Obama’s Afghanistan Decision Paul Losch's Community Blog, posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto, on Nov 2, 2009 at 4:59 pm Paul Losch is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
What is the truly brave (not bold) action our President should take?
If it were me, I would tell our capable military leadership that the strategy is to focus on the mountains along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, and eliminate Al Qaeda there.
The strategy is not nation building for Afghanistan. The strategy is not to eliminate Taliban, as awful as those people are.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, Mr. President. This is a part of the world that has been inhospitable to other foreign intervention, in recent history: Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. What can we learn from history?
Let’s also acknowledge that the last 8 years of US military involvement in the country have been a confused and unclear effort. If the “War on Terror” has been what our country was fighting, the guns were focused on the wrong place—Baghdad.
There is a dysfunctional election process that leads to no credibility for President by default Karzai, the opposing candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, saying he would not participate in the re-call election.
Corruption in the current national government is rife, and I don’t see that changing, it is part of the culture in that part of the world. The place does not really have a central government, rather it has disparate and dispersed number of local “townships” that are run by so-called “War Lords,” who are in effect the Mayors in their localities. In many respects, this is no different from what goes on all over the world, including the States.
Defense Secretary Gates has stated that the resources and money he gets in his job overwhelms what the Secretary of State gets, and he is willing to throw some of that money over the wall, He is right, we need more conversation, not more troops.
Mr. President, here is my advice to you:
--Do not send more troops to Afghanistan
--Tell the leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan that the US is defending its own interests, not theirs. But that the Taliban must be minimized, and we need to find a way to do that together.
--US Military resources will be focused on the border between your two countries and not a huge blanket like previous regimes have attempted and failed with. It will be there to take out Al Qaeda and minimize Taliban
--It is sad, but the US cannot intervene with cruelties all the time. We made a mistake in Rwanda, but a mistake should not be an example.
--Nation Building begins at home, to paraphrase NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, and there are many things domestically that will be your legacy.
--Put this national security matter in perspective. This is a threat mainly from thugs and unsophisticated people who buy into a marginal religious doctrine. It is more a police matter than a national security matter. The police in Afghanistan and Pakistan may need some help with their policing of these bad guys, but it is not a national mission for the United States military.
Thank you, Mr. President, for going to the Dover Air Force Base, and saluting the fallen who returned home last week.
Be brave, not bold, as you decide how our country and troops deal with the Al Qaeda and Taliban menaces.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2009 at 7:10 pm
"Nation Building begins at home, to paraphrase NY Times columnist Tom Friedman"
Friedman supported the Iraq invasion, before he decided that the U.S. should get out, when the going got tough, but that was before the surge, which he opposed, before it worked, then he could see a possible liberation of Iraq, with all that portends, accourding to his original thesis in support of the invasion.
I have often wondered why anybody listens to Tom Friedman, but some still do.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2009 at 10:11 am
Our enemy is Islamic totalitarianism. Iran is the center of this. Afghanistan (and Iraq) should serve only as a military base for attacking Iran. Fighting in Afghanistan while leaving Iran intact would be like in WWII fighting in Italy and not touching Germany.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2009 at 12:27 pm
Al Qaida could have been neutralized without invading Afghanistan, but Bush had to have something to thump his chest over, as did his minions who rejoiced in the images of "precision" bombs flashing and booming over the Afghan landscape. As we all know, Al Quaida and Osama lived to fight another day, the Bushies' ADD got us into Iraq, and voila, twin quagmires.
Attacking Iran is a fantasy. It has a much larger and more capable military than Iraq, it's ready to fight, and the country is much bigger than Iraq so an occupation is out of the question, even if we had a military force to occupy it with (remember, they're in Iraq and Afghanistan). Draft, anyone?
Our real concern ought to be Pakistan, which the Bushies bumbling in the area quite effectively destabilized, and which has several nukes that Al Qaida and its cohorts would love to have and to use. Remember, nuclear nation states are pitiful helpless giants, unable to use their big firecrackers because another nuke state would hit them back with same. They got too much to lose. Non-state actors like Al Qaida, whose recruiting offices the Bush policies have benefited hugely, have no such restraints.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Iran is no match for our military power. We could easily defeat them if we had the will. Maybe we will after they nuke a couple of our cities. Their desire is to become martyrs for Islamic power. We should oblige them. Much of the resistance in Pakistan and other places will collapse without Iran's support and model.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm
"Iran is no match for our military power."
