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A long haul -- continued -- in Afghanistan

President Obama may have announced an Afghanistan exit strategy Tuesday night, but this is no 18-month affair. What I took away from his speech was that we’re in for the long haul.

Afghanistan has already been a long haul, of course – eight years and counting. Obama’s vision of the way forward sounds logical and his commitment is obviously heartfelt, even passionate. That wasn’t Mr. Spock speaking at West Point, it was Captain Kirk.

But I can’t get past two assumptions underlying Obama’s plan: that Afghanistan can be molded into a polity that respects the authority of a pro-Western central government, and that Pakistan will cooperate wholeheartedly in the fight against Islamic extremists, including al-Qaeda. There is a chance that both these developments will come to pass someday. But within the next 18 months?

With tonight’s announced escalation, Obama has boosted the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by 63,000 troops. Administration officials say that the commitment to begin withdrawing forces in 18 months is firm, but the emphasis is on “begin.” They also indicate that no increase above the “extended surge” that Obama announced is contemplated. I believe them – but I also believe it’s highly unlikely that the administration is going to be able to make significant troop withdrawals in July 2011. Nothing about Afghanistan or Pakistan has ever been quick, and nothing has ever been easy. Why would that reality suddenly change?

Before there can be peace in Afghanistan, there must be political institutions that can negotiate and maintain that peace. Building those institutions in a country so resistant to central authority will be, at best, a long and arduous task. What Obama announced Tuesday was that we’re staying in Afghanistan. What he didn’t say is that U.S. troops are surely going to be there, in substantial numbers, for years to come.

By Eugene Robinson  | December 1, 2009; 9:18 PM ET
Categories:  Robinson  | Tags:  Eugene Robinson  
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Comments

"Before there can be peace in Afghanistan, there must be political institutions that can negotiate and maintain that peace. Building those institutions in a country so resistant to central authority will be, at best, a long and arduous task"

There is no particular reason to insist on a strong central government, just a government, central or distributed, that can hold its own against the Taliban. A loya jerga led feudal democracy, (where the deme is the ocrat, not the Dem) based on tribal lords and tribal affiliations unified by a national council and national head of state can as easily prevent Taliban resurgence and return of al Quaeda. It may look corrupt to western eyes, but it is a society that Afghans understand from long experience.

What we must prevent is the national leadership vacuum that developed after the Russians left, which permitted Taliban to insert themselves into the leadership position by exploiting the unwillingness of individual tribal lords to take the lead in organizing Afghanistan lest such leadership expose them to combinations of other Lords who might subsequently object.

Reestablishing a feudal army and a feudal police force may not seem to us westerners as a good idea, but it might be just the concept that Afghanistan can understand best.

"Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny." LLoyd Biggle Jr.

Posted by: ceflynline | December 1, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Obama is naive about this war. If there are about only 100 Al Queda in afghanistan, why are we sending 30,000 troops to fight there in the first place. I am also pessimistic about this war and he didn't convince me that American should be there and how that it is going to make us safer.

Posted by: dsroberts | December 1, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

"Obama is naive about this war. If there are about only 100 Al Queda in afghanistan, why are we sending 30,000 troops to fight there in the first place. I am also pessimistic about this war and he didn't convince me that American should be there and how that it is going to make us safer. Posted by: dsroberts | December 1, 2009 10:12 PM "

Care to tell us where you came up with your only 100 Taliban fact?

There are certainly as many as a thousand, and you need to flood their operations area with friendly troops so that whenever they try anything they run into friendlies on a distressingly regular basis. The British decided that they needed at least ten to one numerical superiority in Malaya to defeat the communist revolution. We made up for our inability to get that ten to one ratio in Viet Nam with lots of helicopters. In Afghanistan we will try to do that with lots of Strykers, some helicopters, and more than ten to one numerical superiority. Theory says it should be enough and the theory is field tested. With mini drones and predators to help seal the borders we might just have enough people to do the job. The better question is is 24 months enough?

