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Owning Afghanistan [updated]

Really big speech tonight. The president does well in these formats. But he's never had to give a speech quite like this one -- selling an escalation of a war that few people love. He'll frame it as new strategy for a war that has already lasted nearly three times as long as our involvement in World War II. He's sending more troops to a place even as he's signaling that he'd like to be out of the place.

Can you have an escalation and an endgame at the same time?

[Update: Yes, Obama says, in speech excerpts sent out by the WH for immediate release: "Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government - and, more importantly, to the Afghan people - that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country."]

I keep thinking of what Colin Powell told Bush about Iraq before the invasion: "You're going to be owning this place." Obama will now own Afghanistan, whether he likes it or not. Sure, he inherited it, but it'll be fully his war for better or worse. (David Corn has a good analogy: "...with this increase in troops, Obama is fully claiming possession of this conflict -- assuming the task of selling one of Bush's leftover used cars.")

I'll be curious to see how many times tonight -- if at all -- Obama alludes (even obliquely) to his predecessor. Surely the president feels like he has been forced to clean up a lot of Republican and GWB messes (while dealing with an economic collapse and a dizzying deficit). But anything that sounds like complaining won't go over well with the public. Obama has to take inspiration from the military culture, which permits no whining.

He gave something of a preview of his speech when he spoke a couple of weeks ago with Chuck Todd:

"We want to make sure that there's clarity of our mission, which is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. We want to make sure that we have an Afghan government that is clear on how we intend to work with them. We need to clarify support from the Pakistanis in order for us to be successful. We want to make sure that we are training Afghans so that over time U.S. troops can hand off security efforts in Afghanistan to the Afghan people. We want to make sure that civilian side of this is coordinated effectively with the military side.

"So all these variables I think have begun to come together, and I'm confident that at the end of this process I'm going to be able to present to the American people in very clear terms what exactly is at stake, what we intend to do, how we're going to succeed, how much it's going to cost, how long it's going to take. And I think that's what is owed the American people because, frankly, over the last several years, that's not what they've gotten."

He's got the country's attention tonight.

This had better be good.

[Update: Obama directly confronts his critics, from Left to Right, respectively (excerpt from text as prepared for delivery):

I recognize that there are a range of concerns about our approach. So let me briefly address a few of the prominent arguments that I have heard, and which I take very seriously.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now - and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance - would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.

Second, there are those who acknowledge that we cannot leave Afghanistan in its current state, but suggest that we go forward with the troops that we have. But this would simply maintain a status quo in which we muddle through, and permit a slow deterioration of conditions there. It would ultimately prove more costly and prolong our stay in Afghanistan, because we would never be able to generate the conditions needed to train Afghan Security Forces and give them the space to take over.

Finally, there are those who oppose identifying a timeframe for our transition to Afghan responsibility. Indeed, some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort - one that would commit us to a nation building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, our or interests. And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I do not have the luxury of committing to just one.


[More on the speech tomorrow, but fyi, one line jumps out at me, because it seems to ignore WW1: "Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs." Um, what about The Great War??]

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 1, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
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Next: The Obama doctrine


staging the bodies--
a psychological profile of obama
criminal psychologists can construct extremely accurate profiles of psychopaths by the way they stage the bodies after a murder, or the method live photos are posed.

similarly, the way a government leader poses photos of himself is profilable.
for example, study evil leaders in ww2 photos and note how masses of troops were used by a leader as merely an
anonmyous obedient
mass, not individiuals, a back drop.

the leader was always depicted



tonight analyze obama speech differently-try this

focus soley on how obama stages the bodies
the lighting

the bodies staged as a mass

the politically correct mix of diverse ethnic groups

then read, and only read
the text of what obama says

then watch the speech later with the sound off

compare with speeches of ww2 leaders--good and evil

Posted by: ProCounsel | December 1, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, I wish him well. And I wish us well, as well.

You know what I mean.

I'm completely done for today.

Posted by: -ftb- | December 1, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, visual rhetoric.

I've always been pro-Afghanistan, my apologies to Brag: I find your point about the costs vs benefits devasting.

I do think that we haven't had the best strategies in there to ensure any kind of stability or security, and that the focus on Iraq divided our energies and priorities.

Whether the solution is to apply the right strategy (too late) before we get out of there, I can't say. I do think it may be worth a try.

I'm curious to see what Obama has come up with after listening to all the advice-wranglers and so forth.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I think one of the best analogies on Afghanistan came in the last boodle by our very own RD Pakouk...