Iran WAS no match for our military power. Then along came Bush, who tied down our military needlessly in two badly planned and worse executed operations, meantime providing a live-fire proving and training ground for state of the art guerrilla warfare, while obligingly handing Iraq over to the Shia who control Iran. There's a good reason Bush and his Chicken Hawks didn't send troops into Iran: there are no troops left to send.
Meantime, Pakistan festers and teeters from the insurgent tactics newly developed in Iraq. Iran won't nuke us. But someone else might, using bombs marked "Made in Pakistan" and with "Thank you, Mr. Bush" spray painted on them.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm
"Our enemy is Islamic totalitarianism"
That is a redundant phrase. Islam is, via the Qur'an, totalitarian. Once Islam wins, it becomes a matter of local preference, according to the Islamic leaders, as to how hard they want to suppress the infidels. It is a complete myth that Islam is tolerant. For example, try to open up a Christian church in Saudi Arabia.
The secular West should not be fooled into thinking that it can persuade Islamic countries into seeing things its way. Islam will NEVER open up to infidel religions, nor to agnosticism, nor to atheism. Some Islamic regimes will open up to modern technology, but that will NOT change the underlying intolerance of Islam. It will just provide tools to defeat the infidels. Many Muslims may want more open societies, but they will always be led by Islamic leaders who will not tolerate it.
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2009 at 2:01 am
R Wray is Israel's foreign policy way. Let's just be open about it heh?
Obama has succeeded in diplomatic "shock and awe" and isolated Iran to a great degree from even it's former quasi supporters.
If we are forced to attack Iran someday it should be an act of desperation and not supposed inspiration. Who in the world would be our allies in such a premature attack? Oh yeah that country.
McChrystal, our general in Afghanistan, wrote a report describing how to win the war there. Many focus on the troop request but not on the description of the problem with the Afghan government. Without a credible and viable central government all attempts at "nation building".
Still one mus wonder if he McChrystal was being naive and blindly enthusiastic when he issued his recommendations to the public and not via the legitimate chain of command. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's spent a lot of time there and seen so many soldiers give their lives, exerted effort to figure out how in the hell the war could ever be won. Forgivable that blinders of sorts would develop.
But if I were Obama I'd sack his ass in a second. He needs to be made an example of in a career ending way.
It's time for civilian authority to re-assert itself over the military in a big way. Before it's too late.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2009 at 11:40 am
"You mean like the President voting "present"."
Yes, Obama has been far too lenient with right wingnuts and other domestic enemies of America. He needs to realize that there can be no bipartisanship with those who want him and our form of government to fail.
However, I am pleased that he is taking a thoughtful, deliberative approach to Afghanistan. We'd be much better off today if Bush and the Chickenhawks had done the same.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2009 at 11:33 am
"Obama has been far too lenient with foreign dictatorial regimes--like appeasing Iran's theocratic dictators while ignoring the protesters. Our military forces in Afghanistan are daily risking their lives while Obama is taking months of being "thoughtful" about our "approach"."
So why do you think the solution is to risk even more lives on a hasty decision? Remember our former "decider"? He decided fast alright, and always wrong.
Appeasing Iran? What's your alternative? Bush showed Iran the limits of raw military power in Iraq and Afghanistan, where ten-dollar IEDs decimate our trillion-dollar military daily.
When our armed forces need to be deployed, they should be deployed intelligently. We owe our troops who risk their lives for us at least that much.
Ignoring protesters? Remember how Bush 41 incited the Kurds to rebellion against Saddam in 1991, promising support, and then just watched as Saddam cut them down? Did you cry appeasement then?