Posted by: ceflynline | December 1, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

eugene says:

"But I can’t get past two assumptions underlying Obama’s plan: that Afghanistan can be molded into a polity that respects the authority of a pro-Western central government, and that Pakistan will cooperate wholeheartedly in the fight against Islamic extremists, including al-Qaeda"
___________


they aren't assumptions; they are platitudes to support untenable suppositions.


the main point is: he scores points with Republicans and the Military and can put his Nobel prize in the closet with the other don't ask don't tell lies that keep going round.


this two party system is a hoax!

Posted by: forestbloggod | December 1, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Robinson seems reluctant to criticize Obama's speech. Forget the speech, what counts is actions, not words. Some individuals throughout history have used their more or less gifted oratory to try to arouse people to support misguided policies, especially military adventures.

Sending more troops to Afghanistan will result in more brave American soldiers needlessly being killed and disabled. Their losses are not worth supporting a corrupt, incompetent, unpopular, fraudulently elected regime in another nation's civil war. More innocent civilians will needlessly be killed as in Iraq.

Obama has chosen to be a war president. The fact conservatives and Republicans are the ones who most strongly approve of Obama's speech, as well as military escalation, should clearly demonstrate to any still partisan progressives, Obama has no intention of enacting a progressive agenda, either in his domestic or foreign policies.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | December 1, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

The enemy will just lay low for awhile, in cold storage. Does anyone remember Mushariff's advice to Bhenazir Bhutto before She returned to Pakistan?
... Without a sense of separation of church from state, aka secular instituions, how can one nation be formed out of so many tribal nations in a badlands part of the world within an affordable and reasonable timeline?
... This whole operation reminds of a more intel' web than a strictly military one. ... Fine. ... It would be wiser to change those 30,000 "telescopes" into "microscopes".
..... This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds......

Posted by: deepthroat21 | December 2, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

"What I took away from his speech was that we’re in for the long haul."

I no longer take away anything from his speeches. He's nothing but a stooge. He's trying to prove his manhood to Cheney, who he should have in jail for war crimes.

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

We should not be going there with armed forces to kill people. Everyone knows that there are massive pockets of abject poverty all throughout that region that serve as a destabilizing force open to all sorts of undesirable pressures, including corruption. We need to promote and support civil society institutions and make sure that they grows in a manner that enhances the aspirations of all people living there as an asset, not a liability. The groups including the warlords must feel valued and respected and encouraged to contribute to the goal of national development. We also need to promote pluralism which is essential for peace; if it anyone, it should be us that promotes diversity weather it's cultural, ethnic, or religious. That's who we are!

Posted by: ladhak | December 2, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Well Gene, since you admit that Obama's withdrawal claim is absurd, do you think it is because Obama is a cynical liar or incompetent?

You sure never had any problem passing such judgment on Bush, but hey double standards is what being a mindless partisan pundit is all about, right?

Posted by: bobmoses | December 2, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

ladhak -

When are you volunteering to go to Afghanistan to "promote civil institutions" without any security? Of course not, it would be suicide.

I love the simplistic ideas of liberals. Your bleating of such nonsense is dorm room liberalism at its worst.

Please explain how the actions that you suggest are supposed to take place with no security. Do you think the Taliban and Pakistan ISS will just stand by while you "promote civil institutions"?

Your comments are laughable in their naivete. Do you still believe in Santa too?

Posted by: bobmoses | December 2, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

This is change we can believe in? Wasting more American military personnel lives and money in the Afghan hell-hole is just going down the same path taken by LBJ in Vietnam and the moronic Republican president who waged a war of aggression in Iraq.

Posted by: Eureka1 | December 2, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Eureka1 -

Clearly Bush is not as smart as you (or any of the mindless partisan commenters here).

Posted by: bobmoses | December 2, 2009 1:26 AM | Report abuse

but I also believe it’s highly unlikely that the administration is going to be able to make significant troop withdrawals in July 2011.
..........................
By April 2012 20,000 American troops will be brought home.

All part of the time table of the campaign for reelection.

On to the next campaign event of the one day job summit at the White House.

Even the supporters of the President must now understand, that the macabre photo opportunity at Dover Air Force base in the middle of the night at the end of October, was the indication of a President who decided to use the war card.