The bucket and the broomstick bit is *supposedly* a summer-camp trick, where one coaxes a gullible young camper into seeing if he or she can make a bucket of water "stick." Once the configuration is established, of course, the pranksters run off giggling and leave the victim in a no-win situation.

Or, in this case, retire to Texas.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | November 30, 2009 7:34 PM

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Front page alert; also "prebuttal" (new word for me), not impressed because Cheney and Rove are the buttalers.

I will be watching Obama and I truly do hope he does well.

yj, husband has received his early Christmas present, a droid. He is so pleased, so happy, so involved with his new best thing. Every time it alerts him of email and says "droid" I think his stomach is growling. ;-)

Posted by: VintageLady | December 1, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't it GWB who really started all the people as backdrops thing, don't remember it all that much before him - of course I could be wrong - it has occurred before :-).

Not a fan of the people in the background, by any leader at anytime, nor do I like when they bring people in to point out during a speech, a trend that is being used here as well now.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

dmd, the tradition of kings and military leaders "reviewing" troops is quite old.

But I do agree that GWB took the tradition to indecent photo-op levels.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Poor dudh opened the Boodle door and didn't like what he found. Uh oh.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

It is the people standing behind the speaker that bothers me, we still do lots of reviewing the troops here, that is different.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Telling it to stop saying "Droid!" was the first thing I had to do. Every time it randomly went off, it scared my wife as well as horses in the street.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 1, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

dmd, Dana Milbank explained that this morning. I was surprised. I thought that all presidents did that. Memory is a fickle thing.

Posted by: rickoshea1 | December 1, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I have yet to read Ahmed Rashid's "Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia". The title alone is ominous.

The President may have been upstaged by the management shakeup at GM.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 1, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Our Prius has a navagation system, but our volvo wagon does not, so the droid is handy in that respect. Lady Nav talks too fast for me, tho.

Posted by: VintageLady | December 1, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised at that too, ros - not that Bush used the military as backdrops so much, but that other presidents had not. I think it's fitting that Obama's speech is at West Point, since those folks will be affected directly. Sure hope his strategy works.

Posted by: seasea1 | December 1, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

I think we should go with - people (military or civilians) should only be used as props in the theatre!

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Speaking before a service academy provides a handsome audience, the members of which will not rise and boo the president, parade rude banners, or otherwise upset the proceedings.

Posted by: nellie4 | December 1, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I will speak in favour of having people on stage as backdrops in some occasions. I think it's a little cheesy if the point is "and here's a sample of the people that will benefit from this legislation". But I do admire the technique of forcing stakeholders and interest groups out into the klieg lights while whatever agreement was made is presented. Cuts down on the "well EYE never agreed to that" moments.

Posted by: engelmann | December 1, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

There's something wrong with the kit's last line.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 1, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

What Yoki said.

Kit's last line is evidence that The Boss surfs the I Can Has Cheezburger site while writing.

Posted by: byoolin1 | December 1, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

As for the President's speech tonight, somewhere, Vizzini is exclaiming once again, "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia!'"

Posted by: byoolin1 | December 1, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

how do you announce a failed policy in afghanistan??

easy--just announce publicly a withdrawal date to please the looney left


you send in troops

tonight obama will say:

“Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”

obama--failed policy-failed leadership

our troops only hope is G-d and their military commanders as obama is clueless

Posted by: ProCounsel | December 1, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

This has better be;
history will be bloody
better or not

Posted by: DNA_Girl | December 1, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse


And who are you, little nobody twit?

There are too many mouth offs with no brains like you.

Posted by: whistling | December 1, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Now, children, children-- if you're going to name-call, at least use names.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I wish I were clairvoyant. I'm sure our policy-makers do too. It would be so nice to know in advance which policies will work and which will fail.

On a smaller scale, possibilities abound. I'd know if the Boy was done with rehearsal or whether I had to wait; whether the dogs had been fed or were hungry (I can't ask them because they lie); whether the dish elves will visit our house, or whether dishes must be done.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Fur therapist
Available in bunker now;
Rush for furry dibs--


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

In the debate concerning escalation in Afghanistan, I have seen policy arguments over its wisdom, political arguments over its effect on elections, and monetary arguments over its cost to the taxpayers. Isn't anyone concerned that it's just plain wrong? We are escalating our immoral invasion of a sovereign state that has not attacked us in any meaningful way. We are murderers - plain and simple. Obama ran for office saying this was wrong and , now, he is not only continuing the wrong but escalating it as well.

Posted by: dcoakley1 | December 1, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes indeed, folks, Front Page Alert...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Somebody has Afghanistan confused with Iraq.