I thought not. I think your views have little to do with national interest and everything to do with partisanship. Face it, if Obama called himself a Republican and changed nothing else, you'd be worshipping everything he did.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2009 at 1:49 pm
"Al Qaida could have been neutralized without invading Afghanistan"
While it is true that Osama bin Laden could have been killed by Clinton, if he ahd not treated it as legal affair, I am not sure that Bush could have eliminated Al-qaeda from Afghanistan without an invasion. Without eliminating their camps in Afghanistan, how could they be "neutralized"? Could you explain, Paul.
Posted by Paul, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2009 at 5:28 pm
"While it is true that Osama bin Laden could have been killed by Clinton, if he ahd not treated it as legal affair, I am not sure that Bush could have eliminated Al-qaeda from Afghanistan without an invasion."
Why do you think Clinton could have eliminated bin Laden without an invasion, but that Bush couldn't? What could Clinton do that Bush couldn't? (OK, OK, it's a long list, but try to be specific.)
Do you suppose the Bush family's friendship with the bin Ladens had anything to do with Bush's failure to bring back Osama dead or alive? After all, Bush paled around with Osama's brother Salem, who bailed him out when he cratered his first business, Arbusto Energy. Bush then allowed the bin Ladens to leave the country right after 9/11 so the FBI couldn't question them. The bin Ladens could fly, but Americans could not. Does that pass the smell test?
"Without eliminating their camps in Afghanistan, how could they be "neutralized"? Could you explain, Paul."
Simple. Remember John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban"? He walked right in and shook hands with Osama. Now suppose he had been a CIA agent with a super secret weapon. (Actually, the CIA wanted to do that, but it characteristically blew it. Lindh's real crime was making a monkey of the CIA by casually accomplishing what it never could. He'll rot in jail for his dastardly deed.)
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm
"A general who served in the Special Operations Command in the 1990s encountered "tremendous pressure to do something," he said, but at the same time, the requirement was for "perfect operations, no casualties, no failure." There were some "great opportunities" to strike at al Qaeda, "but you couldn't take any risk in doing so. You couldn't have a POW, you couldn't lose a man. You couldn't have anybody hurt." It was Catch-22. There were frequent "spin-ups" for SOF missions, but "in the end, the senior political and military leadership wouldn't let you go do it."
Clinton pursued the 1993 bombing of the Twin Towers as a legal issue, not as an act of war. He had opportunities to get bin Laden in Sudan, but he backed off. He held off boming bin-Laden at a camp in Afghanistan, because it might kill innocents...the missles were sent too late.
Clinton was famous for holding his finger to the blowing political winds. He was much brighter than Bush, IMHO, but he lacked Bush's gut instincts and stubborness. I find it completely silly that someone could think that Al-qaeda could be put out of business by a single secret operative. Paul, have you been watching too many old Hollywood movies about having Hitler in the crosshairs by a single intrepid agent?
Al-qaeda has been seriously disrupted by the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions. However, jihadist movements tend to last for decades. There is no quick and easy answer. It will be a very long slug, no matter who is the president.
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2009 at 4:56 am
"Al-qaeda has been seriously disrupted by the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions."
As an organizational entity that is true. For Afghanistan/Pakistan anyway. Al-qaeda wasn't even in Iraq until we invaded. But even at that level there is a bit of "whatever doesn't kill makes stronger".
But as a world-wide movement the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have only served the long term goals of Al-qaeda very well.
Al-qaeda started out with a pocket in Afghanistan and cells in Europe, Indonesia. Now they are a mesh of the Pashtun tribe (Taliban), Al-qaeda proper, Pakistani tribes and their Taliban, and groups from Yemen to Somalia to Inodnesia, etc.
If we had a formula to grow Al-qaeda as an international movement we couldn't have done better.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2009 at 7:16 am
"If we had a formula to grow Al-qaeda as an international movement we couldn't have done better."
Maybe. However, that movement does not have the ability to pull off another 9-11. It is too diffuse, and it has many more enemies than it did previously. Iraq is an example where Al-qaeda moved into a vacuum, did well at first, then got itself nearly destroyed, including alienating the Iraqi population. Iraq was not part of the Al-qaeda problem, initially, but it has become part of the solution.
