Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Welcome To the Suck

A show of hands -- who's really shocked that President Obama made the decision to commit 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan?

If you raised your hand, you're either incredibly naive or you weren't listening particularly closely during last year's presidential campaign. It's not so much what Obama said then as what he didn't say: He talked a lot about withdrawing from Iraq -- a war that was arrogant, unabashed folly from day one -- but to the best of my knowledge never mentioned pulling out of Afghanistan. Those on the left who are now gnashing their teeth at how cheated they feel -- how their dreams of a great progressive utopia have been sacrificed on the altar of Obama's attempts at centrism and the fruitless appeasement of his political enemies -- would be wise to remember all the times they conveniently held Afghanistan up as an example of a supposedly "just war" in an effort to contrast Bush's Iraq adventure as the ultimate "unjust war." As in: "Why aren't we focusing all our attention on Afghanistan, the Taliban and bin Laden, instead of wasting time, lives and money in Iraq? Huh? Huh?"

The fact is that Afghanistan, and by proxy Pakistan, remains the main front, if there is such a thing, in the war against the entity that attacked us on 9/11; it's where we should've been concentrating every ounce of our military and strategic effort all along, before we allowed a bunch of neo-con assholes bent on remaking the Middle East in our image -- or at least Halliburton's -- to distract us in Iraq. Afghanistan is an unfinished fight and, as much as it hurts beyond belief to say this, it's one that will result in a whole lot of American kids having died in vain if we don't at the very least attempt to tie it up in as respectable a bow as is possible in a place that exists at the ass end of the world.

Would it be nice to pull all the troops out and bring them home and would we all love to see that more than anything? Abso-fucking-lutely. Is it realistic, given not simply the fight we started there eight years ago -- the fight we had every right to start -- but the way we abandoned Afghanistan 25 years ago, silently intervening in that country's war against the Soviets then leaving it to pick up the pieces on its own in the aftermath? No, it isn't. It's common knowledge by this point that we helped to create Osama bin Laden and the Taliban through our arming of Afghanistan's mujahadeen in their holy war against the Soviet invaders. If you still subscribe to what Colin Powell once cynically referred to as the "Pottery Barn" rule of nation building -- "You break it, you bought it" -- then Afghanistan has been our war for almost three decades.

And that's something the conflict-addicted jerk-offs in the media need to remember before they giddily jump on what we're already seeing is a rapidly advancing meme in the wake of tonight's address by Obama: that with this escalation, Afghanistan is no longer Bush's war but "Obama's War."

That's horseshit. It was never really Bush's war, and it certainly isn't Obama's war; it's America's war. The Reagan administration was at one time as knee-deep in the impenetrable caves and valleys of Afghanistan as the Soviets were -- the difference being that the U.S. wasn't on the ground attempting to conquer the Afghans -- and because of its negligence post-Russian invasion, our tenuous erstwhile allies evolved to become our greatest threat in the Middle East and Asia, if not on the entire planet. Our decision to attack Afghanistan and attempt to drive out the enemies that we'd ironically created was the right one -- especially after 9/11. The eventual result of this conflict likely won't be a perfectly stable state, and it damn sure won't be one that's free of corruption, not with the Karzai government in charge. But if the Taliban really were allowed to regain a measure of legitimate control within the Afghan borders -- particularly with Pakistan being the bubbling cauldron of crazy that it is -- then we'd have spent the past eight years there for almost nothing.

As painful as it is to accept and as much as it seems antithetical to what many believe they were promised during the campaign, Obama knows this. He made a tough choice -- the least terrible one from a series of options that were all terrible in some form.

Let's just pray we really can push forward and get out with as few lives lost as possible.

Although that may be the naivest hope of all.


Anonymous said...

Fuckin' a, man - great points. I had myself thinking the other way but you're spot on with your analysis.

Sr. Wrangler said...

I'm with you on this one. Probably the toughest choice Obama has faced to date. I think (hope) he got it right.

Michael J. West said...