To the bunkers then, chaps?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Hooboy, it's gonna be a loong night.

Bunker is open and fully stocked. Merlot, anybody? Chardonney? I can break out the ingredients for a dry martini too...

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Here's the thing, and it is all I am going to say about the subject. I probably know more about this topic than most people, and I don't know what to do. I really don't.

But that's why I voted for someone like Obama. I want someone who will take the time to think things through carefully and make what he, or she, concludes is the most prudent action.

And I know that a large part of Obama's thought process has been an *exhaustive* analysis of all possible implications, and the implications of the implications, and then the implications of the implications for all possible approaches. Further, a defensible probability estimate of the likelihood of each possible scenarios, as *well* as a defensible statement of impact for each.

This forms a gruesomely complicates web of possibilities that can be combined in a Bayesian sort of way to see all the alternate paths from beginning to end.

None of this, "let's see where we are in six months and re-evaluate" stuff for him.

This is the kind of analytical rigor this president has demanded. Does this come quickly? No. Are the conclusions facilitated by this process infallible? Of course not. Probabilities are just that.

But, I strongly assert, that intelligent commentary of his proposal demands a similar kind of analytical rigor.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Good evening all.

I like the President's opening statements setting the background of the US actions in Afghanistan. Start at the beginning, right?


Posted by: -bc- | December 1, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Very well said, Padouk.

Posted by: Manon1 | December 1, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Joel, Boko was talking about this:

"This has better be good."

It needs fixing.

Posted by: nellie4 | December 1, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the help, folks...Keep those cards and letters coming...

Posted by: joelache | December 1, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm a little confused here -- the President says that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan pose a significant risk, but I haven't heard yet that the overall strategy regarding Afghanistan involves that country...

Oh, wait, #3...


Posted by: -bc- | December 1, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I agree with what RD said, except for the part about knowing anything about Afghanistan. I am humbled by my lack of knowledge of the country and the situation. I've read some things, of course, as have you all, and I have a gloomy feeling that nobody who's messed with the Afghans (Afghanis?) has ever had anything good to show for it.

This is one reason I voted for Obama. I, too, wanted a thinking, considering adult who would research and thoroughly consider the options before deciding on a course of action.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

It strikes my heart to see those children in the audience.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I've added to the kit a couple of excerpts of the speech, just fyi.

Posted by: joelache | December 1, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I've added to the kit a couple of excerpts of the speech, just fyi.

Posted by: joelache | December 1, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

As the citizen of a country that your President's decision will affect deeply, I can only applaud his approach and RD_P's explication thereof.

Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Yoki... I was imagining that you and I were watching this speech tonight in an Ethiopian restaurant together.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Oy, you can tell it's exam time for the Cadets at West Point. Tired folks out there.

Hey - he's talking to *me!*

And hmmm - sounds to me the President's planning like a *surge* in Afghanistan - with a 6 month ramp up, then a draw down in 18 months.

Plenty to consider, I think. And I'm glad he covered Pakistan, though I am curious for more details.



Posted by: -bc- | December 1, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Me too, TBG, me too.

Joel, I don't mean to criticize (much) but you have to remember that in both I and II, many countries had been working for *years* to undermine the power of the aggressors, before you all got involved. I say nothing of the war in the Pacific in II, but in the original, European II, you guys did a lot of mopping-up, but not so much of the digging-in and holding-fast that Britain and Europe (and Canada) did.

Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Thinking about Joel's historical point at the end of the updated Kit. Arguably, after WWI the British Empire was still functioning. Other countries may also have been in a position to be considered world powers. By contrast, by the end of WWII this was not the case, and the U.S. became the primary global power, at least for a while and if only by default. Looked at that way, Obama is not so much ignoring WWI as recognizing the reality that, at the time, the U.S. was by no means the principal player on the world stage.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I think the US influence began after WWI, certainly from our perspective until the end of that war Britain was our main sphere of influence.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

RD_P-well said.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 1, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

I'd take Imom's point one step further in the president's invoking of the Marshall Plan to help rebuild former enemies as perhaps the starkest reason to use WWII as the pivot point, instead of WWI.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

The US didn't enter WWI till April 1917 and while we provided fresh troops and materiel, we were not a major power until after that conflict ended.

(My dad was a second lieutenant in the artillery and had orders for France when the war ended in November 1918.)

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Good point Scotty, I would add before that the Lend/Lease provision that was put in place while the US was still technically neutral, both the British and Canadian navies need that - desperately.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

By "arguably", I don't mean to cast doubt on the viability of the British Empire after WWI. I meant that, since the Empire was still a global power, arguably the U.S. can't be said to have borne a special burden in global affairs quite that early.