The jihadists, of various stripes, have been around as long as Islam has been around. Sadat was killed in Egypt by them. OBL got his motivation in the Afghan fight against the Soviet Union; he took on the USA when it stationed troops in the middle east to kick Saddam out of Kuwait (then to contain him). There will always be a reason for various jihadists to fight, until the world is completely Islamic. Until then, the fight will continue.
I find it silly to think that there is some magic bullet or some type of special understanding that will subdue the jihadists. It will be a decades-long fight, before it is temporarily defeated...then it will rsie again, a few decades later.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm
Given the events at Ft. Hood, I would like to add that the jihadists can be an army of one. This is an example of the diffusion of the jihad. It is not capable of another 9-11, but it can cause local events.
It seems that some, in the media, want to make this guy into a nut case. I doubt it. He sounds completely rational to me, because he read the Qur'an, and follows its message. He is NOT insane. He is a proud soldier for Islam, within the U.S. military.
I suspect that this guy would be happy to deploy for a U.S. military effort against Russia, or against Cuba or any other war against non-Islamist states. However, when it comes to Islam, then Islam is supreme.
Posted by VoxPop, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2009 at 8:22 pm
Kevin, at this point you have no way of knowing what his motives were or what his mental state, so please spare us your uninformed pronouncements until the facts are in. Beyond that, you need to do some research on the toll the stories of the warfighters have on mental and physical healthcare workers take.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2009 at 8:40 pm
This guy, by public reports, was a devout Islamic. He made statements to the effect that Muslims, who kill innocents, with suicide belts, are the equivalent of soldiers who drop on grenades in the foxhole.
You have made assumptions that are not warranted, based on the public record. You seem to be desperate to protect Islam. Why?
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm
Among the voices trotted out to condition the various Islamic responses to the Ft. Hood attack, is Ibrahim Hooper (aka Doug Hooper). He is the face of Islam, in this country, when it is convenient for Islam to present a 'white face' to its strategic attack against western secularism. This guy has been all over the TV networks, explaining that Islam is peaceful, and only wants to express its sincere feelings towards those murdered at Ft. Hood. This is complete nonsence, of course.
Hooper is on record in favor of making the USA into an Islamic state.
"I wouldn't want to create the impression that I wouldn't like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future. But I'm not going to do anything violent to promote that. I'm going to do it through education." Web Link
This is the way that Islam operates. If it cannot win by pure military conquest, it will use whatever internal assets it can organize to promote its ultimate aim, which is complete world conquest.
9-11 should have been a wake up call, but it was not. A simple, honest reading of the Qur'an, as well as an honest respect of those who believe in it, would lead a rational mind to conclude that Islam wants world domination. This Major in the Ft. Hood attack was completely rational, from his own Islamic point of view. Why is it so difficult for Palo Alto residents to understand this essential fact?
Posted by VoxPop, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 7, 2009 at 7:15 pm
I'm not a defender of any religion, let alone "desparate to protect Islam," so don't try to tar me with that xenophobic brush. I was just calling you on your readiness to condemn an entire people for the actions of one -- well before all the facts are in.
In addition, I made no assumptions, other than that you obviously had done no research on the well-documented effects of caring for warfighters on healthcare workers. Effects that might have some bearing on this case.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm
You are all too ready to explicate why this Muslim Army major shot his comrades, due to some sort of pre-traumatic-stress syndrome. Short of extraordinary evidence, Occam's razor should prevail. This guy was intelligent, rational and Islamic. He made public statements to the effect that he opposed the US military attacking Muslim states.
What more do you need to know? Are you incapable of understanding that Islam is a cult of domination? I am not, personally, religious, but I follow these things. Islam is a real danger. The other major religions, at this point, are not.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm
"Maybe we should start a Crusade to free the world of Islam?"
The crusade should just be a crusade for free choice, and rational thought. It needs to start at home. Just this morning, there were U.S. Senators declaring that the Muslim Army major was, himself, the issue, not Islam...as if the guy was not following the Qur'an, to the letter ( "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful" Web Link ).
Islam needs to be intellectually challenged, on all fronts, not placated.