Posted by: bsallamack | December 2, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice Obama swallow hard after stating the Al Queda would use a nuclear weapon if they could get one? It was a little scary in view of his access to the best intelligence. So, I think we need to give the Commander in Chief the benefit of the doubt on this - even tho I also am a skeptic we can ever get out of there. I sure hope he means it when he says we will start withdrawing after 18 months, especially if Karzai and his extended family just sit there making money off our sacrifices.

Posted by: Nodoubt1 | December 2, 2009 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Nodoubt1 -

Your comment is similar to Obama's strange view.

You guys both state that the risk to America is immense, but not so immense that you are not willing to pull troops out in 18 months, no matter what.

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


Like millions in the U.S. and abroad, I am sad and angry. Sad to see millions of people's hopes shattered. I think of all those, count me among them, who day by day, kept on promotting what they thought a way out of Bush's nightmare.

I am angry. Very angry to see that Obama has reinforced the persistent sentiment that all the politicians are alike. Obama is just another Joe Lieberman.

The Chimp, Palin, Dick and their funddy followers must have a great time.

And the Oslo commity that gave him the peace prize must look rediculous. But they are used to it. If they gave it to Kissinger why not to Obama too?

A fraud and a fake Dem. Like most of those of his ilk in Congress. It's a very sad day.

Americans families must brace themselves for more body bags to keep Big Oil and the Military Industry satisfied and richer.

Posted by: bekabo | December 2, 2009 3:13 AM | Report abuse

That wasn't Captain Kirk it was B'rer Rabbit, slapping the Tar Baby with his one free hand. B'rer Fox is still hiding in Pakistan, with a big smile on his face this morning.

Posted by: jim4postnatl | December 2, 2009 5:36 AM | Report abuse

That wasn't Captain Kirk there, it was Br'er Rabbit. He just slapped the tar baby with his one free hand. Br'er Fox is hiding in Pakistan and is smiling slyly this morning.

Posted by: jim4postnatl | December 2, 2009 5:45 AM | Report abuse

"this two party system is a hoax!"

Not if you pay attention to what the candidates say.

But that is a lot of work.

Posted by: gary4books | December 2, 2009 5:48 AM | Report abuse

Yawn!!! This was the "SPEECH GIVER'S" worst sermon of them all. It was given with NO passion or emotion what so ever. It looked like it was a big pain in the butt for him to even be there.

This was supposed to be about the war and the "Speech Giver" always has to mention the things HE has done,the economy and other things that had NO business being in this speech.

We are going to PHASE in the troops to Afghanistan and as soon as we get them all in, start pulling them out!!

Al Qaeda,the Taliban and all the foreign JIHADISTS are loving this. They will sit back,stop fighting for eighteen months,re-arm and then come back with a vengence on anyone and everyone who even talks to the INFIDELS.

Posted by: 79USMC83 | December 2, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

In other words We are what the President said We wern't, an Occupier. I too had high hopes that Obama would truly bring needed change to America's brutal Policy of endless War but it seems that Yale or Harvard Graduates of any color have bought into the idea that's whats good for American Business is good for Everybody else whether They want it or not. With the Economy in shambles, 50million without health coverage, one in 8 Homeowners under water and black un-employment at 25%, Afghanistan is the least of Our problems and the most expensive. Does that sound like a thinking Man to You?

Posted by: mnlennon | December 2, 2009 6:18 AM | Report abuse

The best evidence of how corrupt and how futile Obama's Afghanistan policy is, is that the Republicans are on board, whole hog. Unless, of course, he wants some way to pay for this fantasy. Then they will bail like a stranded boater. This is not the policy I voted for, or the change I voted for, or even the party I thought I voted for. Count me among the Democrats who have now, in but 10 months, walked away from the Democratic Party. Neither party now represents any part of America.

Posted by: tytyman | December 2, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

By expending more American lives, instead of fewer, this surge will allow the United States to "save face" by leaving Afghanistan under improved conditions, rather than under deteriorating conditions.
And, no matter how well or poorly we do in the coming months, WE WILL HAVE TO RETURN to this battleground of global Jihad.
Then, we will be asking ourselves, "What were all those lives, all those years and a mighty effort...for?"
Whatever answers our leaders give, whatever lessons learned, will soon be forgotten. The Pentagon's collective memory has a half-life of only ten years. Politicians will forget at the next election. Since most Americans never remember, they will have nothing to forget.
We will have done everything we could really afford.