He talked a lot about withdrawing from Iraq -- a war that was arrogant, unabashed folly from day one -- but to the best of my knowledge never mentioned pulling out of Afghanistan.

I'll go you one better, Chez. He not only never mentioned pulling out of Afghanistan, but he frequently mentioned "renewing our focus on Afghanistan" and "finishing the job in Afghanistan."

Voters, if you didn't think he was talking about an escalation there, you were either foolish or simply kidding yourselves.

And make no mistake - if you did know he was talking about an escalation in Afghanistan (and, as above, you should have), and you voted for him anyway, you (and I) were effectively giving him a green light to so escalate.

So you might as well stop the screaming. The fault, if it be that, lies with you, not Obama.

Peter L. Winkler said...

On June 28, 2007, Andrew Sullivan explained why we won't succeed in Iraq. Simply substitute Afghanistan for Iraq.

"Without any coherent government, without sectarian reconciliation, this kind of thing will continue in the power vacuum. The U.S. military is doing everything it can, but it cannot perform miracles. In a country where there is no effective central government, and where the Iraqi security forces are captive to various sectarian impulses and restrained only by the patina of American force, bombings and mass murders will continue. We could stay there twenty years and, without a political solution from within, they would continue. The problem in Iraq is not that Washington somehow wants to pull out prematurely. It is that there is no credible scenario for improving matters if we continue to plow on."

Karzai's government is corrupt, ineffectual, and can't defend its capitol city after eight years of U.S. and NATO troops' presence. We are the only thing preventing the Taliban from reasserting control of Afghanistan. We'll have to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely to prevent that, and thaat is an unsustainable position.

Anonymous said...

Well done and well said. Also, currently taking all bets as to the what the nuts jobs on both side say about this! (Sadly - "Obama's War" is probably going to be the most rational.)

SteveR said...

Nice post Chez, but personally, I'd say "cut your losses and get out". What makes anyone think that more troops will make a difference?

I agree with your closing sentence, sadly.

brite said...

I am not surprised, merely saddened that Obama continues to be the bumboy for Big Oil. And you are all being naive if you think invading Afghanistan had anything to do with 9/11.Plans for the invasion were laid out in early 2001 and this now famous quote was made in June of that year.
''At one moment during the negotiations, the U.S. representatives told the Taliban, 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs',''
So all the past and future dead Americans (and Canadians and Brits) are dying for Big Oil, not any political ideology or altruistic motive to bring 'democracy' or even revenge for 9/11.

Chez said...

You know something, Brite? I'm not going to argue whether or not oil played any sort of factor in the invasion of Afghanistan, but I would like to make an admittedly very right-wing point about all the screaming some people tend to do about how we give "blood for oil."

While I don't want to see kids die for our overconsumption, somewhere along the line we've forgotten that oil actually is a necessary commodity. It's even a matter of national defense. Sure, it's easy to shout about how it sucks that we're willing to fight for oil -- but I always wonder how many people would think that way if suddenly everything in our society shut down. The smartest thing anyone's said in recent memory is about the need for us to break our dependence on foreign oil and oil in general -- which of course is a hell of a lot easier said than done. Until that time, though, oil will be something we have no choice but to fight and die for.

brite said...

Yes, Chez, how very rightwing of you indeed, and being rightwing puts the blinders on, as you point out time and time again.
Until that time, though, oil will be something we have no choice but to fight and die for.

The fact is there are many many 'choices' we could be making to break our dependence on foreign (and domestic) oil.If we spent half of every billion we have already spent on wars to obtain cheap and easy oil investigating and developing other sources of energy, we would have viable, commercially available sources by now.The fact is, the powers that be don't want alternatives to oil because it would destroy 'their world', the one where all the money is black gold.And saying any commodity is worth dying for, is as my father would say, utter bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Chez, of course, we could always go back to drilling and refining our own resources. There's more crude under our own soil than all of the middle east. Our conservation policies just won't let us get to it.

NJ said...


In the vast majority of all of our lives, there has come a time where we were forced into a corner. We reacted one of two ways.

