Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Surge II--Afghanistan

Last night Obama announced a surge of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Commentators on the right and left are not happy with this.

First from the left:

Days prior to the announcement, Michael Moore sent Obama pleading with him not to be a "War President."

Now from the right:

Ralph Peters of the NY Daily Post rolls-in.

From somewhere in the center, Thomas Friedman of the NY Times:

And since I'm not a fan of Michael Moore, here's a post from "Uncle Jimbo" from Blackfive lambastes some of Moore's assumptions & outrageous comments:

The impending "surge" in Afghanistan sparked a lot of message traffic among my friends:

This is a pretty good summation. Of course, Ralph has not really espoused a coherent counter-strategy. Sad thing is that there probably is no right answer, but some are certainly worse than others (witness the final result of a bazillion hours of indecision).

I'm not unhappy with the idea of a surge-type strategy. But adding expiration dates is always stupid (at least publicly--they can talk about it all they want in private, and probably should). It's like having FDR say in his Pearl Harbor speech "We will win through to absolute victory…as long as it doesn't take longer than January 1943."

One of the big reasons the surge worked in iraq is because it showedthat the U.S. was resolved to stick it out to the end. That broke the logjam and allowed the Iraqi populace and the Sunni insurgents to jumpon the bandwagon and crush al Qaeda and the Shiite insurgency. Obamahas utterly negated that angle by putting a deadline on things. He really screwed himself on that, because if he does not pull out on thisschedule, he will be beat over the head with it in the 2012 elections byBOTH sides. If he DOES pull out on schedule, and things are not goingwell, he will be the president of defeat. (the third possibility, thateverything in Afghanistan will be resovled by then is not bloody likelyand not worth considering). I don't always agree with Ralph, but he is pretty much spot on in thiscase. When memory of Obama's glorious speech fades and reality sets in,he is going to be in real trouble (and so are the troops deployed toAfghanistan).

I'm far more worried about them than I am him. It's clear from some of the post-speech comments in news articles that those who are on the deployment list know all to well what a s**t sandwich this is likely to be.Tom Friedman (an erratic, but sometimes spot-on commentator) did a piece on why he felt this surge effort was not worth it and why. I didn't agree with it. But it was honest and not completely illogical. I'd have more respect for the president if he'd at least take a definitive stand, defend it, and stop trying to have his cake and eat it too. But he can't. None of them can. They're too fixated on the next election cycle and that drives all.I suppose that's what separates a politician from a statesman. Lord knows we don't have many statesmen around these days.

I don't think a surge will work anyway...Afghanistan is not Iraq: Iraqis are urban, Afghans are tribalIraq is a flat desert with good infrastructure, Afghanistan is amountainous mess with hardly even any roadsIraq did not have a significant cross-border terror issue (Irannothwithstanding), Afghanistan and Pakistan are interlocked Iraq had 3 major groupings of people, Afghanistan has many Iraq has a history of central leadership, Afghanistan is a political wreck. Iraq allows easy access by land, sea, and air; it is a bitch to getanything into AfghanistanEtc. None of this bodes well for any strategy.

I could be wrong but I'm not buying the exit strategy talk. It doesn't make logistical sense - by the time we get all of the troops in place it will be time to start pulling them out. Also, the sheer inertia generated by this type of commitment generally doesn't permit that type of approach. It's like Clinton talking about our how our troops were going to be in Bosnia for a no more than a year or Eisenhower saying in the 1950s that if we still had troops in Germany in ten years then we will have failed or for that matter Obama's campaign talk about getting out of Iraq. That kind of talk is all well and good but it never works that way in the real world. The fact is, regardless of what was said last night, President Obama has just created significant commitment of a large number of American troops and unless the situation goes so far down the shitter that the public demands a pullout or an implosion in Pakistan means we can no longer support a large footprint logistically, we are going to be in Afghanistan for a very long time. With regard to the exit strategy nonsense, I think somebody (James Jones, Bob Gates, Rahm Emanuel, etc) told Obama that he needed to check that box in his speech so he did because thanks to Colin Powell, whenever a President is going to commit American troops to a mission, there always has to be an exit strategy - I also think this was a way for Obama to cover himself with the stooges on the left who are against this. Whether it will work or not I don't know.

Ralph has been erratic from time to time, that's certain. He may be talking to people who have been telling him what they think is going to happen based on their experiences working with the new admin; or maybe he's just bitter. He is consistently harsh, however, but not always logically consistent. Perhaps he's taking the Prez at his word on this and assuming the worst--wouldn't be the first commentator to do this.

The Weekly Standard opinion was interesting in that it notes that Obama is now the first Democratic President to do a commitment like this since LBJ, which surely is some measure of actual change when you look back at Democratic presidents since then. I'm sure he's hoping he doesn't end up with a 1968 situation on his hands, though it's certainly possible.

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