Posted by: elfraed | December 2, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

If everybody is unhappy then it must be the right policy.

Posted by: ORNOT | December 2, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

It is somewhat amazing the positive reception that the Obama speech is being given. We are a nation with near depression level unemployment, record debt, declining standard of living and severe economic problems. The administration wants to expand a war that has been at best a stalemate for eight years. A war half way around the world against an enemy that can operate in any country in the region.

And yet there is very little critical comment from the press or our political leadership. I guess our culture makes war not only acceptable but in a subliminal way desirable.

Posted by: dfdougherty | December 2, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Obama turns out to be Bush 2.0 with his utterly unrealistic strategy for Afghanistan. More senseless American casualties and taxpayer dollars to go to a cause that is clearly understood to be hopeless from the very beginning. Sounds like Vietnam, right? It is. Our children have to die so the generals can play at war and justify their hypocritical existence and the military industrial complex can continue to spend our tax dollars preventing an American future free from dependence on an oil economy. An America free to leave the problems of the world alone while we figure our way into a genuinely liberating economy grounded on an energy source clean and free. An energy source that subverts the suicidal economic course being provided by oil corporations controlling our government and military and leading us to an environmental disaster that threatens our very existence as humans. What's worse, a clearly treasonous neocon Bush/Cheney regime, or a "neolib" regime that promises reform but keeps sucking the life blood out of America with the same Wall Street crooks and their government protectors Geithner, Summers, and Bernanke, the same greedy uncaring health insurance corporations now with millions more Americans to cheat out of honest health care at taxpayers expense, the same military industrial complex protecting the oil cartel that bribes our politicians preventing honest and desperately needed reforms?

Posted by: dospalmas11 | December 2, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Tough crowd here. We are indeed a war-weary nation and it shows. I've seen war's horrors up front as a combat veteran. I'm also a lifelong democrat. Still, I can't help but question why so many view the conflict in Afghanistan as a war of choice.

Unlike Iraq, this nation was attacked by a known enemy (Al Qaeda), given refuge by a hostile state (a taliban-ruled Afghanistan). This attack was not of our own choosing. It was waged upon us just as the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. Which of us wouldn't defend ourselves if someone strikes us in the face? Even if we forgive the offender, that alone won't prevent him from striking you again. He will strike you and strike you until you have two choices: 1) give up, 2) fight back. So we are compelled to defend ourselves, not because we desire it, but because we must.

For those critical of the War in Afghanistan, please convince me by answering two non-hypothetical questions: 1) How else can we prevent Al Qaeda from attacking us again, and 2) Is there ever a point when war is necessary?

Afghanistan is not Iraq, folks. Let's get to the business of defeating Al Qaeda, so the next generation won't have to.

Posted by: todricos | December 2, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I support the president, and understand that in that job...very "tough decisions" have to be made at times. After listening to his speech last night, my main concerns are how can sending more troops be truly effective when the Afghan government is corrupt and inapt? How can we Americans "trust" a individual such as General McCrystal who "blatantly lied" (I mean "in your face lie"....) about the death of Pat Tilman????? This man not only lied to the American people (of course he was ordered to lie as well..), and the Tilman family. Why is he in anyway in charge of anything after that episode??!!!

So, though I have always been against the Iraq invasion, and still have questions about "who actually" perpetrated the vile/horrendous acts on 9/11, my two questions I believe are really what concerns me most about sending more troops over there in the first place.

Posted by: rayven-t | December 2, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"There are certainly as many as a thousand, and you need to flood their operations area with friendly troops so that whenever they try anything they run into friendlies on a distressingly regular basis."
**************
Can you tell us where you got your "certainly as many as a thousand" fact?