Darn lawyer weasel words.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

But I'd also echo a point raised by a couple of commentators -- it'll take months to deploy all the new troops, and that leaves a very tight timeframe to achieve our goals before we hit the 2011 trigger to begin bringing everyone home.

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 1, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

//". . .and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."//

Operative word is "begin."

//"Just as we have done in Iraq,. . ."//

We're still there. We haven't even started coming home in any significant numbers.

Posted by: SarahBB | December 1, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I think it is very fair to say the sun was setting on the Empire by that point Ivansmom, starting point of the independance of many of the former colonies and transition to the Commonwealth.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

This is fascinating. I would argue that the US wasn't a major world power until after II. dmd is quite correct that up until the end of I (and I would argue to the end of II) Britain was the power most of the world recognized.

An illustration: my father was too young for II, but old enough to follow it avidly. As a teenager I once said "Why on earth would we fight Britain's wars?" And he replied, "You might feel differently if London were burning." Well, I would not, but he certainly did. A big difference in a generation.

And it is also amazing to me, that while slyness and I are not so far apart in age, her father might have been in I, and mine was too young to be in II. Generations are slippery, that way.

Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, mine was a blended family. My dad's first wife died in her early 50's. When they were married, my dad was 56 and my mom 28. I can imagine what my grandparents thought!

Both my half brothers, my mother, and two of her brothers served in WWII.

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, we are similar in age and my father was in II, in the US army, Pacific theater. Very slippery.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Well Yoki, the best description of the difference would be Canada's declaration of war, automatic in WWI when Britain declared war, delayed several days in WWII a symbolic gesture to signify our ability to declare war distinct from the England.

The US economic influence may not have gain full steam until after WWII (but was considerable) but I think that war established their military strength - certainly by the end of the war. The war costs crippled Britain at the end of WWII a leading position was just no longer possible.

But I defer to Mudge and others who may be much more versed in this than I.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

At least Obama made many Republicans happy tonight... his early Christmas present to John McCain and Fox News. Such harmony, such bliss is a joy to behold.

Did he make anyone else happy?

There will always be dye in the wool supporters who will give him the benefit of the doubt... a pass. There are also a few Democrat hawks.

Did he make anyone else happy?

How many people feel deceived? Cheated? Lied to? Betrayed? Hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Spat upon?

Posted by: alance | December 1, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

During del reinado del Arbusto, I couldn't bear to watch any televised speeches. I would read the transcript which, in many cases, lacked cohesiveness. In contrast, the transcript of the speech just presented by the President, IMO, presented an argument that justified a mission, the mission objectives, and a means to bring the mission to a conclusion. Moreover, the President presented and rebutted three significant objections to his proposal, and presented a preliminary budget for the mission. Finally, the speech included reassurances that the proposed mission was not a means to occupy a country. I don't recall a speech that former President Bush made that was so thoughtful. I whipped up a couple of bowls of shrimp yourselves.

Posted by: -jack- | December 1, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

We do span some slippery generations here. Frostdaddy is a Vietnam vet.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 1, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I love this slippery generation idea. And yet, here we all are!

On my way out the door for drinks with a *contact* who will, hopefully, put my the way of more.

Posted by: Yoki | December 1, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

"Lend, Lease." After that it was all over but the shouting.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 1, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

You're going to have drinks with someone whom you hope will buy you more drinks, Yoki?

Carry on, then.

Posted by: Wheezy1 | December 1, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the nice compliments. Sorry for all the typos, but I hope the message got through.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

OK, a few basic numbers about WWI. First, although the US entered the war in April 1917, giving the impression that we fought for 19 months, the fact is it took us fully a year to enter actual shooting. During the first 11 and a half months, we recruited and built our army, trained it, sent it to France, trained it some more (all necessary). Pershing didn't get orders to put US troops into combat sectorsd until March 28, 1918. So we basically fired shots from April 1 to November 11, calle it 7 1/2 months.

The last German offensive (the Kaiserschlacht) started in early March and took a few months to wind down as ultimately a failure. By the time it ended, Germany was effectively broken. Although we entered combat on March 28, we didn't see a *lot* of it until the final assault, sometimes called the 100 Days battle, which began in August and ended with the Armistice. So effectively speaking we only fought significantly for a hundred days out of a war that lasted for 1560 days. That's abiout 6 percent of the war in terms of days of combat.