(1) We tried to hide, got the crap kicked out of us and now are forever traumatized, forever wondering why our efforts at diplomacy were rebuffed and our eyes punched, hair pulled, kicked while in the fetal position, and so on.

Or (2), we immediately recognized that the world if filled with people who have a different way of filtering information where no amount of pleading, bribery or procrastination was going to save us from the impending beat down. So we fought. Didn’t like it, didn’t want it, still think it was stupid and there are better ways to resolve things. BUT, we limped away knowing that the fucking Neanderthal would likely chose another target next time.

That experience, and what your natural instincts were at the moment, truly defines a person’s character for the rest of their lives.

When we now view the current state of the world, we do so with that experience firmly in our head. I am certain there exists a small percentage of the world that loves war and violence but most of us see it for what it is; a necessary evil that is required t live our lives predominantly in peace. You speak softly, but carry a big stick. And every once in a while, you have to smack the shit out of somebody with that stick so the rest of the wolves out there will now to leave you alone.

If we fail in Afghanistan, it will only be because of the constant hand wringing back home. Talking about Iraq or Afghanistan as a lost cause, or never should have been there, totally undermines the people that are there and the efforts that they have given, including those who lost their lives. You cannot be happy with it, but you can shut the fuck up already. You are delusional if you (not the you, you, but the general you) think that it doesn’t undermine our efforts and I suggest you climb back into the fetal position and be quiet. Don’t worry though, those of us who are willing to fight will scare away the bad man and we will let you know when you can come out from underneath the bed.

Chez said...

Oh there's no doubt that because we need oil so badly, there's plenty of money to be made off it -- hence the real reason we tend to go off to war to protect and nurture it. Can't argue with you there. My point is that I seriously doubt you've stopped driving anywhere since all of this began, Brite.

Although I say that with the knowledge that it's not really your responsibility to find alternatives to oil -- but once again, as long as there's big money to be made, the people at the top won't bother.

Squidboy said...

Bravo Chez, you nailed this one right on. This has been the real 'war on terror' from day one. Not sure what the link between oil and Afghanistan is. The only export to come out of that country in the last 20 years is terrorism and opium.

Signed....your friendly neighborhood US Navy & Desert Storm Vet(1984-1993).

Mart said...

OK if eternal war in the mideast is vital to our consumption, then I back Obama's troop escalation... as soon as he drives a bill through congress raising taxes to pay for it, and opens up the draft so rich folks feel the pain of war, and the same mostly rural soldiers who keep getting thrown into the meat grinder can take a few years off.

Until then, I don't buy any of this vital/neccessary nonsense.

Jester said...

"These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame."

Every American should be required by law to watch the movie Charlie Wilson's War, or better still, read the book.

drater said...

This escalation is an exercise in futility. Congressman Eric Massa says it much better than I can:

Pouring our money down this rat hole while our economy is tanking is criminally stupid.

Chez said...

The money issue is one I can't argue with. The way things are going this country's going to have to have a bake sale soon.

Jeremy said...

Regardless of the role of oil (which, grew up in coal country, know how fucking dirty fossil fuels are, hate them with a passion), we DID bring about the beast that is the Taliban. It's our "Frankenstein's Monster" (OK, maybe not mine, I was ten years old in 1985, and most of the combatants there weren't even born yet when we started this mess by supporting a group that even Iran thought was too radical. But I digress). So we do have some responsibility to not only clean up the mess we helped create, but a moral responsibility to stand against the kind of ideology that beats women into submission and dynamites millenia old statuary.

Of course, just my two cents from here in the poor-white-trash cheap seats. (You know, I'm just the guy whose family has no other options to get out and ends up dying in these things, not some super-smart "living the life" ex-pat.)

Jeremy said...

The supposed oil connection is a pipeline running through Afghanistan to carry oil from the other, former Soviet "-istans".

And its probably one of those nice "perks" that got some of the Haliburton type of folks salivating about an invasion.