Posted by: legendarypunk | December 2, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Todricos asks, "how else can we prevent Al Qaeda from attacking us again?" Ask yourself, first, why we were attacked in the first place? Understand that an economy based on oil has caused the continued and expanded colonialization of the culture that happens to exist on top of all that oil, which views occupation as a state of injustice and a cause for war. In Afghanistan, this culture has fought against the yoke of invaders and occupiers for generations. This is a culture which has no sense of separation of church and State. Their religion IS their government. The military aspect of this religion/government is called JIHAD with all the religious rationalizations known well to American anti-abortionists to justify their acts of violence. Todricos references Pearl Harbor, but that attack was also motivated by a reaction to the cutoff of oil to Japan. Obviously, then, the question becomes, when are we all, as a human race, going to wake up to the hellacious consequences of depending on oil as the basis of our economy. When are we going to demand that our government make an all out reform of it's current corrupted state and divert some of the huge billions of tax dollars going to the military industrial complex to maintain it's suicidal course to an oil free based economy?

Posted by: dospalmas11 | December 2, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

(1) The U.S. cannot "win" or come out on top in the Islamic Middle East. Infidels are never welcome. Ask Israel. Or Russia.

(2) The 9/11 attacks were ENABLED by a still-incompetent and non-cooperating Bush-era collection of federal intelligence and security country clubs, the FBI, CIA, and Defense Department foremost amongst them.

(3) Until the mal-informed Game-Boys in America insist upon FIRST securing our "homeland," no one, no place here is really safe, as we've seen in recent events.

Posted by: kinkysr | December 2, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

It's hopelessly disappointing to read even you suggesting to us, Mr Robinson, that the American God-ordained duty is to mold the government of Afghanistan into a polity that respects the authority of a pro-Western central government, and to militarily force Pakistan to cooperate wholeheartedly in the fight against Islamic extremists, including al-Qaeda. I mean: before Charlie Wilson's war, there were no "Islamist extremists' as you put it in that region of the world where my parents hail from. They had only certain backward, obscurantist sections of society who were far less nefarious than the White-supremacist/KKK-but-God-fearing-tribes of America. It was Charlie Wilson's buddies who created the Taliban. Al Qaeda sprung up after the Soviets had been defeated and the thousands of one-legged, one-armed, often eye-less Soviet-invasion fighters were abandoned to themselves, and denied even the UNDP and World Bank development assitance that failed-state sores like Angola, Obasanjo's Nigeria, Teodoro Obiang's Equatorial Guinea, Laurent Gbagbo's Cote d'Ivoire and others were getting. We progressives had all hoped that Obama and people like you would understand better. But, deep inside, I had always known that Obama would let progressives down very badly. But that does not mean that the cause of the progressives is lost, whther you, Mr. Robinson, are still on our side or not.

Posted by: FUZZYTRUTHSEEKER | December 2, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

(1) The U.S. cannot "win" or come out on top in the Islamic Middle East. Infidels are never welcome. Ask Israel. Or Russia.

(2) The 9/11 attacks were ENABLED by a still-incompetent and non-cooperating Bush-era collection of federal intelligence and security country clubs, the FBI, CIA, and Defense Department foremost amongst them.

(3) Until the mal-informed Game-Boys in America insist upon FIRST securing our "homeland," no one, no place here is really safe, as we've seen in recent events.

Posted by: kinkysr | December 2, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

But dospalmas, wars were fought long before oil became the basis of the world economy. Man has found an excuse to fight over anything and everything. I understand that. What I argue is that there is a point at which man justly takes up arms in defense of himself. America's oil interests aren't a justification for an attack on the American people. Because in twenty years it'll be another excuse, and in a hundred years, another excuse. No matter what excuse, be it economic or otherwise, there can be no justification for what happened on 9/11, and America, not of its own choosing, must fight a war it never intended to fight.

I appreciate you opinion. I agree that America has not been perfect, but no matter how we got there, Al Qaeda believes we are there enemy, and they're intent is to kill you, your family, and your way of life. If you were in the twin towers when they fell, Al Qaeda would have celebrated your death along with everyone else that died there despite your acknowledgement of America's past imperfection. Now, how do we stop them?

Posted by: todricos | December 2, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I share the sentiments expressed. I see no hint of a plausable alternative.... It's like Sisiphus. Let's try something differentl.