There were about 5.7 million combat casualties on all sides. The US inmcurred about 115,000 combat deaths, which works out to about 2.0 percent of the total: for argumentation purposes, a pretty minimal amount.

We had 757 civilian deaths; Russia had about 1.5 million. It's not even worth running that one through the calculator for a comparison percentage.

So speaking militarily, think of our particpation *in terms of combat* as a football game in which both sides play nearly to exhaustion until late in the fourth quesrter, during which one team manges to sneak a 12th man on the field for the last five or six downs: just enough to tip the balance.

much more

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | December 1, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

I feel a bit better after reading Ignatius.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 1, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I just checked what Obama said. He actually said exactly what I thought he'd say-- increase troops to guarantee stability for a safe withdrawal.

Anybody screaming for instant withdrawal of all troops without any increases is an idiot, by the way. Logistics and troop safety are at stake whenever you withdraw any troops from an area where hostilities are NOT done.

Whether this deadline will be a good or a bad idea remains to play out, but deadlines are a very smart negotiating tactic. It forces parties to concede in order to reach an accord, when, if given no deadline, they will stonewall no end.

Therefore, I suspect a "You'll be on your own in 18 months,so where exactly do you want to be when that happens" deadline will be used accodingly to pressure the Afghans to resolve their internal security issues.

It's not a perfect solution, but it works for me.

As RD said, taking cheap shots is a lot easier and lazier than actually doing the homework to provide concrete solutions.

We don't have a lazy president, but we do have a lot of lazy critics who I personally wouldn't trust to oversee any kind of operation, not even an animal pound.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Well, don't we all wish we could make cool, collected, complicated decisions on the fly? Yeah, so it took a while. This seems to me to be the best in a field of less-than-rosy options.

Posted by: slyness | December 1, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Now, although these numbers are quite accurate, they simply aren't *right." What is missing (besides the significant morale factor, which one shouldn't overlook) was the fact that the US had been a major, major supplier of armaments and supplies on the Allied side from Day One.

Our problem here is it is difficult to measure the effect of resources, supplies, and logistics. In 1918, German war manufacturing had declined to 53 Percent of what it had been in 1914. In other words, it had burned itself out. The Allied side, had pretty much done the opposite: increased it's resources and supplies (thanks to North America, meaning the US and whatstherenames to the north).
So yes, we did 2 per cent of the fighting for 6 percent of the days. And we did massive manufacturing for most of 1,560 days.

There was some debate above about at what point the US became a significant world power, and all the above suggestions are basically wrong, although at least half the problem is one of perception.

In other words, yes, the US was not "perceived" to be a major power until after WWI -- but nobody was looking at manufacturing.

The US launched the great World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 in part to tell the world the US had arrived on the scene...and we had. Any reasonable look at the numbers confirms that we were an equal, if not dominant, world power by 1893, and by 1900 there was no doubt about it.

But here's where perception comes in: nobody was looking at those numbers back then. They weren't unearthed until well after WWII, in fact. So we have the problem of the US being a major power only nobody knows it. Think of it as a high school football team comprised of lots of experienced juniors and seniors, and one lowly freshman. The thing is the freshman is 6' 7" and weighs 340 pounds. So nobody pays any attention to the rookie kid, who happens to be the biggest but least experienced kid on the team, who doesn't know the rules and hardly has but two minutes of playing time on the field goal unit. But by the time WWI is over, the kid is a senior, is all-state, and all-national, and has a free ride to any college he wants. And then the Roaring 20s comes along, and the kid drinks and wh0res around, pretty much flunks out, and nobody pays much attention to him even though he's still 6'7" and 340 pounds. Then WWII starts, and you know what happened to the kid then. He red-shirted the college team and didn't get on the squad until his sophomore year.

At which point he kicked some serious a$$.

That's what happened.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | December 1, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Mudge -- rich detail.

My slippery generations:

Both grandfathers in WWI, one as a medic who saw action in France. He lived into his high nineties and volunteered at the VA until about two weeks before he died. His only son was young for Korea and two old for Vietnam.

Other grandfather worked on malaria research for the Army during the duration of WWI -- in LA. Three of his five sons served in the Pacific Theater with the Army Air Corps.

I had two cousins serve in Vietnam -- they are about 66 now. At last count, seven cousins in Iraq or Afghanistan over the last five years.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | December 1, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Good job, Mudge.

But you're just using a football analogy so we'll all notice your shiny tiara.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I've noticed two schools of thought regarding the President's Afghan Policy - those from the right who suggest that the timing to bring large numbers of soldiers back to the US just before the 2012 elections is more about re-election strategy than about what's the best thing to do, and others who oppose sending any more troops at all.