But the Taliban was (and is) a thoroughly reprehensible and oppressive entity with or without oil.

It wasn't oil that led them to shoot up weddings where people dared to have music (traditional Afghan music mind you). It wasn't oil that led them to dynamite the Buddhas. It wasn't oil that led them to raze schools for girls.
It was a desire to keep a boot on the throat of society. And that isn't going to change. With oil. Without oil. With a surge or without a surge. Unless we make use of the resources on the ground to create some stability (even if its somewhat corrupt stability... hey, they may have dirty politicians, but they don't blow up Buddhas or get away with honor killings of girls who smile at a boy in Chicago.)

Peach said...

Really, if it's for oil or not. I actually don't care. I grew up in the Middle East and let me tell you that nothing is done there without the grease of oil. We accept that. You should too. It's reality. Unchangeable and can actually have incredibly positive outcomes. For example, do you honestly think a 26 year old Qatari woman could get a world class education if it wern't for oil? (answer: no, she'd be married off by 13 and cranking out babies by her next birthday.)

Furthermore every single political institution from Pakistan to Morocco is corrupt. Stop focusing on that. Lebanon is corrupt but women and men there still enjoy a fairly regular life. Stop nitpicking.

It's lke you're looking at a starving man and lecturing him on eating that non-organic chicken. It's absolutly not what needs our focus right now.

Look, I'm not a giant fan of the US going in and 'helping' countries. But in this case I fully support the war in Afghanistan. It is a war that needs winning. I just hope it goes down well. Which--given the recent military changes in tactic and warfare--I'm thinking (hoping, wishing, praying) it does.

Anonymous said...

Obama made a point to continuously speak of his "plans to break our dependence on foreign oil" during his campaign. This is not what I signed up for when I voted for him. I don't want to see any more kids die over there or come back disabled or emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives (which is, as some have said, sometimes worse than dying) because we can't figure out a better way to heat our homes. I feel deceived by Obama, and I feel my vote would have been better off not being casted at all.

J. Dack said...

I've been increasingly disillusioned with the whole system lately.

Chez, I'm wondering what your take would be on an article like this, which claims that the war in Afghanistan's only purpose is to "protect Unocal's interest in the Trans-Afghanistan oil pipeline."

Link here.

I did not write this and I don't know the guy who did. Not trying to plug someone's blog. Just curious.

Riles said...

I agree with your points Chez, mainly that Obama never said he would pull out of the Afgan war. BUT, and please forgive the naivete here, why again do we care about the Taliban? It's Al Qaida we're supposedly fighting. It seems to me that the Taliban may be the only organization that can somewhat govern their country (much like Saddam/Iraq, it now seems). I just read an article in Time that said the Taliban have been trying to negotiate peace with us, and that since their resurgence, have been providing the only government the people somewhat trust.

What would be so bad if we left them to rule the country? Bad things happen in the world, it will never be perfect, we have our own problems. Do we still have to be the world police, especially considering our own corruption issues?

Sara said...

I hear you guys on the oil thing, but what about the people of Afghanistan who've been displaced since the radical Islamists started their takeover in '79? I think the assault on those guys is the most important reason to get more of our fighters there; the regular people in the country need help to have "normal" lives again... and that's the only reason I support the upswing in troops there. Long and short, nice piece as usual Chez.

Sara said...

p.s. @drater, love eric massa, voted for him twice!

Peach said...

Glad you asked.
We care about the Taliban because it's never ever been "just the Taliban." The Taliban is a group of students from Pakistan and the boarder area. They came into Afghanistan when it was particularly fragile. Lots of banditry and corruption going on. They put the kibosh on that. So people were really pleased.

Then around 1995-1997 they started instituting draconian meaures. Killing women, not letting them out of the house, forcing every young boy to 'join'. They also banned a million things and destroyed numerous world heritage sites.

Meanwhile they were sending out a big invitation to all extremists. RSVP Al Qaeida? See, with Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban it is essentially a lawless Islamic State. It is to insurgents what Florida is for the elderly. It's where they go to vacation, learn, train and organize. And plot.