1. Where is the CIA? Is there any intelligence on our side? We came here to kill Osama Bin Laden. Where is he?

2. Where are Russia and China in all this? They live alot closer to the consequences of all this than we do. Why are they getting a free ride on America's dollar and NATO's effort? It's great they let us overfly their airspace. But we're drowning down here...how about a little help?

3. Why do we continue to exascerbate our differences with Iran? She is next door on the "peaceful" side of Afghanistan and acturally showed signs of a willingness to help in the wake of 9/11.

4. Isn't it interesting how Osama Bin Laden retreats, not to Iran, but to Pakistan? Ask me which one of these I would prefer having the "Bomb!?"

Bottom line is that I voted for an alternative. What I'm getting I'm getting Bushed and I don't like it.

Posted by: waterl00 | December 2, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I share the sentiments expressed. I see no hint of a plausable alternative.... It's like Sisiphus. Let's try something differentl.

1. Where is the CIA? Is there any intelligence on our side? We came here to kill Osama Bin Laden. Where is he?

2. Where are Russia and China in all this? They live alot closer to the consequences of all this than we do. Why are they getting a free ride on America's dollar and NATO's effort? It's great they let us overfly their airspace. But we're drowning down here...how about a little help?

3. Why do we continue to exascerbate our differences with Iran? She is next door on the "peaceful" side of Afghanistan and acturally showed signs of a willingness to help in the wake of 9/11.

4. Isn't it interesting how Osama Bin Laden retreats, not to Iran, but to Pakistan? Ask me which one of these I would prefer having the "Bomb!?"

Bottom line is that I voted for an alternative. What I'm getting I'm getting Bushed and I don't like it.

Posted by: waterl00 | December 2, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Mr.Robinson you are indeed a changling in a world that has seen nothing new in it since the dawn of the ages. As a sycophant of your cousin Obama it truly must of hurt you last night to listen to his speech on Afghanistan. If you check your notes you will find that McCrystal wanted 60,000 not the minimum of 40,000 troops to complete his mission. Obama gave him half and then told the enemy that we would be gone so he could run for president in 2012. As I read your column earkier I could just picture you at your computer saying "why did you do this brother?" I can't make sense of it. Oh, I think we have another LBJ on our hands. I have to agree with you on one point you have made before; let's bring the boys home and try diplomacy. Because of that I can see this was a very dificult article for you to write and for you to believe in.

Posted by: pechins | December 2, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

U-jean,

If Obama is James T. Kirk, then your his Lieutenant Uhura.


Posted by: dashriprock | December 2, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Rule one let the other guy take the risk and casualties.
The President has given a date, (for defeat) that the media will put on the calendar.
The speech to the world, from the American military base, directed to a suspicious America was a dud.

Posted by: RayOne | December 2, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Without a draft, perpetual war is a given . The only thing that changes is the location and the justification. Presidents come and go. War continues.

Posted by: Jihm | December 2, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

There can never be peace in Afghanistan, regardless of what some pointy headed, pseudo intellectual, Harvard law professor in the White House believes.

The last professor we had in the White House was Woodrow Wilson - another complete disaster. Wilson invaded Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. He ran for re-election as the peace president in 1916, and then sent our soldiers to Europe. After WWI he demanded massive war reparations from Germany which led to the rise of Hitler and WWII.

Posted by: alance | December 2, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

We should not be going there with armed forces to kill people. Everyone knows that there are massive pockets of abject poverty all throughout that region that serve as a destabilizing force open to all sorts of undesirable pressures, including corruption. We need to promote and support civil society institutions and make sure that they grows in a manner that enhances the aspirations of all people living there as an asset, not a liability. The groups including the warlords must feel valued and respected and encouraged to contribute to the goal of national development. We also need to promote pluralism which is essential for peace; if it anyone, it should be us that promotes diversity weather it's cultural, ethnic, or religious. That's who we are!

*******************************************
So you are talking about rebuilding America then ?

Posted by: scon101 | December 2, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

So sad to see so many bitter and caustic comments from a fearful and disillusioned audience. I guess not many actually listened to Mr. Obama's speech on election night. The one where he said things wont be easy. That our problems wont be solved in one term, much less 100 days. No sir, we want all these issues from unemployment to the prosecution of Bush/Cheney to the economy solved yesterday. We're Americans, we expect immediate results.
Abandon Afghanistan, jettison Iraq, punish those filthy greedy bankers and Wall Street leeches. Close Guantanamo. Create jobs.