But I think in both cases, they're grasping a bit.

What the President is doing here seems like thoughtful, responsible action to move these situtations towards conclusion. Nothing shocking, extreme, or outlandish.

On a final note, there was a full moon last night and, it seems, again tonight.

It's clearly affecting me, since I found myself scratching behing my ear with my foot. AhhhWooooooOOOOOOOOoooooo!


Posted by: -bc- | December 1, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Took some photos of that moon tonight bc.

Posted by: dmd3 | December 1, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

The full moon has a ring around it, the legendary bellwether for precipitation. NOAA is predicting 3-4 inches in these parts beginning sometime before daybreak, continuing through Wednesday, and culminating with t-storms tomorrow night. *digging out the mukluks*

just because I have this tune cootie...

Posted by: -jack- | December 1, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Please leave all those cute kittens alone BC......

Been too too busy,hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.........

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 1, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Both my grandfathers became US citizens through their army service in WWI.

I came across images of their draft cards in an ancestry search a few years ago.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 1, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Last night, if the moon was full, it was the beaver moon.

If tonight, this is the full moon, tis the long long moon.

Beaver = November
Long Long = December

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | December 1, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Jacob and Elenore all the way (secret message for those boodlers who care)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 1, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm sorry if the sparkle from my tiara is flashing in your eyes. I can take it off if it bothers you. (But it fits me soooo well, and I've been wearing it for *such* a long time now. Heh heh. Cough cough.)

The analogy demonstrates why it is hard to say at what point the US became a world power. I say the answer is approximately 1900, because there was no question we were 6' 7" and 340 by then. But no one (including us) *perceived* us that way until after WWII -- when every other player on both teams was exhausted, many had been carted off the field, and we were the only ones left standing. And so we rebuilt all of Europe, Allied and Axis both, and Japan too, leaving Russia and China alone to heal themselves, which Russia eventually did. (The irony being that Russia and China were both our allies during WWII, though China was useless as a fighting ally.)

The analogy breaks down, because in both wars almost everybody lost except the US, both times. We were the only true winners, both times, though not especially due to any particular talent or ability on our part, nor any special virtue. We just happend to live on a different continent from all the other kids, who basically beat the he11 out of each other and crippling each other.

Britain alone gets the Sylvester Stallone Award (massively switching metaphors; mind the whiplash, please) for being the Rocky Balboa Good Sport Valiant Loser of the Year.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | December 1, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I wasn't suggesting that the U.S. wasn't a world power by WWI. I assumed it was. I'm merely suggesting that then, and after WWI, it wasn't the only, or necessarily even primary, world power. This idea - that global power was still shared to some extent after WWI ended but before WWII - might explain Obama's reference to FDR and the U.S. assumption of the burden of global responsibility.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 1, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I think some of us understood everything you said-- except the parts about football. A very spirited analogy all the time.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 1, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

OK, Wilbrod, let me explain it a different way. See, there's these two curling teams who are having a knitting contest, and each team has to knit a big afghan while grinding specialty mustard...

Oh, I know, IM. I wasn't responding especially to you, just the general collection of comments,

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | December 2, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Sorry 'mudge. Just because you say it is so, doesn't make it so.

Posted by: Yoki | December 2, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

The Hitler regime seemingly thought the US had suffered irreversible economic collapse during the Depression, and was at best a second-rate power. Not something to worry about. They must not have had economics spies in Detroit, nor academic spies in Ann Arbor.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 2, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Which part(s) isn't so?

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | December 2, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

I’m not sure we even had an army before WWII. That’s why the Japanese’s occupation of our country was a breeze to them. There weren’t many British soldiers present either because they were fighting in Europe.

After WWII, when we fought the communist guerrillas, British, Australians and New Zealanders soldiers were all over the jungles. There were Gurkhas, too. My father was always praising the Gurkhas to high heaven. He never got tired of telling the story of a commie hiding behind a tree got killed by a bullet that came through the tree. It was fired by a Gurkha crouching many yards away.

Posted by: rainforest1 | December 2, 2009 4:01 AM | Report abuse

Come to think of it, I don't know that the US did anything on purpose to rebuild Japan. But our military bought lots of Japanese goods and services for the Korean Conflict.

Saw a modest film on World War II tonight, "Housewife, 49", directed by Gavin Millar, based on the war diaries of Nella Last, who wrote them for Mass-Observation, a sociological project. Mrs. Last's husband's outburst about the local upper crust would sound familiar to tradespeople who deal with my town's wealthy retirees, the sort who fund the museum that hosts the movie classes.

