "straw man" and "ad hominem" attacks by those who, for whatever reasons, are rooting for Obama to fail -- and hence for the country to do so. The anonymous posts I'm responding to assume -- as if often said -- that I and other liberals won't criticize Obama. This is completely untrue.

I disagree with his policy on Afghanistan, illegal wiretapping, using national security as an excuse to withhold documents, trying or releasing those held at Gitmo, pushing more forcefully a health care plan with a public option, eliminating "don't ask/don't tell" ASAP, pushing through something stronger on the environment than a watered-down cap-and-trade bill, making firm and consequential international commitments to lower greenhouse gas output, raising taxes on the wealthy, passing stronger regulation on the financial sector -- is all of this enough?

I would like Obama to be MORE liberal and MORE forceful, but that is not who he is. I will keep being critical of his administration's shortcomings, but what the right doesn't want to see is that the president -- elected by an unquestionable majority less than a year ago -- is intelligent, calm and moderate. The rest of the world recognizes this and likes him, which infuriates the morons on Fox and talk radio.

Anonymous said...

Why they "morons" because they don't share the same beliefs. Maybe just maybe us liberals are the morons! Why if people disagree with ultra liberals they are morons? You seem to be intelligent but you seem to be shallow when it comes to disagreeing with your views.
Jimbo, did you grow up in a conservative household? If so, what or how did you go a different course? Just wondering because thats what happened to me and my family thinks that I was brainwashed.
On another topic, I think the Obama administration has done far worse than good. He doesn't know anything about national security and absolutely nothing about the economy.I'm actually embarrassed that I voted for him. By the way Jim, does the majority always mean that they are right? Think not we were wrong!!!!!

Jim said...

Actually, I don't believe that all conservatives are morons. I have some friends who lean toward that side of the spectrum, and I also respect NYT columnist David Brooks and pundit George F. Will.

Heck, I even have an affinity for Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich. I probably disagree with each of these people 95% of the time, but each of them, for the most part, speaks intelligently and coherently and they traffic in ideas.

They also don't just spout the status quo. Oftentimes they are critical of Republicans as well as Democrats. Here's another: I really like former GOP senator Chuck Hagel. He's a noble guy.

The morons are those who are all bluster and invective and who don't allow others to speak. You know, the Limbaughs, O'Reillys and Becks of the world.

On the other hand, Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel -- who is about as far to the left as I am -- annoys me when I see her on This Week with George Stephanopoulos because she comes off as militant, humorless and partisan.