He's too slow on Afhganistan and too fast on health care. He's "Bush-lite", another LBJ, a "pointy-headed intellectual" like Wilson.

I don't know if this decision by Mr. Obama will be successful or not. But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, I did the same for Carter,Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes. Whether I voted for them or not they were still my Presidents.

Posted by: mlx10dp | December 2, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

It will take three to five generations for Afghanistan to become civilized, regardless of how many troops we send and for how long. It is the last fortress of tribal backwardness in the region.

Posted by: schaeffz | December 2, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

obama's cinderella war

the war against al qaeda is a "vital national interest" obama says

and he is right

but then obama says the "vital national interest" disapppears in 18 months--july 2011 --just like cinderellla's coach turns into a pumpkin at midnight

it must be a coincidence that this is just before his reelection

obama does not understand--war is for keeps

war is not like cinderella's midnight curfew

Posted by: ProCounsel | December 2, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

— James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

Posted by: francis4 | December 2, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

todricos wrote,

"Unlike Iraq, this nation (the U.S.) was attacked by a known enemy (Al Qaeda), given refuge by a hostile state (a taliban-ruled Afghanistan)...."
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Why was only Afghanistan attacked it the true motive was to find, punish and destroy Al Queda and Osama Bin Laden? Al Queda is and was present all through the Middle East, Pakistan and Africa. Why were none of those nations also attacked if what you say is true?

Al Queda planned their attack from Germany. Why weren't the Germans attacked?
The Germans weren't attacked because the absurdity of such an action is apparent to all.

Al Queda is a movement, not a nation with defined boundaries. The justification of attacking Afghanistan under the guise of destroying Al Queda makes no sense to me. They want something else just as they used the excuse of WMD to invade Iraq because they wanted something else in Iraq too.

Posted by: francis4 | December 2, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

What need to be said was, we can't win, we're getting out now. There is no winning this war.

Posted by: mtravali | December 2, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Barry is as phony as is so called man caused Global Warming.

All the Libs believe in, support or have as a cause de jour is based on Lies, Deceit and Snake Oil.

Posted by: jas7751 | December 2, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if anybody has noticed something about Afghan Women in recent footage? More than a few wear the dreaded burkas. Others have covered heads with exposed faces that they immediately cover in terror (or maybe disgust) when confronted with a camera. This is the society we're gonna change in 18 months. Methinks not 18 years.

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | December 2, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

todricos says "wars were fought long before oil became the basis of the world economy". Does that mean that we're never to evolve into a higher form of economy that uplifts our humanity instead of subverting it? You love America, plainly, so do I! America, before WWII had virtually no military. It created a massive industrial military effort and defeated the Germans and Japanese in just four years! Now, we need to spend billions of taxpayer dollars desperately needed to get off of oil in order to suppress a virtual handful of JIHADIST's threatening our economy because of it's oil dependency? I'm convinced that only America can create an energy source that liberates us from the degenerate consequences of greed and corruption inherent in maintaining oil as the basis of our economy. Then, the JIHADIST's can have their God forsaken dessert to themselves and be left in peace. If we, as Americans, don't wake up to the truth that our values and the future of our children is being threatened by a nihilsistic oil dependency, the American middle class, the backbone and primary force of democracy in our country and our source of technological creativity will continue it's current path of dissolution.

Posted by: dospalmas11 | December 2, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Any Presidential candidate in America with aspirations to the excitement, the glitz of White House life and the orgasmic high of Executive power has to know the limitations of such power, for the morning after Inaguration he will face the reality and the limitations of such power. And that is, that he's there for many things, but not to stop the endless, useless Wars that afflict America like a Cancer.
This is what Obama has come to understand in no small way. Like a good politician, he will now proceed to save his political behind by bending the curve and clouding his campaign promises with lawyer talk so that he can survive two terms-although most of us that voted for him doubt that will be possible.
It will be difficult to see another Lincoln in our future, someone with balls of Titanium that can end a major flaw in America's socio-political fiber.

