Posted on | June 23, 2011 | 31 Comments
Frankly, I’m bored with Obama by now, so why blog about his speech, except that he interrupted primetime TV to make it? From the transcript:
In the days that followed [the 9/11 attacks], our nation was united as we struck at al-Qaida and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then, our focus shifted. A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al-Qaida’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al-Qaida, and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.
For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as president, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan.
Why, in 2011, does Obama insist on repeating this stale and misleading Democrat talking-point from 2004?
Al-Qaeda’s escape from Tora Bora in December 2001 did not happen because “our focus shifted,” and Gen. Tommy Franks has said that, as far as we know, Osama bin Laden may have already fled to Pakistan before the battle of Tora Bora even started. Either way, insofar as the U.S. military’s mission in Afghanistan was to kill or capture bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders, the chance for fulfilling that mission was gone by January 2002.
Operation Iraqi Freedom did not begin until March 2003, so that the propopaganda claim embedded in the Democrat talking-point – i.e., the Iraq war being a “distraction” from the anti-terrorism campaign against al-Qaeda — was always essentially a lie.
One does not have to be a Bush fanboy supporter of the Iraq war to understand that, in terms of pursuing al-Qaeda, the U.S. had no easy options once bin Laden had escaped to Pakistan, a dubious and unstable “ally.” As it was, however, the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq attracted jihadists from around the Islamic world, functioning as sort of a flytrap for would-be martyrs for Allah — a “distraction” for al-Qaeda, really.
Meanwhile, to anyone who cares to look at a map, having U.S. military forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan put the radical Iranian regime in a vice, which was why Iran did everything in its power to support the anti-U.S. insurgencies in both countries.
Since 1979, Iran has been the motherland of Islamic radicalism. Prior to the Iranian revolution, terrorism in the Middle East was more a function of Arab nationalism than religious extremism. The Ayatollah changed that, and once the Shi’ites became radicalized by Iran, radicalism spread to other Islamic sects by a sort of osmosis. This is why nowadays you have radicalized Muslims in places like Indonesia and Sudan — people far removed from the Israel-Palestine conflict that originally inflamed the passions of Arabs in the Middle East — seeking martyrdom by attacking the “Great Satan.”
Basic geopolitical insight would suggest that we cannot end the terrorist threat of radical Islam so long as Tehran remains under the control of fanatical theocrats. Overthrowing the Iranian mullahs would not be sufficient to put an end to the global jihad, but it is necessary to that goal. While this reality does not commit us to outright war against Iran, it does require us to treat the Tehran regime as an enemy, with a view toward its containment and eventual abolition, supporting the establishment of a stable, peaceful and secular Iranian government.
Islamic radical leaders see this as well as anyone. End the radical regime in Iran, and you abolish the primary external support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestine. The overthrow of the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs, however it is accomplished, would be a signal defeat for the worldwide jihad on the order of bin Laden’s death. And it is from the standpoint of maintaining pressure on Iran that the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan must be evaluated, in terms of our larger long-term strategic goal of fighting Islamic terrorism.
Some conservative commenters are criticizing Obama’s policy out of pure partisanship, and it’s hard to resist that temptation when we see the president recycling John Kerry’s partisan talking points from the 2004 election campaign. But I, for one, don’t consider the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan to be tantamount to waving the white flag. The Aghanistan surge was undertaken with strong bipartisan support (despite Obama’s I, I, I, me, me, me chatter about what a “difficult decision” it was) and has apparently achieved its limited goal of blunting a Taliban resurgence.
From a strictly military point of view, we cannot indefinitely sustain the current size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, since it places a terrible strain on the Pentagon’s resources (which are under budget pressure because of the deficit). That Obama would present the inevitable drawdown as a policy triumph for his administration – a “success” he’ll tout in his re-election campaign – is only to be expected.
What really matters, from a larger policy perspective, is that we maintain some military presence in Afghanistan (and also Iraq) so long as the current Iran regime stays in power. All we need, really, is a few air bases that can serve as potential deployment points for future operations. But we can only have military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan so long as in those countries are U.S.-friendly governments in power there. And we can’t have U.S.-friendly governments there if the countryside is overrun by radical jihadis terrorizing the populace. So while we may not be doing “nation-building” (and never mind the idealistic nonsense about fostering “democracy” among Pashtun tribesmen), we at least need some “pacification” to keep a lid on things.
These are, in general, bipartisan objectives. There is a large and vocal Surrender Caucus in the Democratic Party, but Democrats can’t obtain national majority on that basis, and even Obama knows it. God help us, but Hillary Clinton is probably the biggest hawk in the administration, and the last thing Obama needs is Hillary going rogue.
On the Republican side of the aisle, while Ron Paul is the leading critic of the “perpetual war for perpetual peace” policies that prevailed under Bush, the hawks are still a clear majority. And if the GOP is to win back the White House in 2012, it won’t be on the platform of a return to the status quo ante. The electorate is still war-weary, and independents will not vote Republican in 2012 if they think they’re voting for a “neocon imperialist warmonger,” a willing tool of the Military-Industrial Complex. (Democrats will make such accusations no matter who Republicans nominate; but these are accusations the GOP nominee must be prepared to refute.)
I don’t often write about foreign policy because (a) it bores me to tears, and (b) “experts” so proliferate in foreign policy that a layman’s input is generally unwelcome.
And also (c) they all just a bunch of damned foreigners, anyway.
Pardon my old-fashioned xenophobic chauvinism, but when I was a kid growing up, the U.S. lost a war in Vietnam that we should have won, because too many Little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes humanitarian types got all squirrelly and squeamish about civilian casualties. And the GIs who came home from ‘Nam — including my Uncle Casper — were pretty damned disgusted about their buddies who died fighting a war that the politicians were afraid to let them win.
“Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out” was a popular slogan on T-shirts and bumper stickers back in the day. Kinda brutal, but it summarized a very basic common-sense rejection of the war-by-half-measures policy that prevailed during the Vietnam era.
War is a terrible thing that ought to be avoided, if possible. But once the shooting starts, nothing less than complete victory is an acceptable outcome. And you do not achieve complete victory without a willingness to kill every enemy son of a bitch who gets in your way.
This reminds me, incidentally, that John Hawkins of Right Wing News has an interview with Ann Coulter, who defends the shootings at Kent State: “The shooting at Kent State put an end to the violent mayhem on college campuses with some alacrity.”
Heh. Every time I see a “peace” protest, I say to myself, “Where’s the Ohio National Guard when we need them?”