Locally, tiny grapefruits are arriving in the stores, products of a dry summer and rainless fall. A bit larger than a softball, pale yellow. The squeezer got lost during kitchen refurbishment, so I've gotta find another.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 2, 2009 4:25 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't it 1898 when we started getting into the imperialist power game? We took a bunch of islands from a dying European power and got into a draining war of attrition with guerrilla rebels not happy about our occupation. That would sure seem like a rite of passage.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2009 5:59 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. (It IS too morning, even if we can't see the sun and it's completely dark from all the rain!)

Fascinating discussion overnight about 20th century history and the role of the US. Thanks, Mudge!

I hope the US military will be successful in Afghanistan, given the contraints of their mission. Thirddottir's husband served in that country several years ago. When I get a chance, I'll ask him his opinion and report back. It will be interesting, I'm sure.

Posted by: slyness | December 2, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

'Mudge, please sit down.

Breathe deeply.

Not only does Ruth Marcus agree with you:

Kathleen Parker does, too.

Now, y'all please excuse me while I lose myself here:

*I'm-dreaming-of-a-white-ski-slope Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

I need linkification for the droid so I can see where Parker & mudge have ever agreed.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. I wish Obama all the luck in the world about Afghanistan, he'll need it. The place is such a mess.
One little sample. Last summer Radio Canada did a series on a unit of the 22ieme regiment (VanDoo) responsible to train Afghan "police" units in one of the rough provinces. The name of the place was not mentioned to protect the guilty, I guess. None of the "police officers" could read or write, including the provincial chief. That make application of the law quite ackward, I would think, when you can't actually read it. The officers were selected, including the chief, by complex negociation between the local clan leaders and their overlords in Kabul to ensure a fair sharing of the corruptions revenues between the various clans and other interest groups. The chief was personnally running a kidnapping for ransom scheme that was thinly disguised as "arrests" for various alleged crimes (while actual criminals of the right clans went unpunished, of course). It took months for the Van Doos guys to stop that kidnapping business. In the end, money most likely changed hands to compensate the chief for his loss of business opportunity.
One of the first lesson the VanDoos had to teach their pupils was not to beat anybody who dared talking to them. Basically, they were not police officers but thugs serving as enforcers for the local clan leaders. Months of training did a little good, but only a little as their function as instrument of the local leadership did not changed.
I think that building schools and making sure the kids know something of the world outside Afghanistan should have been the priority, shortly after the fighting stopped in 2001-2002. The whole country badly need to step out of the 13th century and I don't know how it could be done using military power.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 2, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

* fanning myself, sniffing some ammonia*

Wow. Okay, then! Thanks for the heads-up, Scotty. Had I stumbled on those two columns unprepared, who knows what might have happened. I thought both columns quite good, the Marcus especially so. And yes, yell, I actually have agreed with Parker on a few rare occasions. I can actually read her (even when I disagree) without puking, which I am still unable to do with K-hammer, pretty much as I am able to read a lot of G. Will. (I can always read Andrew Sullivan, whose credentials as a "conservative" are so tattered he may wind up voting for Tom Hayden one day.)

Yes, I seemed to have tapped into something, and am pleased at how much support this side of the debate is receiving, even here on the Boodle. My guess is that at least half of you have expressed general agreement to the notion that enough is enough.

Driving to work this morning one of the radio stations' DJ mentioned the Tiger thing and said they were conducting a poll. The question was, "Do you care?" meaning that the Dj was acknowledging widespread disinterest.

Jeez, wouldn't it be nice if the Tiger backlash against media intrusiveness and voyeurism (I am thanjkful to Marcus for that word) was the high water mark of out-of-control celeb fixation, and that the tide will begin to recede a bit. (OK, that's my naive Pollyanna moment for the day. I need another cup of coffee and my cynical vitriol pill.)

But I ask the question, is this what we've become as a nation? Is this who we are as a people? Voyeurs, Peeping Toms, a nation of Trailer Trash? (Insert references to rise, fall of Empire, comma, Roman, and Western Civ as we know it, decline of.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | December 2, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

And except for Sally Jenkins' pitiful, repugnent column, there hasn't been much support for the other side. Jenkins -- whom I often like -- was totally screwball over-the-top on this one, and I actually think she was plain flat-out wrong when she wrote (sarcastically), "The fact that I have pocketed $1 billion for being a public figure, in prize checks, appearance fees and commercial endorsements, does not mean..." blah blah blah. I will let her have the appearance fees and endorsements part of that if she wants, but the "prize checks"? Absolutely not. Tiger did not "pocket" those prize checks -- he effing EARNED them by being the best golfer in the history of the sport. He was entitled to every dime of the prize money (by virtue of winning) no matter what he may have done in his private life. Prize money and purses from contests, be it golf, NASCAR, playoff game bonuses, whatever, are EARNED, every cent. So they are off limits. The personal appearances and endorsements, OK, those are celeb-related. (I still think Jenkins is wrong about this, but at least I see her point.)

