Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Men of Steele

Speaking at a Connecticut fundraiser Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele presented an incisive expressed of our continuing folly in Afghanistan (July 1).

"This was a war of Obama's choosing," Michael Steele said at the event. "This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in."

Steele also accused Obama of "demonizing Iraq while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan."

"Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that's the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan, alright, because everyone who's tried over a thousand years of history has failed," Steele continued.

Steele extended his criticism of the War in Afghanistan to the mission's strategy, addressing the recent dismissing of General Stanley McChrystal.

"The [General] McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical," he said. "I think it's a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders has with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan."

Of course it is true that Bush started the war in Afghanistan. But by escalating it, instead of pulling out as he should have, Obama now owns it. Michael Steele tells the truth.

Not surprisingly, Steele’s forthrightness was denounced by that preposterous old fraud and warmonger, Senator John McCain. Other Republicans honchos have joined in. They are truly on the wrong side of history.

One who got it right was Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who congratulated Steele on his remarks. In a statement o Sunday, he called Afghanistan “Nancy Pelosi and Brack Obama’s war.”

“The American people are sick and tried of spending hundreds of billions of dollar a year, draining our military,” Paul observed. “Michael Steele jhas it right, and Republicans should stick by him.”

Hooray for Michael Steele and Ron Paul!


UPDATE (July 6), In his Daily Dish posting today, the ever-astute Andrew Sullivan gives a much better analysis than the skimpy one I was able to offer above. I cannot resist quoting his posting in full:

[Andrew Sullivan] Consider the statement that gave Bill Kristol the vapors and had the neo-imperial triumvirate, McCain, Butters and DeMint, hounding him over the weekend:

"It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan."

This is a little cutting, but not far off. Obama has never been a pacifist; he's a Niebuhrian realist, as he keeps telling us. And in 2001, there was a clear case for removing a regime that had allowed its territory to be used by upper-class Jihadist fanatics to attack the US mainland (if only by commandeering American planes). But by 2007, it was clear that this war was failing as well, and whatever leverage we might have had there as liberators had been squandered by the Bush-Cheney administration's negligence and focus on Iraq. Any realist at that point would have seen the merits of a policy commensurate with the failed occupation of six years. And indeed Obama signaled very strongly in his campaign and first few months that he would be following a minimalist strategy in Afghanistan. His rhetoric in the campaign - that Afghanistan was the good war and Iraq the bad one - was mere rhetoric, as Steele notes. It was a cute formula for domestic political consumption that was divorced from the practical exigencies of running an empire in the graveyard of all empires. Still, one assumed the president wouldn't actually be more utopian than Bush, more dedicated to the establishment cult of Petraeus, more eager to win a war that simply cannot be won.

But last fall, we discovered that Obama was a dreamer and actually believed he could pull off - a decade late - what no invading army has ever pulled off in Afghanistan since the beginning of time. The shift came last fall with the policy review, and now we have a hundred thousand troops, dying at record rates, to implement a counter-insurgency strategy, based on the one that so glaringly failed in Iraq. (For those who believe the surge has succeeded, one must simply ask: where is the non-sectarian Iraqi government that was its stated goal? Why was Joe Biden in Iraq again this past week?) Back to Steele:

"Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan."

Amen [stlll Sullivan:]. This is, at this point, Obama's war - because it was a war of choice for him, not necessity. The scale and ambition of this madness is Obama's scale and ambition, no one else's. This war is now his war, as much as Vietnam was LBJ's. And this is not because he inherited it. He inherited a critical window to cut our losses and get the hell out, with a minimalist Biden-style strategy to minimize, if not end, the threat.

If the GOP leadership were not still controlled by the neocons eager to relive the glory days of Bush and Cheney, the Republican party would be reprising its role as the realist reminder of the limits of government power in America and across the world. But they have long since abandoned realism for the fantasies of neoconservatism. And so we have two neo-imperial parties and a presidency reeking of fear and paralyzed in the face of the toughest decision any president has to make: conceding that a war is unwinnable on his terms before others determine it for him - on theirs'.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Burk Braun said...

Hi, Mr. Dynes-

Firstly, Iraq has been stunningly successful over the last few years. Violence is down, governance is up, and people are complaining about not having enough air conditioning. I'd call that progress. We are also taking out our soldiers under completely honorable and successful conditions. What happens thereafter is up to the Iraqis, and no guarantees there. But they have calm conditions now to figure it out. I will bet they can keep it together.

Secondly, Obama made his decision on Afghanistan based not just on his whim and desire to kill his own political support, but based on the national interest. Ever heard of that? If you pay close attention to what is actually happening in Afghanistan, you would see that it is going decently well. Business is up, media are free and active, and the people are largely much happier to have the US there than the Taliban, as long as we treat them with respect and don't kill them wantonly.

The critical question is whether we can give them the assurance that our commitment is for the long term, so that they don't have to look over their shoulders and plan to be taken over by the Taliban in the future. The second question is whether we can influence the government to become less corrupt instead of more corrupt. That is a secondary question, but important as well.

If we vacated Afghanistan, we would be right back to square one, with the Taliban and Al Qaida in control, since they are the ruthless actors, willing to wantonly kill and maim to get their way, mafia-style. Whether they attack us again might be an open question, (though in a larger strategic sense, their success would certainly be costly for us on many fronts), but the misery they would impose on Afghanistan is unthinkable. And I would ask you whether gays in Afghanistan would be better off in such a situation.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

My friend Andrew Sullivan used to be a flaming hawk--one of the people who most fervently urged us into Iraq. But now he knows better. That is a lesson for all of us. Here is an incisive comment from July 10 (The Daily Dish):

"It tells you something about the laws of unintended consequences (something missing from the neocon handbook) that the man they championed as Iraq's "democratic" leader, Nouri al-Maliki, recently went to Beirut to pay his respects to a Hezbollah mullah regarded as a terrorist by the neocon chorus. It also tells you something that the neocon attempt to impose crippling sanctions on Iran is now being undermined by ... large amounts of oil supplies getting to Iran by road via Iraqi Kurdistan.
What has neoconservatism achieved? In Afghanistan, the best possible option is a country dominated by an increasingly Islamist and nuclear-armed Pakistan. In Iraq, the best possible option is a country dominated by Shiites far more aligned with Iran than many Sunni Arab states. And so the upshot of the Bush-Cheney years is an empowerment of both Iran and Pakistan, the two Muslim countries either with or close to nuclear capacity. That is the end result of a policy designed above all to prevent WMDs getting into the hands of terrorists. I mean: you couldn't make this up.

"And still they want more war. In fact, they are now angling for American support for Sunni Arab states (and Israel) to launch a war against the Shiite power of Iran. Not content with enmeshing the US in two intractable wars, they actually want America to take sides in the ancient intra-Muslim feud between Shiite and Sunni. Yes, that sounds like something brilliant doesn't it? No unintended consequences could come from diving into that briar patch.

"And, remember, nothing in the neoconservative mind exists that can actually take account of flaws in their own thinking. Because neoconservatism is a doctrine, and a doctrine cannot have flaws, just as neocon columnist can never make errors, or account for them." END of Sullivan quotation.

2:57 PM  

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