For instance: If you plan a big terrorist meeting in, say, Indonesea the government there might figure it out at arrest you. But if you plan a big terrorist meeting in Afghanistan, you are ensured safe passage and even reverence.

And here's the second part that always slips under radar:
They mostly hit Arab targets.
In London the bombings targeted heavily Muslim areas. Most of the recent attacks have been carried out in North Africa and you might be all, "well that's good news!" except not at all.

See they attack Arabs to destabalize them. To create a culture war. That culture war directly influences who joines terrorist networks. Also, and this is big, it coerces a mandate of outdated religious philosophies in the name of prevention. Sound familiar?

So for isntance: Marrakech is bombed (theoretically) because they are adopting too much of the West. So what do you think the response in Marrakech will be? They are going to do what they can to not get bombed again. Which means reflecting inward and becomming more conservative. What happens when frightened people become more and more conservative? Yep, that'd be the lashing out against the West. Had they not been seduced, they'd have escaped bombing. So now you have more terrorist cells.

Essentially, the actions of the Taliban create a safe harbor/lawless state for groups that threaten to destabalize the entire Middle East as well as certain Western targets.

So you can see why they need to be taken out, pronto.

Squidboy said...

@Jeremy, thanks for pointing out the pipeline, I had forgotten about that. As much as it pains me to think that anyone in the oil business would make a dime off Afghanistan, I still think that stabilizing that country is the right thing to do and Obama is on the right path here.
Not that anyone cares, but I also supported (and participated in) the liberation of Kuwait. We did the right thing then by not invading Iraq. We did the wrong thing then by encouraging civil unrest in the country and it's quite obvious we should never have invaded Iraq ever. I didn't support an Iraq invasion in 1991 or 2003.
Regarding the draft idea. If we had some kind of compulsory national service without exemptions it would definitely change this debate. For example, if all congresspeople had children serving in the military, how eager would they be to send them to the middle east? How eager would feminists be to support women in combat and on submarines if women were drafted? As a veteran I don't care for the idea of conscripts in the military but I do like the idea of everyone sharing equally in the sacrifice so we aren't just sending primarily immigrants, poor, rural and disenfranchised people to fight and die for political reasons.

Riles said...

Peach - thanks for the info.

NoxiousNan said...

Chez said:

“The smartest thing anyone's said in recent memory is about the need for us to break our dependence on foreign oil and oil in general -- which of course is a hell of a lot easier said than done. Until that time, though, oil will be something we have no choice but to fight and die for.”

Chez said:

“Oh there's no doubt that because we need oil so badly, there's plenty of money to be made off it -- hence the real reason we tend to go off to war to protect and nurture it. Can't argue with you there….but once again, as long as there's big money to be made, the people at the top won't bother.”

Seriously, do you not see the vicious cycle, which you have so accurately stated? Someone has to do something about it, but since money is the ONLY incentive (not life, the future, or anything as ethereal as all that) then nothing will ever be done. And if I complain, NJ and others say I undermine the troops (people that are there)? Fuck that! Brite’s right as far as I’m concerned, and I will never see protesting (or even bitching in comments) as undermining anybody. Supposedly, that’s one of the very reasons they are there. I do however, feel like I’m undermining the troops when I drive three blocks to a convenience store.

I’m no expert on war, and I was cognizant of Obama’s ideas about Afghanistan when I reluctantly voted for him (my guy didn’t make the cut), and neither of those facts will shut me up. From what I’ve read, the territory and political structures in Afghanistan make the actual number of troops fairly irrelevant. To badly quote Michael Moore, if 20,000 soldiers can’t find 100 men then how are 50,000 going to? I’m sick to death of these vicious cycles where we do something pointless, arbitrary, stupid or dangerous, or all of those things, and then keep doing it, longer, stronger, harder expecting different results

So I do not support the increase in troops. However, I suspect that Peach could change my mind. I don’t think Obama could change my mind, and he’s the guy with the control, so I’m one unhappy camper.