I actually thought Jenkins' column was embarrassing, it went so far the wrong way. Clearly she despises the guy-- but just as clearly she despised him well before any marital infidelity stuff came out. So now she'kll use *that* to retro-actively justify her opnion of him. "See? I knew he was a scuzzball even before I had a whiff of evidence, because the SOB wouldn't talk to me."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | December 2, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

My Dad was a plant manager of a Ford factory during WWII, making tanks. As far as I know, no one in my family ever served in any war - one uncle by marriage that I know of was in Korea, but that's it. I was vaguely ashamed of my Dad growing up because he hadn't been in the war like all the other dads. When I was in my twenties I found a certificate from the government thanking him for his contribution to the war effort stateside.

He did love factories, though. He lit up describing them, simply doted on finding clever new ways to make them more efficient. He had a tiny Minox camera and of the hundreds of pictures he took in the 60's and 70's, 3/4 are of buildings and factories, cars and machines.

Posted by: Wheezy1 | December 2, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

A quick scan of the headline in Liz's blog notes that Kate Gosslin and Lady Gaga are on the most fascinating people list (not sure who's list). Is more proof required of the downfall of civilization?

Posted by: dmd3 | December 2, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Wheezy, if your dad built tanks, he served. You have no reason to be ashamed of him.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | December 2, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I'm not anymore, Mudge. That was as a child, before I understood. My Dad was amazing.

Posted by: Wheezy1 | December 2, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle! Couple inches of snow over a sheet of ice this morning. Glad I don't have much driving to do today.

s'nuke-thanks for getting linky this morning.

Have no idea what I think about the prez's Afghanistan plan. New territory for me that. Will have to consult with Mr. F.

Now for a fun hour or so of chipping ice off the front walk.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 2, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Well, dmd, Lady Gaga does have her moments.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 2, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. D grand-father was too old for WWII but as a farmer he took contracts to provide vegetables to the local dehydration plant that was shipping its fare to the Old Country. So I'm sure the Brits are still thankful for those delicious dehydrated turnips.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 2, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I was able to listen to (and watch) Obama's speech last night, and thought it was appropriately informative, measured and, well, *adult* -- so, I was unsurprised about anything. And, Michael Moore and *Dick* Cheney notwithstanding, I think his policy in regard to Afghanistan is (without knowing more or immersing myself into everything he did to make his decision) what it is, and we'll all be a party to it, and see what happens.

Frosti -- I completely agree with you on your SYTYCD comment above. I also think that Kathryn is terrific. Of the boys, I really hope that Nathan gets the boot tonight. Of the girls, I have no idea, as I think every single one of them is very, very good. Who(m)ever leaves tonight will be sorely missed. But Ellenore is simply magnificent. And I like her quirkiness, too.

Oops. Gotta call someone far away (not Santa).

Toodley Boodley till anon.

Posted by: -ftb- | December 2, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

What happens at noon, ftb????

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

I'm glad that there are some journalists and columnists on the same page as we 'abdjurists'. (ahem)

I would note that there was some discussion over the weekend - I think LiT started it - as to whether celebrity-focused media frenzys (frenzies? SCC for me somewhere, I'm sure) were a cause or effect regarding the decline of news journalism.

Now, I have work to do and a mess to clean up from last night's Full Moon Fever. Lotta feathers to get rid of this time...


Posted by: -bc- | December 2, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Nobody tell Kirk Cameron!!!

Oh, wait, I'm getting my 80's sitcoms mixed up...

Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 2, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Oh, man. Feathers. bc, I hope the tiara made it through the night OK (it was your turn to wear it). It didn't get dented or banged up, did it?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | December 2, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I like some phrases Parker uses.

"Innuendo and whispers by that scurrilous wormtongue, Anonymous.

"Gathering of crows?"

"gawkers expect dividends"

Sounds like she's been on a Harry Potter or other gothic fantasy binge lately. I don't think "wormtongue" has been in regular use since the 13th century, if not since Chaucer's time.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 2, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I refute it THUS! (Kicks "submit" button in bunker)

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 2, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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