Posted by: lionelroger | December 2, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"

"There are certainly as many as a thousand, and you need to flood their operations area with friendly troops so that whenever they try anything they run into friendlies on a distressingly regular basis."
**************
Can you tell us where you got your "certainly as many as a thousand" fact?

Posted by: legendarypunk "

Oh. like, maybe HISTORY. The Taliban where what passed for government in Afghanistan for several years, you know, right up until they got concerned and took a powder when the SF and spec ops boys started showing up in the Northern tier of Afghanistan's provinces. They drove around in armed trucks, ala Somali "technicals", beat insufficiently observant muslim Afghans, drove women into purdah, etc. etc. etc.

Somewhat short memory there, kid, don't you think?

By the way, I think maybe you have the Taliban and al Quaeda mixed up. al Quaeda might currently number in the hundreds, although the various al Quaeda wannabees seem to be multiplying into the hundreds on their own.

Do your home work.

Posted by: ceflynline | December 2, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

There is no SANE reason to be in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Just as there is no reason for this story,
it is just a self serving piece of hatred
towards George Bush.

Going to war to punish 19 terrorists who trained at flight schools in the US,
is not logical.

The sad fact that liberals could not stop the Right Wing Insanity, when Bush was President, is not an excuse to perpectuate
it.

We need to take a deep breath,
and say... OK... 9/11 happened.
Killing hundreds of thousands of
innocents will not erase it.

The world is a dangerous place.
Fighting violence with violence,
is misdirected and adolescent.

Posted by: simonsays1 | December 2, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Afghanistan is tough, and it is a test of American mettle. I didn't understand the President's speech last nite to be giving a firm deadline that no matter what, US troops would be pulling out. That would have been absurd. Rather, I understood him to mean that provided the results are achieved, the pull-out would be begin. Congressional testimony today seems to confirm that view. War is not fun, but I think the world is very keen on not permitting Afghanistan to slide back into the state of lawlessness prevailing when the Taliban were in control, and which permitted Al-Qaeda to set up shop there. Leaving now or allowing the war to drift by not implementing a surge would lead to that, in my view. Let's give the strategy a try...it's war, after all. You never know what will happen until you try it.

Posted by: KingstonMan | December 2, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Eugene must have listened to a different speech than I did last night. I saw or heard No passion. He failed to say that he was against the Irraq surge but is now for the Afghan surge. And he said this is about the security of the whole world, but we're leaving in 18 months. Absolutely no exit criteria. He fit right in at West point - 2LT Obama.

Posted by: delusional1 | December 2, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Aren't these right wingers unbelievable? They trip over their own contradictions and then wonder why they fell.

Right wingers: you LOVE war. You always have, and you always will. You LOVE that a few, very few will make trillions of dollars in profit from this war. This is who you represent: the incredibly rich.

Right wingers: you LOVE war. you haven't sent your sons or daughters to war since World War II. Even in that war, you were assured they'd get some support job and never see combat. And, of course, they never did see actual combat despite their war "stories".

Right wingers: you LOVE war. You send the poor to war who are without influence or options which in your view of the world is exactly how the world should work. So they can fight to make you richer. Isn't that how the world has always worked?

Right wingers: who's going to reap the trillions in profit from this war? Iraq gave US companies almost a trillion in graft, theft and pillage. Can this war top it?

Right wingers: why all this negativity toward Obama? He gave you what a right wing Republican would've given you. Some of us are beginning to think you're all wind. Foul smelling wind. Mindless, without ethics or principles, blown by the winds of profit and amorality whichever way it blows. True Republicans.

Posted by: flamingliberal | December 2, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

America is very fortunate to have a general citizenry so well informed about her wars that they can contradict her President's three month review and study of the situations immediately.
And, of course, come up with the correct solutions immediately too. After all, they watch a lot of television and so can discount the whole intelligence community's recommendations, the whole military's recommendations, the whole diplomatic community's recommendations and proceed to focus on their own fatigue and personal worries.
"Anyone" can become President in America and every "Anyone" believes he or she is.

Posted by: cms1 | December 2, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Thera was a philosopher who said: those who forget the mistake of the past are conndemn to repeat it.

Posted by: TinMarin | December 2, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

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